Panel's proposals promote short-term parking in city

Limiting garage permits, raising rates among ideas

February 14, 2005|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Parking meter rates would double, some time limits would shorten, and more short-term parking would be encouraged in city garages under a committee proposal to overhaul downtown Annapolis' parking pricing policies.

An 11-member ad hoc committee appointed by Mayor Ellen O. Moyer released last week its draft recommendations for easing the parking crunch downtown.

The more controversial proposals would raise parking meter rates from 50 cents to $1 per hour on all streets and cut the time limit at some meters from two hours to one, with the limits expiring at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.

Committee members sought to encourage turnover at metered spaces, draw city residents into parking garages, and encourage employees to park at the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium lot and take the free shuttle. Additional revenue could be used to improve the shuttle service, the report said.

The report also recommends raising hourly fees for the Gotts and Hillman city parking garages from $1 to $1.25, setting a $1 hourly rate at the new Knighton garage off West Street, and allowing city residents two hours of free parking in all three downtown garages.

The city council will begin discussing parking issues at a meeting tonight.

That's when Moyer will introduce a measure to implement one task force proposal: To limit the number of monthly passes at the 220-space Knighton city garage to 75 spaces. Alderwoman Louise Hammond, who represents the downtown district, says she supports the proposed limit.

If approved, the limit would favor hourly parkers and depart from the city's practice of allowing up to 80 percent of its spaces - in the Hillman and Gotts garages - to be occupied by monthly permit parkers. Those garages have a total of 880 spaces.

"The playbook from the 1980s doesn't work anymore," said Charles W. Weikel, a downtown resident and business consultant who chaired the Parking Pricing Committee. "We're choking the downtown business district."

The committee's parking draft report endorsed "pay and display" kiosks - like those recently installed in Baltimore's downtown - over street meters. While the report recommends leaving two hours as the limit for businesses at the foot of Main Street, it suggests reducing the time limit to one hour for other city parking meters, such as those on upper Main Street, Maryland Avenue and West Street.

"This was a change led by business," Weikel said. "If they as a group and residents decide it's not a good one, we are here to listen."

The report quickly became a hot document over the past week, its contents circulated via the Internet before the mayor and its authors expected to go public. The conclusions, Weikel said, are based on surveying parking practices in cities such as Monterey, Calif.; Newport, R.I.; and Charleston, S.C.

The discussion comes as the city gets ready to open the Knighton garage.

The red-brick structure is set off West Street's burgeoning retail district and named for Cecil Knighton, a retired car dealer, and his late wife, Martha. Knighton sold the site to the city at a deep discount, Moyer said. To symbolize Knighton's former occupation, a tire hubcap adorns a corner of the edifice facing West Street.

Construction is complete, and the garage should open this month, city officials said. How to apportion the new parking spaces has been the subject of discussion for months. City officials sought to weld together parking rules that would fit with a new master transportation strategy - still in the works.

Weikel said the survey of other cities led to the recommendation that the city aim for a ratio of 60 percent monthly parking and 40 percent hourly parking. Moyer and the task force are recommending a two-tier system: a $100 fee for 24-hour monthly parking and $80 for daytime use.

The main goal is to free up spaces to enable shoppers, visitors and night-time workers to use the new garage, along with people who would otherwise park and clog streets in residential areas.

"You've got to draw the line somewhere. At no time should that 60-40 ratio go up," Weizel said.

Moyer said she expects to persuade council colleagues to adhere to the committee's findings on the Knighton garage and other parking matters as part of a comprehensive solution.

"We had a preponderance of volunteer citizen participation," Moyer said. "They have recommended the city meets [parking] industry standards."

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