Parking meter, lot fees in Annapolis to increase

Moyer wants to use new revenue to enhance enforcement efforts, increase shuttle service

April 29, 2005|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Visitors to Annapolis will encounter higher fees at parking meters and in garages beginning in May as the city attempts to raise money to pay for increased parking enforcement and more shuttle buses into town.

Under a bill passed this week by the Annapolis city council, the fees will rise from 50 cents to $1 an hour on meters and from $1 to $1.25 an hour in the Hillman and Gotts garages. The bill also set a $1 hourly rate at the new Knighton garage off West Street and will allow city residents two hours of free parking in all three downtown garages.

"For the residents, this means we'll be able to run more shuttles and keep more nonresident parkers out of residential areas," said Charles Weikel, chairman of a committee appointed by Mayor Ellen O. Moyer to examine parking issues. "For the businesses, it means there will be more parking turnover, and more customers will be able to get downtown."

Surveys commissioned by the city have found that Annapolis has far too few parking spots to serve its combination of business, tourism, and residences.

The city has determined that it issues more parking permits than can be served by the curbs of compact downtown streets. Also, parking lots around the State House, the Naval Academy and the former Anne Arundel Medical Center site have closed to the public in recent years.

Moyer is proposing a comprehensive overhaul of parking policies that would not only raise fees but protect residential streets from tourist parking, divert parkers to a few garages and satellite lots, and toughen law enforcement against those who park illegally.

The mayor plans to use her administrative powers to make other changes, including the addition of downtown valet parking. She also hopes to add two ticket-writer positions in her budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and to use increased revenues from higher meter rates to add shuttle runs between downtown and satellite parking lots at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Moyer has said for years that the city can no longer afford to make piecemeal stabs at eliminating its parking problem. The mayor was backed by the 11-member committee she formed last year to study parking. The committee's recommendations - many of which Moyer included in her plan - have received wide support from community and business groups.

Weikel said parking issues can be a tough sell with the city council because the problems exist in only half of one of the city's eight wards. But Weikel argues that the state of the city's downtown has a broader impact on its economic vitality and quality of life.

"I think this is a fantastic idea to connect the city and bring people downtown," he said of the committee's and Moyer's plans.

Weikel said that if parking doesn't become more accessible, the city stands to lose business and residents to its suburbs, especially Parole, where a $400 million mix of shops, offices and condominiums is planned.

Weikel said the next step might be to designate critical blocks, where nonresident parking might be allowed only a few hours a day or restricted to visitors with guest passes. But he said it's too early to predict the specifics of any proposal.

He said the committee will also look at ways that technology might improve enforcement. Ticket writers might be able to use laser devices rather than chalk to mark cars, he said, or the city could invest in a vehicle with GPS technology that could track violators by license plate. Other cities have used such measures to improve their efficiency in ticketing, he said.

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