Cranky drivers cry foul over new parking rate

Metered parking will cost $2 an hour as soon as kiosks and meters can be changed

May 30, 2010|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

When news broke that parking rates in Baltimore are being raised to help plug a hole in the city's coffers, some motorists took it in stride, perhaps resigned to the premise that the only certainties in life are death and higher taxes.

Other people are, to put it mildly, irritated, especially at the provision that calls for a doubling of the hourly metered rate in some neighborhoods, to $2.

"I don't want to put $2 on my credit card," Mark Ericksen, a 25-year-old violinist, said Sunday in Mount Vernon, referring to the amount he will be required to pay into ticket dispensers on city sidewalks. "It definitely affects you, financially."

In addition to Mount Vernon, the rates will jump in Harbor East, Federal Hill, Fells Point and downtown as soon as meters and kiosks can be altered to reflect the changes. City Council members are contemplating raising the price in other neighborhoods, too.

The higher rates will bring Baltimore in line with Philadelphia, New York and Washington and are expected to prompt more frequent turnovers of parking spaces and make it easier for people to find a spot. The increase could bring the city an extra $3.1 million in revenue.

Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake has suggested the increase as part of an effort toward filling a $121 million gap in the city's $2.2 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. The budget, which would not raise property taxes, includes $70 million in spending reductions and mandatory furlough days for city employees.

One aspect of the plan will impose on parking-structure operators a tax increase, from 16 percent to 20 percent, on fees levied in lots and structures. But it's the metered rates — the amount drivers pay to park on the street — that has people irked.

"That's too bad," Roger Kim, a 44-year-old pastor at a church called The Light, said when informed of the proposal Sunday as he climbed into his Nissan sport utility vehicle on St. Paul Street. "That's a big jump, instead of just raising it, say, 50 cents. People would take it better. I think it should be more reasonable."

A couple of blocks away, on North Charles Street, Kenny Kosh emerged from under a battered Chevrolet pickup truck — he'd been trying to fix the starter — and described the rate increase as "crazy."

"I understand what they're trying to do, but I think it's extreme to double it," said Kosh, 57, who lives in Pigtown. "Why not raise it a quarter? An extra quarter wouldn't be bad, but a dollar? I don't use meters that much, but I use them enough to be mad about a dollar hike."

Up the street, near Marie Louise Bistro, Brad Deason walked by a sign urging the city's residents to unite in opposition to the parking rate increases.

"Wow — it's insane," said Deason, 34, a Louisiana native who has been living in Baltimore for three years and who recently moved to Mount Vernon. He intends to buy a resident's permit that will allow him to park in the neighborhood for $35 a year.

"It won't be so bad for me once I have a permit," he said. The meter increase, he went on, might even have an additional benefit beyond raising revenue.

"It's good," Deason said, "to discourage lots of cars from coming into the city."

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