Mayor Steve Noble said Tuesday that the city will dramatically scale back a proposal to introduce paid parking kiosks in all city-owned lots. Noble also suggested that if the economics didn’t work out, the city may abandon the by-the-hour parking scheme for the currently free-of-charge lots entirely.
Last October, Noble introduced a proposal to end free parking in 13 municipal lots across Kingston. Users would pay a 75 cent hourly fee at parking kiosks installed in the lots or pay $40 for a monthly parking pass. The plan was expected to generate $175,000 in additional revenue, with $100,000 of that going to parking lot upgrades and improvements. Noble and other supporters argued that the system would be more equitable to the city’s taxpayers by placing upkeep costs for the parking lots on those, including many from outside the city, who actually use them, rather than the tax base at large.
But the proposal also generated strong backlash, especially in Uptown Kingston where parking is at a premium and the free municipal lots serve the all-day parking needs of those who live and work in the neighborhood. In response, Noble said that the city would offer annual parking permits for the lots for just $10. Noble also formed a volunteer committee of Kingston residents and business owners charged with developing a long term strategy to address parking in the city.
On Tuesday, Noble said that based on the advice of the committee he had made several changes to his parking plan. Most importantly, Noble said, the city would scale back its plans to install the payment kiosks. Instead of installing the equipment in all 13 lots, he said, the new plan called for just six lots to be metered. They include three Uptown lots on North Front Street and Schwenk Drive, lots on Prince and Cornell Streets in Midtown and the Dock Street lot in the Rondout neighborhood. The remaining lots, Noble said, would either remain free or be reserved for annual permit holders. Noble said that with the expectation that many regular users of the lots would buy the $10 annual passes, it no longer made economic sense to place the parking kiosks in the smaller lots. Noble also left open the possibility that if the enough of the annual passes are sold the city may opt to simply make all 13 lots permit-only while using the kiosks for curbside parking.
“If we sell 500 permits and every lot Uptown is filled with permit holders, it wouldn’t necessarily make sense to put a kiosk there,” said Noble.
Noble, who described the kiosks as a “pilot program” said that he did not expect to sell that many annual permits, but added that the he was open to any necessary changes to the plan. Initial plans called for the kiosks to be installed by April 1. But delays with the Common Council, including a “no” vote on a bond to pay for the equipment in January (the council eventually approved the bond last month) pushed back the timeframe. Noble says he now expects the kiosks to be installed sometime this summer.
Meters stay the same price for now
Another piece of Noble’s parking plan, raising rates for curbside parking from 50 cents to $1 per hour, is also running behind schedule. Like the kiosks, the new rates were set to take effect in April. But Noble said he had decide d to hold off on implementing the change to allow more time to roll out a new feature that will allow users to replenish their meters using a smart phone app. Noble said the city needed the extra time to synchronize the app with new handheld devices used by parking enforcement officers. The new rates and the new app, Noble said, would likely go into effect in about a month. Noble added that the city would also begin issuing the annual permits sometime this spring. The permits will be sold online and at a self-service kiosk at the City Comptroller’s Office at City Hall.
The new plan has caused city officials to roll back projections on revenue generated by the new system from $175,000 to $75,000. Noble said that the upgrades to the lots that were to be funded by the kiosks will now be deferred or paid for another way.