Springfield looking to implement paid parking in downtown

The City of Springfield is looking at ways to implement paid parking in the downtown area as construction on a three-story public parking garage is expected to be completed soon.

“As we continue to revitalize an increase activity in downtown, we need to have a better and more coordinated parking system,” said Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck.

“Bringing public parking lots, parking garages as well as the on street spaces into continuity and coordinated in a manner that it all works together,” he added.

That can include adding metered parking downtown as city officials say that street parking is usually meant for shorter trips whereas parking lots and the garage is designed for more long term stays.

“We are trying to encourage that behavior and those habits in parking in downtown. We are looking at the parking meters specifically and that there would be a limited amount of time when it would be free,” Heck said.

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“If they want to stay longer and want to have the convenience of that on street spot near the business then they have the opportunity to pay to stay longer in that place,” he added.

The idea is that it would accommodate those who are going into a business to get a cup of coffee or planing on patronizing a downtown establishment for a short period of time.

However, city commissioners said at a public meeting on Tuesday that they are still discussing those details. That includes which spots would be metered, how long spaces would be available for free parking, what those meter rates would look like as well as how much it would cost to park in city lots.

City officials told the News-Sun that they have been looking at ways to make downtown parking more coordinated over the past three to five years. With a public parking garage slated to be open in April, they hope to have a plan in place in the coming months.

The downtown Springfield parking garage was discussed by the Springfield City Commission for almost 10 years. Heck said previously that it is important as the city aims to attract more retail and business to the city center.

City Commissioners approved the project last year. It is estimated to cost roughly $7 million and will offer 305 parking spaces. The garage will be a paid one. However, those rates have not been determined yet.

At their meeting on Tuesday, the city commission conducted the first reading of an ordinance that would enter the city into a five year parking management agreement with Republic Parking System LLC, which is part of the Chattanooga-based Reef Parking network.

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If the ordinance passed, that company would provide parking management services to the city for an amount not to exceed $610,490. Jack Skelton —with Reef Parking, which works with 120 municipalities in North America— said they would be working with the city to determine what areas in the downtown area would have paid parking as well as managing those services and being in charge of collection and enforcement.

That would include the parking garage as well.

“They will do an analysis and look at the downtown and how parking is being utilized and the usage of those on street spots compared to the parking lots and the soon to be garage and make determinations on where those meters make the most sense,” Heck said.

Skelton said his company would also provide services regarding what type of parking meters would be used as well as implementing a mobile app that allows parkers to extend times and make payments to meters. He said all proceeds from those meters would go back to the city.

Heck said the city once had metered parking in the area decades ago. A decision was made to take that type of parking away due to a belief at the time that it was detracting from the downtown area.

“I think at the time the perception was that it was actually detracting from downtown to have the meters. It was also a maintenance issue,” he said. “The technology has changed so much on the meters today.”

$7M: Approximate cost of the downtown parking garage project

305: Parking spaces to be available in the public parking garage once it is completed

$610,490: Amount the city is looking to enter into a contract with Republic Parking to manage paid parking in the downtown

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