Lincoln is An 8 Bit Town

July 11, 2012 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Parking on the street Downtown is likely to get more expensive under Mayor Beutler’s budget plan. An hour of meter parking currently runs $0.50 per hour. Beutler’s budget increases that amount to a buck. There’s already been a lot of whining from folks who claim they’ll “never” park Downtown again, blah blah blah. Whatever.

A dollar an hour is a very fair price for parking that’s supposed to have high turnover so that nearby businesses are (relatively) easy to access. If you want longer parking, you park in a garage. In fact, with first hour free, parking validation, and pre-paid parking cards, Lincoln’s garages can actually be significantly cheaper than $1.00 per hour.

Jack Mitchell has suggested that rather than raising meter rates, the City should sell $100 annual passes that can be used for unlimited meter parking. The general idea is interesting, but his price is way off. For frequent Downtown patrons, employees, and residents, $100 is nothing. They already pay considerably more than that for garage access or meter parking. Only charging a hundred dollars per year—although the amount sounds like a lot—would lose money for the City.

But let’s not let his example amount sidetrack us from the actual question of whether some sort of “unlimited” pass would be a good idea. I don’t like it because it defeats the purpose of metered parking. Meters are designed to get vehicles in and out. They’re all about turnover. In some places they work great. Consider the meters directly in front of Juice Stop and Lincoln Running Company. Cars are constantly moving in and out of those spots. If vehicles in those spots had no incentive to leave, nearby businesses would suffer.

I’m not inherently against the idea of some sort of pass, however. For example, I like the idea of allowing folks to purchase a pass that would let them park at meters for the normal duration of the meter. That would spare people the annoyance of carrying change. And it’s better than simply allowing the use of debit cards because (I think) it would keep card processing fees lower.

Another system I would like to see put in place is a geographically-based pricing structure. Some parking spots are considerably more valuable than others. Why shouldn’t they be priced that way? There’s no good reason for the meters on M Street to be priced the same as those on P Street. Prime meters could be priced at $1.50 or even $2.00 per hour, while lesser meters might be as low as $0.50 or $0.75.

Which approach do you prefer when it comes to parking meters?

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The Comments

Fletch July 11, 2012 at 2:03pm

I honestly avoid going downtown at all costs. But that’s true at 50 cents, so a jump to a dollar won’t deter me any more or any less. I usually don’t have 50 cents in my pocket, and certainly not a dollar’s worth of change (soon to be $1.25 in 2013). I find it easier to find a garage and get my free hour than circle a bunch of blocks hoping for a metered space. I hit the ramp south of the Lied when I hit the Lincoln Running Company - an hour gives me plenty of time to park, go shop (and maybe even find my way to the Cookie Company, to defeat the purpose of the running shoes), and get back to my car. Plus, in a garage, I can use a debit card or paper bills to pay.

Mr. Wilson July 11, 2012 at 2:20pm

I’ll be awfully surprised if the $1.25 price actually kicks in in 2013. I suspect it crosses Lincolnites’ invisible “time to freak out” line. The extra quarter will come eventually (of course), but not for a couple more years.

Nikkidemas July 11, 2012 at 3:20pm

I like any idea that helps me avoid the “Oh, crap!  Time to frantically dig for lost change in my car seats & under the mats” situation.

Since I don’t usually park downtown except for evenings, meters don’t affect me much.  When I have a choice (e.g. Lazlo’s South vs Lazlo’s Haymarket), I choose the one with lot parking 9 times out of 10.

Just Thinkin' July 11, 2012 at 5:27pm

I agree that an unlimited pass is a bad idea. I like the idea of using a prepaid parking card at parking meters. If I have change, I put it in a change jar at home and don’t bother carrying it around. I thought parking meters were going to be upgraded to accept credit or debit cards. If so, they could accept a prepaid parking card. To encourage people to pay with the prepaid cards, give them bonus meter time. For example, add ten minutes to a one hour meter if they pay with a prepaid parking card. Both the city and the downtown parker would benefit.

George July 11, 2012 at 7:49pm

I really would like it if they would provide a way to use your credit card.  I would seriously pay $1 or even $2 IF I didn’t have to carry around change to pay for it… it makes my purse heavy!

Fletch July 11, 2012 at 10:19pm

Probably correct. I was just going by what I read in the LJS. smile

mc July 15, 2012 at 8:24pm

With technology improvements, I would think having a stored value card would be something that would be doable.  You would prepay when you bought the card, and could reload it online.  When you parked, you would swipe the card and select the amount based upon how long you needed the parking.

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