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City backs down on downtown parking 

City officials have changed their mind about when people will have to feed parking meters to park on downtown streets. Recently, the city extended paid street-meter parking to 8 p.m., but faced with a growing protest, officials have decided to revert to the previous 6 p.m.  start of free parking.

To help close a projected budget gap, the Warren administration had proposed extending the hours to 8 p.m. at downtown street meters. Representatives of downtown businesses, residents, employee, and arts institutions endorsed a petition calling on the city to reverse its decision. By early this week, more than 2,000 people had signed the petition.

Organizers said that while they recognized the city's need for additional revenue, the 
click to enlarge On-street parking will continue to be free at downtown meters. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • On-street parking will continue to be free at downtown meters.
new charge would deter people from coming downtown. And, they said, many of the downtown meters have a 2-hour limit, making it hard for people attending concerts, movies, and other events to comply.

They suggested that the city instead raise the rates of daytime parking at the downtown meters. And that's what the city has done. The hourly rate will increase to $2, from $1.50.

Opponents had also complained that the city had not consulted downtown interests before extending the hours for paid on-street parking.  "In retrospect," the city's chief of staff, Alex Yudelson, said today, "we could have done a more thorough engagement." But, he said, the revenue for the new paid hours was included in the city's new budget, and the city held numerous community input sessions on the budget.

"There are so many issues in our budget," Yudelson said. "A few months ago, we were focused on a million things," and officials didn't think to single out the parking meters for specific discussion.

"We try to be as open as possible," he said, "and we give the public a month to comment." But in retrospect, he said, the city should have reached out to downtown interests about the meters.

City Council will have to approve increasing the daytime fees, and if it does that at its next meeting, on August 21, the change will take effect right after that. "In the interim," according to the city's press release, "the extended parking hours" won't be enforced.

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