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Midnight Parking Plan Squeaks Through

by Melissa Bailey | Aug 10, 2011 8:21 am

(75) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Transportation, Downtown, City Budget

Allan Appel Photo It’s official: Downtown visitors will need to feed meters like this one for an extra five hours, thanks to a vote that went down to the wire at the city’s traffic commission.

The commission gave final approval to the plan to extend metered parking on certain downtown streets until midnight by a 3 to 2 vote with one abstention.

Chairman Rick Epstein cast a rare tie-breaking vote in favor the plan.

“It’s a horrible move,” declared commissioner Cathy Graves, citing concerns for downtown merchants. Some bars and restaurants have complained that employees will not be able to afford to pay for parking or that the extended hours will drive customers away.

Commissioner Bishop Theodore Brooks, on the other hand, argued the new hours would entice more people to visit downtown.

Meters on downtown streets currently charge for parking only up until 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday. The new plan, which was part of the city budget alderman approved in May, will extend those hours until midnight six days a week.

The new hours won’t take effect before October and not before a 30-day informational campaign, city transportation czar Jim Travers assured the room. The new hours will take effect only at 900 new meters that accept credit cards. And paying will be easier: After 5 p.m., the 1- or 2-hour parking limit will be lifted and customers will be able to pay as many hours in advance as they like. The cost will remain at $1.50 per hour.

The new meters will look like the ones that have debuted on Broadway and Chapel Street, except shorter. (See photo at top of the story.)

Travers said workers will start as soon as next week cutting down existing meters to 36 inches to install the new meter heads on top.

Approval came after some spirited discussion about the price of the plan, both for the city and for businesses.

In opening remarks before the commission on the third floor of police headquarters, Travers said the main impetus behind the plan is money: The new city budget that took effect July 1 charges his department with coming up with $1.5 million in extra meter revenue, boosting the year’s total to $5.7 million. He said there are two ways to do that—extend hours or raise the meter rates again. He called the latter option unpalatable since the city already raised rates by a quarter last year.

Melissa Bailey Photo The meters in question represent just a fraction of the total available parking downtown, said Travers (pictured): 40 percent of spots lie in parking authority lots, 47 percent are privately managed and 13 percent are metered on-street spots. Travers’ proposal covers only 900 metered spots, which comprise one third of that 13 percent, he said.

The parking spots in question lie on downtown streets bounded by Park, Elm, Orange and George streets; on Broadway; on York Street from Elm to Grove; and on Union Avenue.

By 7 p.m. on a given night, 600 of those spots are currently taken up by employees working at downtown bars and restaurants, Travers said. Extending metered parking beyond that time will serve to free up those spots for paying customers, he argued.

What about the workers? one commissioner asked.

Travers conceded that has been the main concern he’s heard from businesses. He said there will still be free parking available—just a bit further away. When the city launches its informational campaign in September, he said, it will put together a packet for downtown workers highlighting free parking spots at night, including at Yale University lots that are open to the public.

He hit more resistance when he brought up how to enforce the plan.

Travers announced the city will hire three extra parking enforcement officers (formerly known as meter maids) on a part-time basis to hand out tickets from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, for a yearly cost of about $67,000. That’s on top of the three part-time workers who check meters until 7 p.m., he said.

Cops Tapped To Check Meters

After 9 p.m., Travers revealed, police would do the job.

“Whoa, whoa!” replied Epstein, who also chairs the police commission (which doubles as the traffic commission on nights like these).

“We’re not going to take [police] off the streets to give tickets!” Graves protested.

Chairman Epstein agreed: “I’m concerned about taking our police officers and making them enforce parking.”

Police Chief Frank Limon jumped in to settle the question. He first said that cops already dispatched on a downtown beat would check the meters. Then he clarified that the department would hire extra-duty cops “specifically for writing citations” for parking enforcement. The department will have three extra cops out per night to check meters and write tickets downtown, he said.

Limon’s reply addressed one concern—that police coverage would be depleted for parking tickets. It raised another. Why pay police extra-duty time when you could get a civilian for a fraction of the cost?

“I’d have a big concern” putting civilian meter-enforcers on the streets past 10 p.m., Travers replied.

“Let’s face it—they’re the most hated employee in the city,” he said. “We’re going to put them in a bar crowd where people are drinking?”

What about putting cops in that position? a commissioner asked.

“Officers have a gun,” Travers replied.

Graves said she’d like to see more figures on the total cost savings of the plan.

The city already approved bonding out half a million dollars through the capital projects budget to buy the first batch of meters, which Travers said cost $500 a pop. Existing city staffers will install them. The only other cost from his budget would be the $67,000 for part-time parking enforcement officers. The rest of the bill, for cops on the late-night parking meter shift, would be paid for by the police department.

Graves asked if the plan had been discussed with downtown merchants.

Travers said he met with the Chamber of Commerce, some merchants arranged by the Town Green Special Services District, and the city’s downtown nightlife committee. He said while some merchants had concerns, others wanted the meters extended even more—to 2 a.m., which he said the city wouldn’t have the ability to enforce.

Graves (pictured) remained unconvinced: “I don’t know about the merchants,” she said.

“I think it’s too hard of a hit for the merchants,” agreed commissioner Evelise Ribeiro.

Travers then tried a personal appeal: He said before he joined the city three years ago, he had a different line of work. “I’m a business person,” he said. When the city stopped letting people park free on Saturdays last year, he said, he was careful to roll out the change in a way that respects business. The city used “warning tickets” at first to get the word out before slapping parkers with fines.

Travers said once the 600 employees who park on the street find somewhere else to park, it will free up spots for paying customers. Just the mere fact that there are meters there will boost turnover at the meters, too, he argued.

Bishop Brooks agreed: He said he doesn’t go downtown now because he doesn’t want to pay to park in a downtown lot. The plan would “induce” more people to come downtown, he reasoned, if they can just pay at a meter for the amount of time they want to stay instead of shelling out $7 to $8 at a private lot.

When it came time to vote, Brooks and commissioner Sandra Trevino both said “yea.”

Graves and commissioner Richard Buckholz, who also cited business’ concerns, both voted “nay.” Ribiero abstained, prompting Epstein to cast the tie vote—something he hasn’t done in a long time, he said, before adding his “yea.”

Graves turned to Ribiero: “You should have voted!” she said.

“I’m not completely sold either way,” Ribiero explained.

“I think it’s a horrible move,” grumbled Graves. “I think there should be more out-of-the-box thinking on how to raise this revenue.”

After the vote, Travers said the city will install the new meters through September, then launch an in informational campaign with a 30-day heads up when the new rules will take effect.

He said the 48 pilot meters that debuted in January on Chapel and Broadway showed an 35 percent increase in revenue just because it’s easier to pay for parking. Over a third of people are using credit cards in those meters, he said.

He said the new meters will bring the city up to date with modern times, when people are paying with plastic instead of cash.

The goal of the new meters is not to issue tickets, he stressed, “it’s to get people to pay for parking.”

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posted by: Mitchel on August 10, 2011  8:48am

Good that there is a clergyman voting on the fate of places that serve alcohol. Im sure the three churches on the green, as usual, will be somehow immune to all parking laws.
Well, now downtown will be limited to drunken, vomiting 20 year olds from the valley, gun toting gang bangers and panhandlers. 
Now we can all feel better about letting new haven slip quietly beneath the the water’s surface for the third time.
Can you give me directions to the shoreline please?

posted by: mary on August 10, 2011  8:54am

The city is spending over a half million dollars to make it more expensive for restaurant employees to go to work, dissuade people from going downtown, negatively impact merchants’ ability to attract customers, and to redeploy police officers from patrolling the streets to patrolling meters.  This is one of the worst PR moves by the city ever.

posted by: ridiculous on August 10, 2011  8:57am

Yet more evidence that this city is not concerned with creating an environment that is friendly to business. What incentive do possible entrepreneurs have to open a restaurant, for instance, in this city? The constant threat of extra taxes for proper policing (which really just boils down to the NHPD extorting protection money from area businesses)? Extending meter times to midnight and driving away customers? Anyone who thinks the new meters and rules attached to them is going to bring in more paying customers to New Haven’s night life is seriously deluded. This city has proved time and time again it is hostile to business and is entirely unconcerned with creating new jobs.
Blissful ignorance and wastefulness is a way of life here, a veritable cultural trait. As someone in their late 20’s who is trying to build a future, I for one, can’t wait to escape this place.

posted by: Moira on August 10, 2011  8:57am

What a mistake. What’s next? Charging cyclists to lock their bikes to the meters?

As Jeffrey Kerekes pointed out last night at the mayoral candidate meet and greet at Nathan Hale, private jets at Tweed are required to pay a flat fee of only $2.50 to land in New Haven. $2.50!! That means it’s cheaper to park your plane and grab a coffee in New Haven than it is to drive in to the city and meet up with friends for a couple of hours downtown.

posted by: Idiots on August 10, 2011  9:00am

It doesn’t make any sense to charge for metered parking until midnight besides increasing your revenue. I could see charging for parking until 9pm. It doesn’t make any sense besides hurting the businesses and residents in downtown. Also did they every consider charging for parking on Sunday? They should increase the parking tickets too if the city needs more revenue to spend on building more failing schools.
What the city should do is not charge for parking at all in downtown, but tax the landlords in downtown for providing the service of free parking.

posted by: Kyle Zukauskas on August 10, 2011  9:08am

I agree with the “nay” votes. But I do understand where the “yay” voters are coming from. What I don’t understand is how someone can abstain from voting in a 3-2 vote. Come on Ribiero, grow a pair! You were put in a position to make a decision and you shirked that responsibility…terrible.

posted by: Vinny G on August 10, 2011  9:27am

The City can only take so much blood out of the taxpayers.  Now its the out of towners turn to donate.  This is what happens when you elect the same person to run the city for 18 years.  Make a change in November.

posted by: jt75 on August 10, 2011  9:28am

This is a hard one to swallow either way, but I do see the argument for freeing up spots for those coming in to town. I know that many people already don’t come to New Haven because the parking downtown is horrendous. And it is almost impossible to find a spot anywhere near Chapel Street when the meters shut down. I don’t have a problem with asking workers who are squatting in these free spots to park elsewhere if it means more customers will come to their businesses. Plus, Travers is right, they can just park further away for free. I’m not 100% sure this plan will work as advertised, but I think it’s worth a shot.

posted by: Threefifths on August 10, 2011  9:30am

Sold out again By the crooked two party system people.Keep voting them in.

posted by: anthony on August 10, 2011  9:46am

Makes sense to me. Downtown is small, and walkable/bikeable for most residents in who actually -live- in new haven.

My family will still continue to eat out, go to movies, enjoy the green, etc. People are being way too dramatic about this.

posted by: NewHavenJude on August 10, 2011  10:03am

Wow!  Doesn’t that makes sense??  Have the police checking meters between 7pm & Midnight instead of dealing with crimes neighborhood disturbances!  DUH!

posted by: Paul Martin on August 10, 2011  10:16am

It’s hard not to get the impression that this is a huge mistake.

1. “Officers have a gun,” Travers replied.

2. Pulling cops from real crime fighting to meter enforcement.

3. It’s clear that they have *no idea* where these employees are now going to have to park. And their attitude seems to be ‘not my problem.’

4. Please tell me the spots are not going to still be limited to 1 or 2 hours. As it is now, you can’t see a movie or go to a show or a concert and park at a meter, and in some spots right outside a restaurant, you’ll have to get up at least once to feed the thing.

5. Did anyone ask merchants about this? Did anyone bother listening to their response.

6. Theodore Brooks is the pastor of one church. When did he give himself the title of bishop?

posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on August 10, 2011  10:19am

I love New Haven, but New Haveners are INSANE about parking. There is still tons of free parking on very safe streets: Howe, College, large swaths of Grove right next to Yale, large swaths of Chapel where it is still very populated and safe, etc. In New York or Boston, people would be happy to walk—what, a QUARTER MILE?—from their parking spot to the restaurant or theater. So would employees of those places. Here, if people don’t have a parking spot within a one-minute walk, people act as if they need to pay in a lot. That is just insane. On busy days on the Post Road, parking at the far fringe of the Target lot is a longer walk from Target’s front door than some of these still-free parking spaces are from the center of downtown nightlife.

ALSO, it is quite clear to all who have studied this that parking is underpriced, and that people who use the most convenient parking should pay for it. That is much fairer, and more progressive, than gaining another spot of money from property taxes. (Not least because only people of certain means own cars to begin with.)

Suck it up, people. Walk the extra couple hundred yards.

posted by: ASL on August 10, 2011  10:43am

Nobody expects to be able to park their ass in a house, apartment, hotel, airplane seat, taxi cab, etc. for free.  Why people think they have a god-given right to park a ton of steel in the street for free is beyond me.  Whining about spending $5 to 10 on parking your car mere moments before spending $10 on a martini (or even $6 on a couple of beers at the Anchor) is the ultimate in whiny-ness. 

If you work in a downtown restaurant and commute from elsewhere, I’m not sure why you’re asking me as a New Haven taxpayer to subsidize the cost of your parking.  I walk to work partly to avoid the $2000/year it would cost me to park in my office parking garage.  I’m not asking you to foot that bill . . .

posted by: streever on August 10, 2011  10:52am

Anthony has the right of it.

Folks, as most of us who live in New Haven know, there will still be free parking available within 2 blocks of directly in front of the restaurants.

The only thing this proposal actually does is shift downtown restaurant employees from directly in front of their restaurant (seriously, observe Zinc around 6 some nights), and opens up those spots.

Those spots aren’t available for patrons right now. Zinc patrons can easily pay 200 dollars for their meal—plus tax and tip—you think they aren’t more likely to eat at Zinc if they can park directly in front of the restaurant for a cost of 5 dollars?

I have really good friends in Stamford and ate dinner there with them many times over the past winter. We paid for parking and never minded. The bill for 4 at a nice restaurant in Stamford came to 180. The parking? 10 dollars. Divided by 4 people, yes, that is right—it cost us a little over 2 dollars each.

People are making this into a huge deal, when it really is a benefit in the end. By adopting this policy we will make it easier for restaurant patrons to get to their destination. Yes, employees will either have to walk 2 blocks or the restaurant owners will need to step it up and subsidize their parking.

I’m sorry, but considering how cash-strapped the city is, I don’t think we need to subsidize the downtown restaurants. We’ve been doing that for years, and I have yet to see an economic model for the city that shows that produces a tangible benefit.

I’m friends with a lot of folk who work in the downtown restaurant industry—I don’t think any of them will really resent having to walk in extra 2 blocks (what, under 5 minutes?) to get to work.

posted by: J Wilson on August 10, 2011  10:57am

I assure you, more money will be lost due to potential customers eating elsewhere to avoid parking fees (and it’s less the actual parking fee that is the issue and more the tickets and tows that go hand in hand), then will be gained from people enticed in by easier parking.

I’m sure local businesses will hear customers say they enjoy getting easier and closer parking, but they’ll never hear why some customers never came back after they were slapped with a ticket or had their car towed. Businesses rarely hear from customers why they don’t come back, they just disappear.

There’s plenty of free, hassle free, parking in the surrounding communities, and honestly the restaurants are just as good. No one wants to worry about meter time when enjoying a night out with friends. I recently came to New Haven to meet a friend for coffee. $4 for a cup of coffee, and $14 for parking. But hell, it beat the last time I came into town and spent $4 on coffee, $4 for the meter, and got a $15 ticket (which doubles after only 15 days, and goes up again after 30).

I’m not being dramatic when I say I already avoid down town during the day, and with new meters incoming I’ll abandon New Haven all together.

posted by: robn on August 10, 2011  10:58am

I suspect this will be good for business since visitors will have an easier time parking near restaurants and will most likely pay less than a lot if they’re only staying for a couple of hours. If the city is working with Yale and other institutions to provide safe parking for workers just minutes walk from downtown, then it shouldn’t be so much of a burden for the workforce.

posted by: Scott McIntyre on August 10, 2011  11:23am

Can’t wait to see downtown on a non-weekend night now.  Who is going to pay $10 to pay for parking on a Monday or Tuesday night?  So you’ll end up with a bunch of fancy new meter spots empty, with all the further out free spots being taken.  Or people will just go somewhere else that isn’t hostile to customers.

posted by: Ellis Copeland on August 10, 2011  11:23am

I hope they aren’t counting on quarters from the Union Ave spots that are supposedly included in the count.  Those spaces are ALWAYS occupied by the personal vehicles of cops—who don’t pay at all.  And because of that fact there is NO enforcement on that street. I do give credit to the officers who at least use defined spaces rather than just park in the No Standing zones and the crosswalks and in front of the hydrants. Just yank the g*d***n meters already.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on August 10, 2011  11:31am

Paul Martin,
Points 2-4 were addressed in the article. ...


Others,
One issue with parking is the cost. The other issue is the availability. This proposal will increase availablilty thereby making it much easier to find parking in good locations. This proposal also makes it more expensive to park conveniently, although the 2 hour limit will be lifted after 7pm, which makes paying and planning your evening easier.
Free parking doesn’t work in cities because people just take a spot and sit on it whether they are frequenting nearby businesses or doing nothing.
Employees should not be parking at all. It makes no sense to take up 5+ hours at an on-street parking space because it means that 2-3 paying costumer can’t park there over that same 5+ hour period.

I would like to see the city greatly increase the number of on-street parking spaces by converting some travel lanes to parking lanes, by creating perpendicular or diagonal parkign spots on some streets and by reducing the number of curb cuts on sidewalks. We could double the number of parking spaces available on many of downtown’s streets, which potentially would allow the price of parking to be lowered.
In the long run, improvements to transit and alternative modes of transportation need to be made to make it easier for people to get around without using a car.

posted by: Scott McIntyre on August 10, 2011  11:34am

“I have really good friends in Stamford and ate dinner there with them many times over the past winter. We paid for parking and never minded. “

The city garages/lots in downtown Stamford have a flat rate for night parking that is much lower than New Haven. I think it is $3.50?

posted by: Downtown employee on August 10, 2011  11:35am

So, when I get mugged walking to my car in the pay lot that is now parked 5 blocks from where I worked, I will know which administration I should thank. When I call for police, if I am lucky an officer can be pulled off of meter duty to catch the guy who robbed me. Awesome move New Haven!

posted by: J Wilson on August 10, 2011  11:39am

Also, it’s wonderful that there is acknowledgement that you need armed meter enforcement at night, but it’s going to be fine for the people who work the bar and restaurants at night to be walking back to their cars several blocks away at 1am and later. While I rarely feel that New Haven is as dangerous as it has been recently made out to be, the potential for something happening goes up once you get past those core downtown streets. Forcing the workers down town to either pay to park when they already have low paying jobs, or risk their safety, means that no real consideration has been made for them.

posted by: Scott on August 10, 2011  11:55am

“This proposal also makes it more expensive to park conveniently, although the 2 hour limit will be lifted after 7pm, which makes paying and planning your evening easier.”

My options are: 1) park in the garage, pay $2 per hour, but it is capped and I only pay for what I use at the end of the night.  2) park in a meter, decide how many hours I need to start with, no cap, need to worry about when my meter runs out.  Why would I pick the meter?

posted by: Josh on August 10, 2011  12:01pm

I can see the rational for trying to move workers and locals farther away and charge more for parking, but this simply will not generate the revenue people are expecting.

First, regardless of how much ‘cheaper’ it may be to be at a meter vice a paid parking lot, it will still be perceived as ‘yet another reason not to go to new haven’ along with crime, etc, regardless of the cost ratio of meal to parking for eating at Zinc or the League. Theoretically gas shouldn’t be a big deal expense-wise in comparison to a bottle of wine at a high end restaurant, but guess what, it is often still perceived as major cost.

Second, as someone pointed out, as soon as someone out of town gets towed or ticketed a time or two, they give up on New Haven. For those of you who think I’m wrong, go to downtown Milford on a Saturday night and compare it with New Haven’s night life. There are other options than New Haven only 10-15 minutes away that have none of the perceived danger or expense.

Third, I think those meters, at $500 a pop, are easily going to be perceived as a fair target for any flavor of vandalism by people unhappy with the policy or the mayor in general. They also strike me as being much more susceptible to damage than a standard mechanical meter.

This policy will simply dry up already starving businesses downtown with little benefit in revenue to city, particularly when the labor and infrastructure costs are considered.

posted by: Billy on August 10, 2011  12:33pm

The city is just following the governor and state assembly’s lead by F…ING small business in every possible way that they can.
This is what happens when you have a room full of democrats in charge. Never met a group of people that think shooting themselves in the foot is the answer. YOU’RE SPENDING TOO MUCH!

posted by: citizen X on August 10, 2011  12:34pm

There is NO WAY that NHPD is going to enforce meters. They don’t even enforce traffic laws. Biggest joke I’ve heard yet. You can forget about ticket revenues after 9pm- besides most officers don’t even have ticket books in their car.

posted by: Kyle Zukauskas on August 10, 2011  12:35pm

Zinc customers are not the typical patron of New Haven stores. And parking a ton of steel wherever you want is hardly free. I pay hundreds of dollars every year for my city “car tax.” In fact, I’d rather pay a little more towards that tax than have to be inconvenienced dozens of times/year with parking meters.

posted by: anon on August 10, 2011  12:35pm

If there are empty meter spaces, it will just encourage more folks to come to the city. 

Across the world, congested cities with expensive parking are by far the most desirable cities.  They’re the ones like Chicago (which charges something like $4.00/hour at the meters) that private investment is pouring into.

Cities where employees can park in front of their coffeeshop, and where parking is cheap, are the ones that are hurting big time. These are places like Pontiac, Michigan and cities in Upstate New York.

Stop crying about your parking meter, and invest in some walking shoes.  New Haven is just going to be getting busier and more desirable over the coming years; get used to it.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on August 10, 2011  12:38pm

If this is all about max-revenue, why are there no parking meters on Wooster Street? Sally’s and Pepe’s customers park free, but BAR patrons are supposed to cough up five bucks?

And no meters on Upper State Street, or in Westville center.

Good for the goose, good for the gander? Or is the idea to milk Downtown dry once again.

posted by: b on August 10, 2011  12:41pm

Thanks for the heads up NHI, I won’t be planning on heading to New Haven for dinner etc.

posted by: xxxx on August 10, 2011  1:02pm

Why doesn’t someone ask how much the fees will be for the 3rd party to maintain the meter system?  Should also be asking how much the banks will be making off all those credit card transactions…

posted by: Scott on August 10, 2011  1:08pm

Zinc validates parking at the Crown St garage anyways.

posted by: streever on August 10, 2011  1:17pm

Let’s just see what happens? Would it actually ruin and bankrupt New Haven to charge on 4% of our available parking?

If it seems to be ruining the city, I think we can revisit it then. This isn’t a matter of public safety.

posted by: Josh on August 10, 2011  1:33pm

It is a minor matter of public safety to some of the workers down town, several of which have been hospitalized recently during hold ups.

Its also a $450,000 investment in infrastructure—reread the article, 900 meters * $500 dollars disregarding any maintenance costs and other labor costs of enforcement still is a half million dollar outlay. Once we go down this road, that is a sunk cost, minus any other expenses incurred by the plan. How much extra money was this supposed to generate? And what math is that calculation based on?

posted by: streever on August 10, 2011  1:42pm

@Josh
I know lots of downtown workers who even bike to work without incident—and many others who routinely park up near Howe and walk down to Temple/College without problems.

We can’t really say that one groups safety is more important than another, which is what the public safety argument is doing here. At least with this system, we’ll have walking beat cops downtown, which is such a huge safety bonus I can’t imagine any valid counter.

As for the infrastructure, 45k will be recouped so quick it’ll make your head spin! Just look at a weeks worth of parking revenue right now in the city. The new meter system will definitely raise more revenue than cost in the short term AND the long term.

posted by: J Wilson on August 10, 2011  1:55pm

“Let’s just see what happens?... If it seems to be ruining the city, I think we can revisit it then.”

The problems with that are many.

- the cost of new meters will already have been spent.

- In a year, or however long it is while things are evaluated, any drop in business can easily be attributed to whatever you feel like attributing it to. “It’s not the meters, it’s the economy.” Or the perceived crime. Or whatever other factor you’d rather have people thinking about. There’s always a shell game of blame depending on agendas, or simple ignorance and pet theories.

- Once business is gone, it’s hard to get back. Any good business man knows it’s easier and cheaper to keep a customer than it is to draw them back. While customers are gone, they are creating attachments with their NEW favorite restaurant or bar, never mind the difficulty of overcoming a bad association from the past.

- Lastly, it’s generally understood that it is difficult to get bad policies undone. Once something is in, it’s often in for good (or for the foreseeable future).

posted by: Josh L. on August 10, 2011  1:58pm

I’m conflicted on this one.  I generally don’t park downtown (as a city resident, I ride my bike almost everywhere), but I get why people are upset.

Honestly, there are no revenue-raising means which won’t piss off somebody.  If you raise taxes, you punish local citizens.  If you go after Yale, you piss off the biggest reason New Haven is even a halfway reasonable place to hang out.

While I understand it’s annoying, I think the logic makes sense: by forcing downtown employees to park further away, you’re actually encouraging more people to park downtown with meters.

Honestly, there’s a ton of free parking in the city if you don’t mind walking a few blocks, so I don’t see this as the end of the world, but people are going to bitch about any increased fees they have to pay regardless.

posted by: J Wilson on August 10, 2011  2:16pm

“we’ll have walking beat cops downtown, which is such a huge safety bonus I can’t imagine any valid counter.”

My first thought as a counter is that the new beat cops will be on the meter enforced streets, not on the streets you’ll be suggesting the bar and restaurant workers to park on. (if there are additional cops planned for those streets the article did not state it, only that there would be additional patrol cops enforcing meters).

Yes, the downtown area that is well lit, well traveled, etc IS pretty safe. Those are the same streets targeted for new meters. Things get a lot more interesting only a few blocks away. I know first hand how hard it is to get cop assistance once you are even a couple of streets away. Anyone I know that has lived downtown in New Haven a few years recognizes this.

posted by: anon on August 10, 2011  2:17pm

One of the benefits that nobody mentioned is that metered space availability will dramatically reduce traffic circling around the block to find an empty meter. That alone can reduce traffic by up to 60%, which in fact allows far more cars/people to come into the city than otherwise would be able to. 

The downtown businesses are about to make out like a bank under this plan.

Furthermore, if employers find it harder to attract workers because a few of them complain about parking difficulties (due to a policy change affecting, as Streever points out, just 4% of parking spots downtown), they may have to raise their hourly wage a bit.  That is a win-win for everyone involved.

More likely, this proposal will result in a much more lively and prosperous downtown, and that is the factor that will make it harder to find parking, not the 4% change.

Downtown New Haven generates far more tax revenue and jobs than any strip mall in the nation.  If we want to create more jobs and taxes, the best strategy here is to make it into something that is as far from a strip mall as possible, not go back to some crazy, outmoded strategy like free parking in front of your employer’s coffee shop.

posted by: dave on August 10, 2011  3:18pm

I rarely post here but I’m shocked at such a major gamble being based on so much fuzzy math and imaginary statistics.

According to the article there are 900 street parking spaces downtown and 600 are occupied by workers…that would leave only 300 available spaces in a given evening downtown.  REALLY?!  Where do they get this information??  How do they know the ratio of workers biking, walking and taking the bus and not parking?? How do they KNOW 600 workers are all parking? Where does this info come from?! I know a LOT of people who come downtown and almost no one I know ever uses the garage and can always find a space with some effort…this would be impossible if there were only 300 spaces. Also, how are they calculating the amount of traffic each spot generates?  They seem to take it as fact that 1 space equals one car and one person for an entire evening.  This may be the case with garages that charge a flat fee, but who knows how many people pull in and out of a space in a night? If just 4 people move in and out of one spot between 7pm and 2am (almost 1 every 2 hours…which seems reasonable, some less but some more) then you need to multiply total available spots by at least 4 and calculate the NEW number as the amount of customers you now risk losing…this number is NOT a mere 4%.

There are many other ways to improve parking, increase revenue AND help downtown businesses all at the same time…this will do none. It’s hysterical that the only business models used are zinc and union league…I have no doubt both will be unaffected, other smaller businesses can not possibly survive. As businesses dry up you void out the reason to come downtown in the first place and end up decreasing parking revenue.

Maybe these vacant storefronts will be replaced by a new landscape of higher end establishments better suited to the new climate, however in a never ending recession it seems more likely new haven will revert to the way it was in the late 80’s…how many people actually remember that?

Also, where is the “tons of free parking a few blocks away” everyone keeps citing?  WTF?! I’d like to see ONE person who voted on this walk those streets to get to their car at 1am.

From reading the comments its clear that many of the posters either rarely if ever come downtown or don’t even own a car, these are clearly not the people to offer a perspective.

Business will drop sharply when this goes into affect, parking hits a nerve with people, they don’t actually consider the cost ratio, as soon as they hear “meters till midnight” they will run away.  Anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t being realistic about human nature.

posted by: Josh on August 10, 2011  3:20pm

My concern with people who work downtown versus people who play downtown is that the latter generally get out earlier or in groups or both. The former tend to operate singly late at night, with a lot of cash on them, and local hooligans seem to be on to this pattern.

Where will those extra cops actually be, and when? Not in the areas with free parking and also not when someone closing a bar or restaurant will be heading home, so non argument there in my opinion. I’ve lived in New Haven for a decade, always within walking distance of downtown, and this season has gotten decidedly more violent in areas that were traditionally safe—like I said, three people I personally know hospitalized.

Some one mentioned 45K will be made quickly; revisit the math and realize it was $450K, plus maintenance, replacements, and the new parking attendants.

I’d also like to know where the budget for these three police is supposed to come from because I’d bet my next dinner down town its from the exact same meters and that its a hidden cost. You don’t magically get to hire three new officers or pay existing officers overtime.

I’m not convinced this will generate any revenue and I don’t think it will have the positive effect of bringing more out of town people into New Hey for the previous reasons I put out; it seems based on dubious assumptions. Where as the amount it will cost to implement is tangible and realistically once in place, it will never be undone.

Its telling that *no* other city I’m aware of, from Boston to New York to LA, has implemented any such plan. New Haven seems even less likely to draw people away from suburbs that such cities.

posted by: michael T on August 10, 2011  4:00pm

This is way liberals love the east coast because they love to sock it to the people who actually work and created jobs.  Raise more money to spend it and then feed their own selfish pockets.  East coast Liberals,  yep they are smarter then anyone, just ask them…..

posted by: Roxanne on August 10, 2011  4:23pm

New Haven really ought to figure out how to furnish a leaf from Stamford’s book in many respects.

Parking does not cost nearly as much, restaurants in downtown are generally far better, there is barely any crime (one rarely even *sees* a police officer) and racial integration and *authentic* cultural diversity are alive and well despite the absence of a very wealthy and fairly liberal and world-renowned institute of higher education.
(Read: despite what seems to be a somewhat lower standard of education for those who hold the highest concentrations of wealth. I talk to these people at the bar I work at all the time; many are, quite frankly, actually not that bright nor very educated in terms of matters not related to perpetually generating revenue and upping the standard-of-living ante).

Stamford puts New Haven to absolute SHAME in terms of the growing Latino population’s average level of education and income, and people are not generally threatened or bothered by their desire to speak Spanish amongst themselves out of solidarity and/or preservation of their culture.

Stamford, however, outside of downtown does suffer from density issues and bad transportation infrastructure, but unlike New Haven, most of the city’s surface area is not devoted to slums.

Conclusion: New Haven and Stamford need to figure out how to have a baby.  I am personally determined to use the higher education I’m currently in the process of paying forward, to study urban planning, anthropology/sociology/anthropology in order to ascertain what accounts for such heinous disparities. Or perhaps I’ll get tired and forget all about it in favor of living in generally more progressive regions, and study other things in school…like how to make money.

posted by: Matthew Joseff on August 10, 2011  5:01pm

The shoreline is just due East, we’re happy to have you. 

Once New Haven’s property value has dropped enough, it will be sold to a mall conglomerate which will build brand new shopping *on* the green and a free parking lot.

That’ll take care of everything.

posted by: Threefifths on August 10, 2011  5:05pm

posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on August 10, 2011 10:19am

Suck it up, people. Walk the extra couple hundred yards

What do you do for those who are handicap and drive.

posted by: J Wilson on August 10, 2011  5:54pm

michael T, there are “East Coast Liberals” here that are making a case for both the businesses downtown, and the people who work in them. You are entitled to your opinion, but I fail to see why you want to make this into a partisan issue. It’s not.

This might allow some of the bigger more expensive restaurants more money due to more available parking, but the bars and restaurants where people spend smaller dollar amounts, which is most of them, this is going to cost them more customers than it brings in.

posted by: Bob on August 10, 2011  6:44pm

I think it is wrong to ask people to pay on weekends. I use to love to go downtown but what I have noticed is parking is harder to find and I do not like to pay on weekends. Parking should be free after 7:00 PM weekdays and on weekends. Forget hiring more police, they have enough to do without meters and all that goes along with it. I think you are looking into the wrong cookie jar.
I also find it harder to find Commercial loading zones. Get with it New Haven, you are limiting your openness to nightly and weekend customers. I was in the market to build another business in New Haven, but parking is a big issue and has been for many years.

posted by: Ricky Rich on August 10, 2011  7:10pm

So he calls himself Rick Epstein when on the Traffic Commission. He’s Richard the cophearted when on the Police Commission

posted by: Paul Martin on August 10, 2011  9:49pm

I’m sorry, but in re: Jonathan Hopkins comment - you say that these points were “addressed.” I think you’re confusing “addressed” with “mentioned.”

Those points were mentioned. But the amount of guesswork and “we’ll see!” in this decision is, frankly, unbelievable. There is no appreciation for the fact that this will probably raise rates at garages, that any money made from this will pale in comparison to the costs of hiring three police, or that many people - and yes, even good people who live in New Haven - have little choice but to drive.

Every time this issue comes up, a few commenters take up all the oxygen. Anon seems to believe that people go to New York *because* they have metered parking there. But New York can charge for parking without having negative effects because there are lots of things that people want to do in New York that they cannot do anywhere else.

But New Haven does not have such a monopoly. And it is alarming that, even after local biz owners worried about the effects this would have on their customers, the city went ahead and did it anyway without having thought very carefully about the impact.

In general, having more turnover should open up more spots for people. That’s a great thing. But if this is going to push up garage rates take a chunk of wages from people who don’t have much to spare, and mean that cops are going to be tasked with enforcing meters instead of enforcing, say, the epidemic of red light running, then the trade-offs could be too big to justify this move.

I’ve had meetings with people who have come in for the $3 coffee and paid $12 to park. This is one of those moments when the bike crowd is being even more cavalier than usual about public policy. People from New York do not take the train here to go out to eat. Doesn’t happen. Stop pretending that it does.

posted by: Nh resident on August 10, 2011  10:41pm

“The rest of the bill, for cops on the late-night parking meter shift, would be paid for by the police department”

...hmm who pays for them? Oh yeah us taxpayers.  That type of attitude is exactly the problem.  How about cutting spending instead of demanding more revenue?  Maybe then they can return our property taxes to reasonable levels…

posted by: streever on August 10, 2011  11:16pm

Paul Martin:
it isn’t just the “bike crowd” but a number of New Haven residents, including several I’ve never seen on a bicycle.

Folks, if your theories were correct, I’d expect—note—I’m not saying this disproves your theories, just trying out a hypothesis—I’d EXPECT to find that daytime parking spots aren’t occupied.

I mean people going out for a cheap lunch aren’t going to pay, right? Right?

Wrong. They do—they pay for parking for coffee, they pay for parking for Gourmet Heaven, they pay for parking for lunch. They pay for parking for errands and museums.

They really won’t pay for dinner, when the cost of parking is such a tiny fraction of their bill?

Parking isn’t free. Taxpayers pay the burden of parking right now. This plan shifts the onus on providing free parking spot to people who work downtown (who are the ones using the spots).

I saw a few people say “none of you must come downtown”—absolutely not true. Most of the people supporting this that I know walk, bike, and take the bus downtown. It isn’t that hard. I do occasionally go downtown in a car, too—always carpooling, and always splitting the meter price.

Is it too much to ask people to pay for what they use, and find ways to manage their own finances? If you want to go downtown, ride down with a few friends, and suddenly your parking cost is reduced by a quarter.

posted by: Fed Up on August 10, 2011  11:19pm

The city is going crazy in so many different ways—well, not the city and it’s beautiful buildings, museums, restaurants but the people who run it.  Has anybody thought about what this does for marketing the city, the businesses and visitors.  I used to be able to go to dinner and a movie or play and not worry about the meter after 7 p.m.  Now it will cost $1.50 added to what I was spending downtown.  Ridiculous!
The places that are inviting are the ones that do not put up obstacles like New Haven has been doing. 
We must put up with the lack of parking spaces due to Yale projects.  When do we start counting?  Those of us who live here???  Pay taxes here?
Well I for one will continue to enjoy another beautiful neighborhood that has no parking meters—Westville Village. Come join me!

posted by: Jonny Rodgers on August 10, 2011  11:26pm

New Haven makes yet another BAD DECISION.

posted by: pdh on August 11, 2011  6:22am

How about enforcing residential parking zones 24/7, like Cambridge does? Prevents neighborhoods from becoming Yale parking lots and generates revenues for our Squanderbund.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on August 11, 2011  8:26am

@Streever—
“Parking isn’t free”?

It is almost everywhere else in New Haven County except in our central business district. Go to eat at Sally’s, Pepe’s, Archie’s, Modern, Delaney’s, etc, etc, etc,.... It’s free parking! But if you dare to take your car into Downtown it’s $1.50/hour, day or night?

Tax Westville! Tax Wooster Square! Tax Upper State Street! Free Downtown!

posted by: robn on August 11, 2011  9:50am

Something that I and maybe ANON have mentioned many times before is converting our streets to two-way and converting super wide streets like Elm George and parts of Chapel into boulevards with diagonal parking. I could see this generating more income during the day so maybe we wouldn’t have to charge at night (or maybe just charge within the 9 square perimeter so that walkers can walk in from George…there’s a lot of daytime revenue capacity on George)

posted by: streever on August 11, 2011  10:52am

Scooper
There is a real economic cost associated with “free” parking. The costs are born disproportionately by lower income citizens in New Haven who are less likely to have reliable access to a car or spare money to hang out on Crown Street or eat in restaurants on Chapel Street.

What may seem “free” is actually being paid for by the lower rung of the economic ladder, while those at the top (the developers who build buildings downtown, have millions, and pay hundreds of thousands in the suburbs to provide parking) see no immediate cost whatsoever.

You can’t get a free lunch of a free parking spot, folks. Sorry. This policy may be flawed, and it may not be ideal, but the reality is something has to shift the costs off the backs of the working poor. Be grateful that you are one of the 800 million people who actually own a car and not one of the 6 billion who do not.

Honestly, we are talking about paying $4.50 to have dinner and a drink. If you just travel with one other person! the total cost to you is $2.25.

This really deserves a freak out? $2.25 to have dinner? If you are eating on Chapel Street, even at the low-end, dinner for two is going to come out to:
$5 appetizer
2x$10 entree
3x$5 drinks
$60, plus tax and tip, what, $75?

75+4.50 means you’re going to spend 80 total, 40 each. I mean hell, you can forgo the appetizer or a drink or split an enormous entree.

You can spend less than $4 on a coffee when you go downtown.

I really don’t think that a 4.50 surcharge is going to make people flee downtown. The hyperbole being thrown out on this topic is literally unbelievable.

posted by: Here We Go Again on August 11, 2011  11:19am

Aldermen Darnell Goldson and Michael Smart fought this proposal at the BOA, no one then seemed to care (http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/goldson_fails_to_block_proposal/). When are folks going to wake up?

posted by: Icarus on August 11, 2011  11:29am

I can see a problem regarding machines that operate using only coins. People do not want to carry around change and it would create a psychological, not monetary, barrier to visiting downtown New Haven. For the machines that use credit cards, I agree with Streever. People who visit to eat or go to bars usually carpool and many park in the more expensive lots anyway out of convenience. Also, this is not the only (small)city to implement late night meters. I recently visit Rehoboth Beach, DE to go to Dogfish head brewery and the place was packed (despite having meters). More likely, people will forget about this and it will not be a big deal.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on August 11, 2011  12:30pm

@Streever—

... my fundamental point ... is the unfairness of taxing downtown visitors even harder, while Wooster Street patrons park for free.

And yes, having to pay to park definitely factors into people’s decision making as to where they want to congregate.

This is a bad message sent out by the city, they had numerous other options, and I hope it doesn’t end up with more empty storefronts of which there are already too many.

posted by: anon on August 11, 2011  12:41pm

I can’t wait to see the massive boost in downtown business once the meter prices and times on 4% of our downtown spaces are raised.

1. There will be more “free” meters on our most vibrant streets (which compare well to any street in NYC or Chicago), thereby drawing even more people in.

2. The garages will get slightly more full. More revenue for the city.

3. Fewer people circling around blocks means less pointless traffic.  That means even more people can be drawn in to our streets.  It also means less noise, more pedestrians, an easier time getting to businesses, etc.

posted by: For here or to go? on August 11, 2011  3:21pm

I have seen Mark Oppenheimer spending money downtown, but I have never seen him behind a counter until midnight working for minimum wage plus tips. Those who do are aware of two important facts.
1) Every street predator trying to make a dishonest buck knows who works where. You see someone everyday walking in with an apron and a uniform you start to realize they have cash on them.
2) You are never going to get a raise. In other words, tight wads who come downtown to spend money are also going to compete for those open spaces. That means more workers are going to have to fork over nearly an hour of pay in order to park. Most are living paycheck to paycheck as it is, few can afford it at all.
If you ask me, workers should park for free at night and during the day. The daytime regulations are even more appalling, as there is a two hour limit. What food service employee can take a break every two hours to circle the block and look for a new space? Most don’t even get proper lunch breaks.
I suspect many of the people who think it’s a good idea are bike advocates who think it will cut down on car traffic. That is just dumb. This is a tax on the working poor, plain and simple.

posted by: Pedro Soto on August 11, 2011  4:01pm

Mark Oppenheimer and Streamer are spot on. People

**FREAK OUT**

over having to pay for parking. Between resistance to that and resistance to any sort of toll, drivers have cognitive dissonance when it comes to the pittance of the price of parking compared to the ridiculous costs of owning and maintaining a vehicle.

While I wish they would have phased in the rates to get people used to this, I think that overall, people are going to take it in stride, especially since you can just pay with a credit card.

I do have an issue with using cops to ticket and patrol this after-hours. Jim Travers assertion is a little silly that meter readers are going to possibly face a life-threatening situation for doing their job.

MAYBE I could see having to do this on thurs-saturday, but certainly not the rest of the week.

I’m actually looking forward to this, and actually having a few spots open to use for short trips downtown.

Ordering weeknight takeout, frequently takes more time to find parking, than the entire roundtrip. Having a spot for 50 cents that I can grab a block or two away from the restaurant sounds pretty great.

posted by: helen on August 11, 2011  5:41pm

what does Yale say about this idea.i will not pay for parking to eat in any new haven,restaurant.goodbye new haven,ct p.s don’t forget the panhandlers asking every two minutes for money.

posted by: J Wilson on August 11, 2011  8:35pm

Streever,
The lunch crowd, I would imagine, are largely people already in New Haven for the day. The many people who work, go to school, and have day time errands in New Haven who are a captive audience. These people don’t have a convenient choice.

The night/dinner crowd is NOT the same captive audience. I’m sure there is some cross over for those who live downtown or work late, but I’m equally sure there are a lot of people who come into New Haven from the surrounding communities, and they DO have a choice. So right there I think it pokes a large hole in your argument. Let me turn that type of thinking around on you though. If meters did what you say they will do, why do we still have traffic and parking problems during the day? It’s much easier to find parking at night when it’s free, than during the day when it’s paid. (and to show that I know it’s a bs question, yes, it’s because it’s a different crowd with different needs during the day and who doesn’t have the option to do otherwise).

Before I got so fed up with the various problems or New Haven, you can not believe the number of times I suggested grabbing lunch in New Haven, to get groans of disapproval from my lunch companions. I worked IN New Haven (the New Haven Register if you are curious), I LIVE in New Haven, and I and others already avoid going down town for lunch. No guesswork. Fact.

The cost break down of meter to evening out doesn’t tell the whole story. As I’ve been saying, it’s NOT the cost of the meter that is the primary problem. It’s the almost inevitable tickets and tows! THOSE are what get people upset and keep them from coming back.

A few examples from the reasons I stopped doing lunches down town show the problem:

- enjoying yourself with friends, you lose track of time and find your meter ran out. You can now add $20 to your evening’s costs, and cap your fun evening with a sour note.

- If you get a ticket while working and cash strapped, you are screwed. $20 doubles to $40 in 15 days, and goes up to $60 15 days after that. I know a lot of people working downtown that can easily find themselves in a week where $20 is a big deal, and forgetting to pay, or not being able to pay right away means it only gets worse.

- Find your car towed (I’ve been towed while having a valid and up to date pass in the window that the tow drivers “didn’t see”). I’ve had friends towed for a variety of reasons, and I’ll tell you every time you find yourself stranded in New Haven alone at night you vow to not come back. Watch the tow trucks making the rounds any Friday and Saturday night, and realize how many tows are going on while people are enjoying a night out, and ask yourself how many won’t bother to come back, because whatever New Haven has, it’s just as good the next town over where they don’t do that to people.

Anyways, I probably done discussing this here. It’s too late, it’s already been decided. I’ve personally already committed to moving away from New Haven due to decisions like these that are made with little consideration for the people who live here. I continue to worry about my New Haven friends, which is why I argue, but it’s a wasted effort.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on August 11, 2011  8:38pm

http://www.uctc.net/access/30/Access 30 - 04 - Crusing for Parking.pdf

posted by: anon on August 11, 2011  9:58pm

Pedro’s reasoning is spot on. This policy will be a huge boon to business, and make everyone a lot more prosperous, both employees (of which there will be many more, once the businesses and shops expand) and business owners.

posted by: J Wilson on August 12, 2011  12:31am

Jonathan Hopkins, that is an interesting read as far as it goes, but it doesn’t ask other questions, such as “can you also reduce traffic by providing additional free parking?” I’m guessing the answer must be yes. The question then becomes, is it a worthwhile investment for a city. In large cities, I’m guessing the answer is no, because space is both at a premium, and more importantly, the intended targets have no other option. Large cities offer a wide variety of things that other nearby cities do not, and they are large enough that leaving the city to go elsewhere is impractical. New Haven however is NOT a large city, and much of what it has to offer IS available in surrounding cities. The fair market value of parking then, has to be considered with that in mind. I have no clue how to come up with fair numbers, but I have to wonder if New Haven created more parking to address the issue, rather than simply trying to modify behavior through meters, would more revenue be created through increased spending in New Haven (by attracting more people in from the surrounding communities), than it cost to provide the parking?

However, I think all this discussion on the traffic benefits are a bit misleading. This wasn’t done to better traffic. It was clearly stated “Travers said the main impetus behind the plan is money: The new city budget that took effect July 1 charges his department with coming up with $1.5 million in extra meter revenue.”

posted by: nordberg on August 12, 2011  1:11am

I choose not to use credit cards.

Even if I did choose to use credit cards, I would not want big brother knowing where I was parked.

posted by: streever on August 12, 2011  9:01am

@J Wilson
If the cost of the meter isn’t the issue, but the problems associated with paying, don’t worry—that is why they are adding the new ones with the credit card system.

posted by: anon on August 12, 2011  11:54am

J Wilson, converting our excessively-wide streets into narrower, two way cross sections with diagonal parking, would also reduce traffic and boost business.

In addition to raising parking fees, the city should raise fines, especially when it comes to illegally parked vehicles, currently around $30.  Parking in no parking zones reduces visibility of other road users (drivers, pedestrians etc), and therefore is a common cause of someone else’s death.

The fee for this needs to be at least $100 if we want to discourage wealthy folks from outside New Haven, like Governor Malloy, from parking illegally and putting our lives at risk.

posted by: Curious on August 12, 2011  8:37pm

So if you want to stay in New Haven for dinner and a show, say from 6pm to 11pm, that’s five hours.

Five hours at a $1.50 meter is $7.50.

Who isn’t just going to park in a safer, more well-lit garage for about the same price?

posted by: streever on August 14, 2011  3:31pm

@Curious
Part of the goal is to get long-term (5-6 hour parkers) to use garages instead of on-street, to make quick trips more viable, and reduce block circling—so, you are absolutely correct!

posted by: J Wilson on August 14, 2011  6:49pm

There are already decent incentives to use the garages as it helps you avoid those tickets and tows which I’ve complained about, and you can avoid that circling and searching pattern by paying. The problem is this will give every garage in town a very solid excuse to raise rates. Currently, an evening in the garage runs something like $7-8 dollars, compared to during the day where I’ve paid $14 for a handful of hours. The rates are higher in the day in part because the alternative on the street being a paid option, allow them to. If they raise rates as I predict, then this will likely have little to no affect on people circling, as street parking (either free a few blocks away, or paid close by) will still be cheaper. It will be the same situation as during the day where many people still prefer to park on the street rather than a garage, and the circling behavior continues.

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