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Many Changes Coming to Downtown Rochester Parking

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cars in parking garage interiorParking in Rochester, especially downtown, may look very different come August 1.

A new city budget was approved by officials in early June 2018, and a few measures have become controversial as they raise the cost of parking in many downtown areas. As of July 1, on-street metered parking has been extended from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on every day except weekends and holidays. Previously, metered parking lasted from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To ease the transition, signs will be posted on all meters and ticketing for violating the extended timeframe won’t begin until August 1. Monthly fees for various garages in the city are also being raised.

From a statement released by City Hall:

“The decision to extend parking meter hours was made during a budget cycle with considerable fiscal challenges. We always work to carefully balance user fees like parking meter rates with the burden placed on city taxpayers… These hours were meant to be competitive when compared with other cities. Our peer city of Buffalo, for example, does not charge as late on weeknights, however it does charge on Saturdays.”

City officials estimate that the extension of the meter time will raise about $214,000 per year. However, some residents of downtown are concerned about the changes.

Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corp., believes that the meter extension will roll back progress on bringing people to downtown and hurt businesses, especially bars and restaurants who rely on evening traffic. Zimmer-Meyer believes that growing a vibrant downtown and street life happens “organically”, and that accessible street parking is “a very important part of that.”

Rochester does have some ambitious projects coming to downtown that will need funding, and soon. For one, the large extension of the Strong Museum of Play, ostensibly dubbed the “Neighborhood of Play”, is estimated to bring in plenty of downtown traffic for work, living, and entertainment, but it needs to be paid for in the meantime.

Another project that the city is considering is turning a section of the old subway 20 feet below West Broad Street into a parking facility. A formal request for proposals from developers has been sent out, including criteria such as “high quality design in order to enhance the public realm” and encouraging “environmentally sensitive development and sustainable construction methods.”

Such a project is a large undertaking, with potential disruption for nearby business and traffic while construction is underway. Having the appropriate safety precautions, such as multiple points of entry and 24/7 lighting (required by law in many areas, and for good reason) will likely prevent pricey design challenges.

Frustration has been expressed by many Rochester folks over parking and downtown construction over the years, and such complaints are common in City Halls across the country.