Consultant recommends doubling parking rate

Could go up to 82 cents an hour

Durango’s hourly parking meter rates would almost double to an average of 82 cents per hour by 2014 to provide funding for a downtown parking garage, according to a consultant’s recommendation given Tuesday to the City Council.

The new rate would still be well below the regional average of $1.17 an hour, according to a survey by Bill Timmer, principal with Bluewater Project Management Services based in Seattle.

For comparison, Aspen charges $2.75 an hour. Park City, Utah, and Salt Lake City charge $1.50. Colorado Springs, Reno, Nev., and Tucson, Ariz., all charge a dollar an hour. Grand Junction is closest to Durango’s current average of 42 cents an hour with an average rate of 50 cents an hour.

“You are at the low end of what comparable cities would charge,” Timmer said, noting that big cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles charge as much as $4 to $5 an hour at their meters.

Durango’s revenue from its parking meters would almost double from $590,000 to nearly a million dollars in 2014, providing a financing stream for a long-desired parking garage to be built next to the downtown Transit Center.

A four-story garage would provide more than 400 additional parking spaces. Four hundred is also the number of parking spaces a study from 2000 estimated downtown needed.

Timmer said the demand for parking has only grown over time. He observed that parking spaces along Main Avenue were at an excess of “88 percent occupancy” at lunch time.

“You had many blocks that were solidly parked, at 100 percent,” Timmer said.

So a higher parking fee would encourage more turnover, creating more business for downtown. It also would encourage alternative means of transportation, such as walking and bicycling.

If Durango is to encourage more people living downtown, it has to solve the parking problem, City Manager Ron LeBlanc said.

To generate more income, Durango also is planning to transition to new parking meters that would take credit and debit cards and possibly accept payments from an “app” or application on a smart phone.

Councilors said they will need more financial analysis before they make any decisions about parking fees.

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