parking kiosks

No such thing as free parking … somebody’s got to pay

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   One by one, the business owners and city officials took turns trying a different type of parking kiosk that promised to be easy to use, faster for patrons, and less likely to cause frustration for shoppers. The sample kiosk, presented recently by International Parking Solutions, was promoted as taking less than 10 seconds to use. But as with most technology, human error and uncertainty sometimes stretched out the time. Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick, whose staff patrols the city parking lots, said the kiosks used in the lot behind Panera were “not well received.” The city and a parking task force is considering several downtown parking options – including the replacement of the current kiosks with new easier models. “You want to make it as convenient as you can,” said Michael Wilson of IPS. The new sample kiosk proved to be easier – since it allows users to pay in a variety of ways with a variety of paths to get there. Unlike the existing kiosks, this one does not send the motorist back to square one if a step is missed. “If this takes you longer than 10 seconds, it’s too long,” Wilson said. But there are some problems with the IPS kiosk. It will accept credit cards or coins – but programming it to accept dollar bills costs an extra $1,500 per kiosk. Motorists who frequent the lots can go online and register their credit card to streamline the process more. Like the current kiosks in use, the IPS model also notifies motorists on their phones of their parking time nearing expiration. The motorists can then ask for more time. “The revenue side of parking is critical to cities,” Wilson said. It’s often that money that is used to maintain city parking lots and sidewalks, he said. The average minimum parking cost in cities is $1 an hour. Anything less than $1 is not work the credit card processing, Wilson said. Costs in larger communities are much higher, like $2.75 an hour in Madison, Wisconsin, and $6.50 an hour in San Francisco, he added. Kim Thomas, owner of the H&R Block building on South Main Street, said the parking issue is more complicated than it appears. “Of course, free parking sounds wonderful,” she said. But the fact that several downtown apartment renters use city parking lots for their vehicles means that some time limits still need to be enforced so parking spots rotate for shoppers and diners. “Whatever we do, we want it enforced,” Thomas said. Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said while free parking sounds good, the time limits must be enforced. The downtown will not seem so “friendly” when motorists get $15 tickets for overstaying their time in parking spots, he said. But some store owners feel their businesses are hurt by the city charging for parking. Ben Waddington, of Waddington Jewelers, said he frequently hears from customers who don’t like the parking kiosks. “Nobody wants this,” he said of the downtown kiosks. City Council President Mike Aspacher agreed downtown parking is a “multi-layered issue.” He has heard the complaints about the kiosks, and said no decisions have yet been made on the parking issue. Floyd Craft, owner of Ben’s and Ace Hardware, agreed the parking problem won’t be simple to solve. “We need parking and we need enforcement,” he said. “I think we need to look at the modern way,” Craft said after trying out the sample kiosk. “You’re never going to make everyone happy. We love the customers, but we have to maintain the lots.”…


BG to view more ‘user-friendly’ parking kiosks for downtown

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As part of the continuing debate over how to pay for downtown parking, a more “user-friendly” kiosk will be demonstrated for downtown and city officials next week. Mayor Dick Edwards expressed some reservations about the new kiosk at Monday’s City Council meeting, but said he is looking forward to seeing a model that is easier for motorists to use. A committee of downtown property owners and business owners has been meeting to study the options of how to pay for parking. The committee is charged with looking at whether the city should continue to charge for parking, or if the property and business owners want to work on a shared cost approach. The cost of parking meters will double in the downtown area if a solution isn’t found. The problem is that the city isn’t making enough from its downtown parking meters to pay for repaving the lots and enforcing parking rules. But the fear is that doubling parking costs will discourage customers from patronizing downtown businesses. The city’s downtown lots – with their 600-plus parking spaces – are struggling due to flat revenue, increasing costs and aging infrastructure. Under a shared cost program, the downtown property owners would be assessed based on their front footage and the benefits to their parcels. The average property owner would pay $220 a year for 20 years. The lowest amount charged would be $30 a year. The highest – to the owner of multiple properties – would be $2,000 a year. Those assessments would generate about $20,000 a year. The concept of the downtown property owners picking up the tab for parking expenses was not supported by the landowners during a meeting earlier this year. However, the business owners have stated they would be willing to share in the expenses if it meant customers wouldn’t have to pay for parking. The benefits of getting rid of parking meters would be multi-faceted. It would be a marketing opportunity for downtown businesses, it would eliminate the need for meter or kiosk replacements, and it would mean the city would no longer have to pay property taxes on the parking lots since they would not be generating revenue. That alone will be an annual savings of about $35,000. The parking committee includes the following downtown property and business owners: Dick Newlove; Greg Halamay, owner of Finders Records; Kim Thomas, owner of the H&R Block Building; Kati Thompson, owner of Eden Fashion Boutique; Ben Waddington, owner of Waddington Jewelers; Floyd Craft, owner of Ben’s and Ace Hardware; and Garrett Jones, owner of Reverend’s. Also attending the parking meetings, representing the city, are Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter, Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett, Director of Finance Brian Bushong, Police Chief Tony Hetrick and City Councilman Bruce Jeffers. In other business affecting the downtown, Public Works Director Brian Craft reported to council that bids for the waterline project for Main and Wooster streets will be opened on Nov. 15. The waterline work will be on the heels of the Columbia Gas line replacement in the downtown, Craft said. “This is the next phase of getting the downtown put back together,” Craft said. Following the waterline work, street and sidewalk repairs are planned. Also at Monday’s meeting, council heard that as the city prepares to start collecting leaves next week, it has wrapped up with grass mowing program for the year. Planning Director Heather Sayler said the city issued 175 notifications this year for long grass and noxious weeds. The city ended up mowing 23 properties, with four of those being repeats. The…


Downtown businesses asked to pick up tab for parking

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green leaders have two months to solve downtown parking issues until their time expires. When the time is up, the cost of parking meters will double in the downtown area if a solution isn’t found. On Tuesday evening, Bowling Green City Council Committee of the Whole listened to a proposal for sharing the costs of parking downtown. This proposal – unlike the initial idea to double meter costs to 50 cents an hour – suggests that all parking meters and kiosks be pulled out, and downtown property and business owners be assessed for parking costs. The problem is that the city isn’t making enough from its downtown parking meters to pay for repaving the lots and enforcing parking rules. But the fear is that doubling parking costs will discourage customers from patronizing downtown businesses. The city’s downtown lots – with their 600-plus parking spaces – are struggling due to flat revenue, increasing costs and aging infrastructure. So the options suggested last month included increasing the parking revenue, sharing the costs of maintaining the parking lots, or getting rid of some of the expenses. Other Ohio college communities such as Kent and Oxford charge up to $1 an hour for parking. Toledo charges at least 50 cents per hour. However, no parking meters are used in Perrysburg, Defiance, Waterville, Findlay or Maumee. Tuesday on City Council’s agenda was the third reading of an ordinance increasing the parking rates. Council agreed to table that ordinance to give a task force time to discuss other options. Council President Mike Aspacher suggested that the task force include downtown property owners and business owners. “It’s a critically important component in the success of our community,” Aspacher said. Council member Greg Robinette stressed the need for the group to work quickly, since the parking kiosks in the lot behind Panera need to be updated by December if the city continues to use the kiosks there. “I’d like to force us to move the process along,” Robinette said, suggesting that the task force be limited to two months. “Time is ticking,” said council member John Zanfardino. The city also needs to repave downtown parking lots 1, 3 and 4. That is estimated to cost $400,000. Under a shared cost program, the downtown property owners would be assessed based on their front footage and the benefits to their parcels. The average property owner would pay $220 a year for 20 years. The lowest amount charged would be $30 a year. The highest – to the owner of multiple properties – would be $2,000 a year. Those assessments would generate about $20,000 a year. The concept of the downtown property owners picking up the tab for parking expenses was not supported by the landowners during a meeting earlier this year. However, the business owners attending the last council meeting stated they would be willing to share in the expenses if it meant customers wouldn’t have to pay for parking. Aspacher and council members Bruce Jeffers and Sandy Rowland stressed the need for business owners to be included in the conversations – not just the property owners. “We need to make sure they are both on the same page,” Aspacher said. While parking would be free to motorists under this proposal, there would still be limits on the amount of time a parking spot can be used. “Turnover in parking in the downtown is very important to business vibrancy,” said Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter. Because of concerns about the current two-hour limit not being enough time to shop and dine in…


Parking kiosks take too much time, many drivers say

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As she fumbled with the parking kiosk machine, Jennifer Bechtold reminisced about the good old days when she used to live in Bowling Green. “I liked when I could use good old-fashioned change,” in the parking meters. But last week, she stood out in chilly weather with her 4-year-old daughter, who wasn’t feeling well, trying to figure out the parking kiosk the downtown lot. “It’s very cold,” she said. Waiting behind her was Rena Blazek, a graduate student at Bowling Green State University. “I hate standing out in the winter. It sucks – and I’m from Wisconsin,” Blazek said. When Blazek finally made it up to pay at the kiosk, the machine repeatedly spit out her coins before accepting one. Next in line was Jacob Weinmann, of Grand Rapids. “I had to wait a good 10 minutes,” to pay at the kiosk, Weinmann said. Yet, he was the most patient of those in the line, since he believes the kiosks make sense so the parking meters don’t have to be removed for the Black Swamp Arts Festival each year. Next was Kim Jacobs, of Napoleon, who didn’t realize she needed to know her license plate number in order to pay for parking. “Nope, that was a surprise,” Jacobs said, adding that she was lucky enough to be able to read her plate from the kiosk. Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said he is aware that the new parking kiosks are not getting rave reviews from some motorists. “We certainly are trying to monitor the situation,” Fawcett said. The city’s parking technicians have reported that the use of the kiosk parking lot is consistent with the use when the lot had individual parking meters. The kiosks allow motorists to pay with coins, dollar bills or credit cards. According to the city, the benefits of changing over to kiosks include: Replacement parts are more difficult to find and are becoming more expensive for the outdated parking meters. Increased efficiency to clear the parking lot following snow storms. Reduced maintenance for special events such as the Black Swamp Arts Festival. Reduced maintenance costs associated with parking blocks, meter poles and meters. Keep newly repaved parking lot intact. The kiosk also allows motorists who pay with credit cards to extend their time without revisiting the parking lot. However, since the meters were taken out last September and replaced with the kiosks, the lot has become a tough sell for some motorists who avoid parking there. “People just don’t like them,” Fawcett said. One of those frustrated shoppers was Cheryl Sharp, of Pemberville, who said her experience with the kiosk resulted in her forgoing visits to several shops in the downtown. She had to walk back to her car to get her license plate number, then the kiosk took several minutes to use. And though the parking limit is two hours at 25 cents each, the machine gave her no change when she fed it a dollar bill. Sharp saw the option of using a credit card, but said she would rather not use her credit card for a 50 cent charge. After meeting friends for lunch, Sharp said she didn’t want to risk getting a parking ticket for overstaying her time, so she skipped her shopping plans. Some downtown business owners have passed on complaints from shoppers to city officials. Members of the city administration recently met with about 15 downtown business owners about the parking kiosk concerns. “We are receptive to ideas,” Fawcett said. The city has already added more signage and more payment kiosks…