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Bellefonte to see more parking changes

by on March 13, 2020 1:27 PM

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BELLEFONTE — The new parking meters that are coming to the streets of downtown Bellefonte have been delayed because of the coronavirus, allowing people to park on the streets a little longer before the rate increase and change of monitored time come into play.

Parts of the new street meters are made in China, so shipping delays have caused them to fall four weeks behind schedule. The Borough Council voted last month to increase the time the parking meters are monitored in the evening from 5 to 8 p.m. once they are installed.

This is part of a series of phases that have taken place since 2018 in Bellefonte, beginning with upgrades and kiosks being added to Lot A by First National Bank and Lot H near CVS in order to modernize the meters on the street and make them more accessible to today’s consumers, who are using card payment options more often than coins.

“One of the reasons we did it is because the old meters were no longer supported, meaning that we could no longer get parts for them,” said Assistant Manager Don Holderman. “Many people don’t carry change and now only carry cards for payment, so we decided that we should have the meters payable that way.”

Along with new meters on the street, the borough is adding three kiosks that take coins or credit cards to Lot D, near the Waffle Shop. The kiosks should arrive in a couple of weeks and be installed shortly thereafter, said Holderman. He said the lot should remain open while the kiosks are installed; they will go into use after the meters are removed.

He added that the borough might do some curb and sidewalk work to the lot as the meters are replaced, but it will not be a complete redo of the lots as was done to lots A and H.

As for the meters that will get replaced on the streets, Holderman said he expects them to arrive in late April or May at the latest.

The convenience of card payment options comes with a price, and that’s in the form of a rate increase. Holderman said the cost is necessary to offset the charge of 16 to 33 cents that comes with the use of a credit card.

At the new meters, parkers will be able to pay in quarters at a rate of 25 cents per half-hour, or with a card at a rate of $1 for one hour or $2 for two hours.

“We are not trying to make money on this. We are just trying to be able to manage the lots and upkeep them,” said Holderman. The 14 or 15 short-term meters in the borough will remain unchanged.

The borough approved the addition of the new meters and kiosk changes at the end of last year and ordered the new equipment in January, said Holderman.

Last month, the Borough Council decided to change the time frame in which parking would be monitored to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., a change from the prior 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. monitoring.

Holderman said the purpose is so people who are staying overnight would use long-term parking or permanent parking spots that are available, freeing spots on the streets for people who come into town in the evening to go to restaurants, stores, gyms or for other recreation activities.

“Downtown is more crowded in the evening with people coming in to go to dinner, or the YMCA, or the dance academy,” said Holderman. “And so as tenets come home from work, they are taking parking away from those businesses.”

The council discussed the changes at a meeting on March 2; and council member Doug Johnson said he has received more emails and phone calls about this issue than other hot-button issues in the past.

“Our restaurants do business in the evening, I get it. And I understand what you are saying about apartment dwellers using the spaces. But we have raised the rates considerably and now we are adding hours to that. I think it is sort of a double-whammy,” said Johnson. “There is a lot of talk out there in disappointment with the new hours, at least what was conveyed to me.”

Mayor Tom Wilson agreed.

“The problem is not generally the apartment people parking there. … The problem is on especially the weekends, and especially Friday after 5 o’clock, there are tons of people coming to town for the restaurants, and we just get parked up” said Wilson. “So what we are doing is we are penalizing the people who are coming here to spend money in the restaurants by charging them.”

Holderman said the council always has the option of changing the time back.

Up next will be updating the long-term parking meters on the outside of town to card-reading meters, hopefully by fall, he said.



Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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