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Residents Sound Off on Parking Fee Changes, StateCollege.com Poll Shows Little Support

by on June 18, 2013 7:30 AM

Casey Macioge says he almost always drives downtown when he's meeting friends for dinner and drinks or to do some shopping. Now, he he may choose a different route when heading out from his apartment in Toftrees. 

POLL: State College Parking

What do you think of the new charges to park in downtown State College?

I don't mind feeding the meter after 6 p.m. if it will make it easier to park.
11%
This will drive people away from the downtown.
78%
It doesn't matter one way or the other.
11%

On Monday night, the State College Borough Council voted to change the downtown parking ordinance, which means the price to park will increase in August. Parking in metered spots will no longer be free after 6 p.m. You'll have to feed the meter until 10 p.m. Parking in a garage will be free for the first half hour, then you'll pay $1 an hour after that. 

A study by the parking department found that after 5 p.m. most people parked their cars and left them for several hours -- making it difficult for shoppers and diners to find a space. It's hoped that by charging people to park in the evening it will become easier to find parking spaces. Not everyone sees the logic in that decision.

"I think it's a bad idea," Macioge says. "As a customer, when I want to go out to dinner or to a bar, I'll normally choose something downtown ... It was nice that I could park there after 6 p.m. and not have to pay." 

Macioge says now he'll probably just choose to go to Red Lobster or Otto's Pub and Brewery on North Atherton Street. He can still enjoy happy hour without having to worry about constantly feeding the meter.

"It absolutely adds up," he says.

Many State College residents echoed Macioge's sentiments, airing out their grievances over coffee with friends or on social media.

Doug Kifolo, owner of Happy Valley Freez, 234 E. College Ave., tweeted, "When student population is down. Evening parking is plentiful. Make it free. Invite the locals not "tax" them." Kifolo's wife, Kathy, thinks changes to the downtown parking plan will do exactly the opposite of what the borough is intending. 

"I've lived outside downtown State College for 20 years. The only reason I come downtown is because I work," Kathy Kifolo says. She doesn't want to be punished with increased fees just because she has to park her car curbside to unload supplies for the store. 

Kifolo understands having to make changes downtown when classes are in full swing, but when students aren't in town, parking should be free. 

"I don't see how it makes [parking] any easier ... for a lot of people who work downtown," she says.

Lexie White has lived on East Beaver Avenue and West College Avenue and says she doesn't see how the changes will bring more people downtown. It might even keep her away.

"Free parking after 6 p.m., it's very reasonable," White says. "I actually thought it was easier to find a parking spot after 6 p.m. I never felt like there was a lack of space."

State College resident Jeff Luck says it seems to him the borough has done its "due diligence to understand what is happening, and has developed a reasonable plan to address it."

Luck says he doubts the parking changes will have much of an impact on the frequency with which he drives downtown.

"The cost for on-street parking is pretty modest - a tiny percentage of the overall cost of driving downtown," Luck says.

"The real question is whether the borough's plan provides enough incentive to move drivers from on-street to off-street parking. My guess is probably not. That's too bad, because a meaningful percentage of downtown traffic is generated by people circling to look for on-street parking.

"Of course, biking and riding CATA don't have any associated parking costs at all," he says.

Borough council president Don Hahn was one of the council members who wanted to delay a vote on the ordinance until after a public hearing. If the parking fee increase triggers a public outcry Hahn says the council could re-open the discussion.

In a poll conducted by StateCollege.com, a whopping 73 percent of respondents say the changes will drive people away from downtown. Just 14 percent say they don't mind paying more if it's going to be easier for them to park. Thirteen percent said it doesn't matter to them either way.

When he was first elected 15 years ago, Hahn said there were at least 500 less parking spaces then there are today, and one less parking garage. When the borough started charging more for parking, some residents, who were used to the cheap parking, stopped coming downtown. Needless to say, the parking issue was not resolved. On Monday night, he said the proposed changes reflected a "good faith effort" to get the lingering issues resolved.

"I realize that people are saying, 'If you drive around long enough, you'll find a space,' but the problem with that is that some people actually have to get to work downtown, or have appointments," Hahn says. 

 

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Laura Nichols is a StateCollege.com news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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