Raleigh proposes new downtown parking fees

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Drivers may soon have to shell out some money to park in Raleigh parking decks downtown at night at on weekends.

Currently, all city-owned parking decks are free on weeknights after 7 p.m. and on weekends. On Tuesday, the City Manager proposed a $5 flat fee during those time periods as part of his budget recommendation.

The city has made the proposal in an effort to help keep the decks clean and safe.

City leaders say staff spends a lot of time cleaning trash, graffiti and human waste in the decks. It’s reached a point where the city needs extra money for more maintenance and janitorial staff, along with better security equipment.

The proposed fee could earn the city nearly $1 million a year.

“When people walk into those decks, the waste is usually the first thing they smell,” said Gordon Dash, Raleigh’s parking administrator. “The fee would provide us with new revenue opportunities for investments in maintenance and janitorial support and better equipment to make the decks safer.”

The proposal has received some push back, especially from several business owners in the downtown area. Steve Drotts, the owner of zPizza on Fayetteville Street, said weeknights and weekends are the busiest time for his restaurant and new fees may deter people from coming downtown.

“I think it would probably hurt our business,” said Drotts. “I think there are still a lot of people that perceive downtown as difficult to get around and park so if they make it more difficult, I think less people will be coming downtown.”

Dash believes the fees could discourage a “small-percentage” of people from coming downtown. However, he says the city has taken a look at studies from other cities that show adding a fee does not dissuade many, if any, from visiting downtown.

“If you think about how much people will spend downtown for entertainment, a $5 flat fee is pretty insignificant,” said Dash.

City council will vote on the budget and the changes by July 1. If approved, the new fee would go into effect on Dec. 31. There will be several public hearings on the proposed budget within the next two months. The first is scheduled for June 2.

Copyright 2015 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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