Allentown Parking Authority employees will be applying stickers to roughly 1,070 meters over the next few days advising parkers of changes in enforcement hours. In addition, city employees will be making changes to signs advising drivers that meter enforcement hours are being extended. Electronic meters in the central business district will have a new message informing parkers of the extended hours and increased rates.
Meter hours are being extended from 6pm to 10pm across the city and the hourly rate will be increased to $2 on roughly 400 meters on Hamilton Street from Fourth to 10th streets and the first blocks between Hamilton and Walnut streets and Hamilton and Linden streets. Parking will remain $1 an hour on Walnut and Linden streets.
Parking will also remain $1 hour at all APA lots and decks, even those within the ‘zone’ of increased meter rates.
All 1,470 parking meters in the city will be operational from 8am to 10pm Mondays through Saturdays. Enforcement of the new hours will begin Monday, May 11.
“Why did the Allentown Parking Authority
recommend changes to enforcement now?”
Over the last year, the entire dynamic of downtown Allentown has drastically changed. Approximately 1,000 new employees are downtown on a daily basis adding to the vibrancy and vitality; another new office building is coming on line this month, and this summer will herald the arrival of hundreds of new residents and new retail stores. Each of these customers has a different parking need: employees will obviously park all day, customers and clients for a brief time and residents will occupy these spaces in the evening hours. One of our goals is to ensure an adequate supply exists for each of these customers.
In the parking industry, a block that is parked at 85% capacity is considered appropriately parked as that will likely allow one open space on each block face at any given time. In the last year, the occupancy on many blocks of Hamilton Street has grown from 78% to more than 90%. At the same time, the issuance of parking tickets to parkers who stay longer than the meter allows, or whose meter has expired, has increased dramatically. These two scenarios are related, yet preventable, by encouraging use based upon price. Increasing the meter rate in a very defined area, but allowing ample opportunities for parkers to continue to pay $1 to park, will lead to reduced congestion and more available parking for customers and clients. It is important to remember that just Hamilton Street, from 4th to 10th, and the ‘unit blocks’ that run one block in either direction, will require an increased hourly rate. Approximately 90% of the parking spaces in the central business district remain at $1 per hour, including parking on Authority surface lots and parking garages (except, of course, during an event at PPL Center when event rates apply at our facilities; on-street parking that remains at $1 per hour is ALWAYS $1 per hour: even during events).
Another recommended change is the extended meter enforcement hours. Currently, if you live in a neighborhood that provides ‘residential parking permits’, you can purchase an annual $20 permit that allows you to park in your neighborhood without having to ‘feed’ the meter. However, since we are only authorized to enforce the meters until 6 p.m., evening visitors to the downtown have quickly learned that they can find ‘free’ parking, within one block of 7th & Hamilton, and we are unable to protect the integrity of the residential parking zone. Extended enforcement will allow us the opportunity to protect these residential zones, while still allowing ample, convenient, affordable parking for visitors.
These changes are likely just the first of several recommendations we will offer to improve parking opportunities. In an attempt to provide appropriate access, we are currently engaged in a comprehensive evaluation of the residential permit neighborhoods, we are also evaluating parking meters that are placed in areas that may no longer require the parking turn-over meters are intended to provide. And, of course, we are constructing a new parking garage, which will provide parking to nearly 1000 employees, customers, clients and residents in the coming months.
Discussions related to increased rates or expanded enforcement are never pleasant or easy; however, these difficult decisions must be made to ensure parking access so the businesses in the downtown can continue to grow and flourish, while still providing ample opportunities for residents, as well.
Tamara Dolan, Executive Director
Allentown Parking Authority