The report was presented to property and business owners Tuesday night, and at the end of the meeting Downtown Development Authority Chairman Bob Blumberg asked for a consensus on the concept of paid parking. Slightly more than half of the approximately 50 people at the meeting expressed a willingness to at least consider the idea.
"Nothing here is locked in stone," Blumberg said.
The report reads, "In order to encourage long-term patrons to utilize the off-street parking facilities, the rates charged off-street should be lower than those charged on-street. Since the on-street is currently free, patrons are incentivized to drive around, even if it takes several loops through downtown, until a vacant on-street parking space is located."
The Haahs and Associates report said the current system actually increases traffic congestion and carbon emissions. It also creates additional opportunities for pedestrian/vehicular conflict.
"We need to look at this as an opportunity as opposed to a problem," Blumberg said.
With free parking on Broad Street, the Haahs study concludes that that visitors get the perception that Rome does not have enough parking.
"The customer also becomes frustrated as they are not able to quickly find a place to park and may have to walk several blocks to get to their destination," the report concludes.
The consultants recommend $1.25 an hour for on street parking with a three-hour maximum. Haahs and Associates suggests $1 per hour parking at the Fifth Avenue deck and the annex lot off First Street. They are recommending $2 flat daily parking fee in the Third Avenue and Sixth Avenue decks, for up to eight hours.
Martindill suggested the city look at using smartphone apps to help make paying for Broad Street parking easy. Libby Thomas, of Blonde on Broad hair salon, said she gets a lot of older women in for their hair appointments on Friday and was concerned about their reaction to using a smartphone to pay for parking. "It would blow their mind," Thomas said.
Mark Cochran, principal at Cevian Design, a Broad Street architecture firm said,
"It used to be that Broad Street drove parking, and now we're at the tipping point where parking is driving Broad Street. If we don't do something about it very soon I believe we're going to hurt Broad Street."
He said he was willing to support paid parking on Broad Street because he believes that it would ultimately lead to construction of a new parking deck on First Street at the Midtown Transit lot, which he feels is critical for the future of downtown.
Harry Brock, who owns a business and property on Broad Street, said he doesn't necessarily agree with paid parking at this time.
"I just don't think it fixes the problem," Brock said. He said an employee database that would detect when an employee of a business gets multiple tickets would be helpful.
"They know who these people are, they know who's abusing the system," Brock said. "This is only if you're trying to minimize cars on Broad Street. If this is a money generator then do what you've got to do."
Ira Levy asked if any provisions would be made for someone who just wanted to drop into a bank or store for 10-15 minutes. Martindill reiterated that nothing had been locked in yet, and said it may turn out that a plan would allow the first 15 minutes free.
Downtown Parking Manager Becky Smyth said a follow-up survey to the Tuesday night meeting would be sent out to the property and business owners, and there would be an opportunity for public input as well.
"People can send questions or comments to the Downtown Parking email.”
Taking a look at the citation schedule, the Haahs report suggests doubling the fines for third and fourth unpaid parking violations from $20 to $40 for the third offense and $40 to $80 on the fourth offense.