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Little Consensus Reached on Downtown Parking Dilemmas

When it comes to potential parking changes in Easton's Downtown, it's a matter of balancing the needs of many groups.

 recommends a maximum two-hour limit be imposed on all Downtown metered street parking.

But nearly everyone who attended a public discussion on the subject Tuesday evening seems to agree that time limit is probably too short.

That may be the only thing they agree on, as about 20 members of the Easton community voiced their concerns about and rules, including:

  • The elimination of free street parking on Sundays.
  • The reduction of the hourly rate in the city's parking deck to encourage more to park there instead of city streets.
  • An increase that might double the current rate for metered street parking.
  • Changing the enforcement hours for meters, so they'd run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., rather than 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

That last change would please Randi Delvecchio, owner of on Northampton Street.

“People are getting tickets roaming around looking for quarters,” she said. “If you're going to start them that early, you need a way for them to get quarters.”

She added that enforcement at metered parking is sometime inconsistent and overaggressive, with some drivers never being ticketed while they quickly run in and out of a store, while clearly marked delivery vehicles get fined, even though they have their flashers on while dropping off goods.

Andrew Gerns, of on Spring Garden Street, is most worried about the addition of metered parking on Sundays. He said many parishioners stay and shop after church services, which often don't end until after the possible noon enforcement time.

“There would be some unintended consequences if paid parking were to be required on Sundays,” Gerns said.

Elizabeth Campbell also worried about Sunday parking.

“About Sundays, it's just wrong,” Campbell said. “To charge, we're just discouraging people from coming Downtown.”

Resident and business owner Laini Abraham said enforcement of expired meters can be overzealous.

“People are not out trying to hurt people—they're out trying to buy things,” she said, adding that while she doesn't like the idea of some business owners and employees taking up street parking, there is no law against it. “If businesses want to be stupid, let them. The problem is not the amount of parking, it's the amount of tickets.”

City administrator Glenn Steckman disagreed, saying there are other benefits to parking enforcement officers being on the streets.

“It's ensuring officers are patrolling,” Steckman said. “It's encouraging people to move for other people who want to shop...There is a financial impact on every business in town.”

Steckmann added the revenue is needed by the city to pay for things like smart meters and the city's garage upgrades.

“We need to raise the rates to pay for this technology,” Steckmann said.

Councilwoman El Warner said she feels the city might do without parking meters at all, and perhaps enforce a time limit on street parking instead.

“We don't need all this technology—we just need chalk,” Warner said to a burst of audience applause.

Salon owners and employees agreed that the time limit needs to be more than Desman's recommended two hours, and suggested it be a minimum of three.

Lisa Patino, owner of on South Second Street, said that aggressive enforcement hurts her business, and that the street parking should allow for at least three hours.

“We try to do everything we can. We keep a bowl of quarters. Move their cars? How are we going to do that?”  Patino asked. “It's kind of hurtful to me. We've been here since (Easton) was a ghost town.”

She added that many of her clients come a long distance and stay all day due to the amount of services her salon offers, but she likes the idea of later meter hours.

Resident Curt Ehly said he feels the city lacks a plan to deal with parking, and that he's upset with the way it's dealing with the issue.

“It feels like, and I'm not alone, we're being trained to a specific behavior,” Ehly said. “That we're being treated almost like children.”

Mayor Sal Panto said the parking study is intended to help the city create such a plan.

“This was done to create a parking system. We don't have a system. We don't manage this like a business,” the mayor said.

Megan McBride, assistant manager of the city's Main Street program said she'd like to see the city focus more on positive solutions to the city's parking issues.

“I think there needs to be more emphasis on people that are trying to come to town and spend their money,” McBride said. “There's a punitive atmosphere Downtown. It's not something that makes me or anyone want to shop Downtown. We can't afford to lose anybody over something we can change. We don't need smart meters. We're not New York City. We're not even New Hope. I feel there's a cocky attitude when people say, 'they'll just come to Easton anyway.'”

Police Chief Carl Scalzo said while the perception might be one of over-enforcement, in fact, nearly 90 percent of those who overstay the time are never caught and fined, similar to the national rate.

Lt. Matt Lohenitz, who is in charge of parking issues for Easton Police, said smart meters are an important tool for efficiently managing the city's parking, and that problems with meters or personnel should be brought to the department's attention.

“There was a time when complaints fell on deaf ears,” Lohenitz said. “It isn't like that any more.”

Panto said the city will ultimately need more parking, even when an additional 370 parking spots are added at the city's new intermodal complex is built, and the city is looking to acquire it.

“Any time a lot becomes available, we're looking to buy it,” he said. “We don't believe Downtown parking lots should be privately owned.”

Panto said he's personally working on a plan that would reduce permit parking rates for Downtown residents and include them all, not just those that live closest to the Centre Square. Under that plan, the current $100 a year rate to park in specific assigned zones would become $25 annually, with a $100 option to allow those residents to park anywhere on the street, any time.

There will be another public discussion on parking, to be held at the Crayola auditorium. It is set for Tuesday, May 22 at 6:30 p.m.

Jon Geeting May 02, 2012 at 12:10 PM
If you get the pricing right, there should be no need for a time limit. Time limits are a really kludgy way of managing parking demand. All that needs to happen is for the city to replace all the old meters with smart meters, and raise the prices only during the times of the day the parking study says are the peaks. They can then lower the prices during the non-peak hours. With electronic meters, you don't need to have the same price all day, and for all areas of the city.
Megan McBride May 02, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I would like to clarify my comments regarding the "cocky attitude." Throughout the meeting there were several references to New York City and visitors' willingness to pay what they have to there (as well as in other cities). Easton is on the upswing, there's no doubt. We are growing and there is a tremendous energy but as another merchant point pointed out, "we're not there yet." We can't afford to make shopping, dining, and patronizing businesses in the downtown difficult for consumers. And frankly we never should, no matter how economically successful we become. I appreciate all the City's efforts but I think the focus is currently more on data collection and penalizing scofflaws. All I'm saying is that we need a clear menu of user friendly options that making Easton MORE enticing for the customer. Among those options I see "smart" meters that are able to accept credit cards or that you can access via your smart phone. I see parking enforcement officers that offer 5 minute grace periods and act as good will ambassadors for the city. I see clear concise directional signage. I see merchant validation programs and much more. I think the City is on the right track with lowering garage rates and building an additional garage.
Pamela Porter May 02, 2012 at 04:01 PM
I am in Easton almost every weekend – usually on Saturdays. To be honest, I have pretty much zero problem paying to park. The problem for me, and I’ve heard this echoed by others, are the farkin’ quarters only machines. A. Please invest in smart meters that take debit/credit cards. if not, then B. Please do something so the current meters accept ALL silver change. Paying to park doesn’t discourage me. What discourages me is that sinking feeling upon realizing that after finally finding a spot, I DON’T HAVE ANY BLOODY QUARTERS!!!! I will say that on these occasions, whatever business I dash into in my mad search for 25 cent salvation always gladly gives the change, but I can’t help but feel like a dope because I’m probably not going to spend anything in their shop. It’s the 21st century – we can put a man on the moon and Kardashians at the White House – certainly this can be dealt with fairly painlessly.
Tom Coombe (Editor) May 02, 2012 at 04:29 PM
I'm with Pam on this. The only time I use the meters down town are when I've just done laundry and have a bunch of left over quarters. For folks like me that live a mostly cash-less existence, parking meters have no appeal.
Tom Adams May 02, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Don't you get paid with city dollars? I too was at the meeting and heard your comments and they were exactly as reported. You also heard many members of council as well as the parking study report talk about technology upgrades, credit card meters, better signage, etc. These are not your ideas. These were reported.
Amend May 02, 2012 at 11:37 PM
@Tom Adams- with respect, the tone of your response to Ms. McBride's comment isn't warranted or necessary. Just my opinion, but it lacks civility. The smartest idea I heard at last night's meeting was the concept Chief Scalzo had where time limits are abandoned and a graduated fee was instituted based on location and length of stay. An example: space X costs 50 cents per hour for the first three hours that a vehicle is parked in that space. The 4th hour would then cost 75 cents. The 5th $1.00, and so on. This capitalizes on demand while motivating long term parking to use the parking decks and only penalizes those who didn't pay enough to park. More smart meters with better options also seemed to be a benefit, tho the cost analysis on them seems to be absent at this time for anyone to say how we afford them.
Lori Delorenzo Boucher May 10, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Have "Quarter Dispensers" - or real people walking around helping VISITORS make change---Have the Parking Officers help out someone who needs change (a positive effect) instead of just handing out tickets (a negative effect).. the charge for parking TURNS OFF most local people and deters them from coming to the Downtown,,,,WHY come to downtown where all around us at malls, restaurants, shopping centers there is NO charge or HASSLE with parking issues??

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