Easton needs to replace its Pine Street parking garage and make parking at meters a less painful experience, Mayor Sal Panto said Friday.
Two days after City Council voted for a budget that raises meter rates around the city, Panto presented a larger vision for the future of parking in Easton to members of the downtown business community at the Grand Eastonian.
It includes extending the life of -- but ultimately replacing -- the Pine Street garage, and finding room for another parking garage downtown in addition to the planned intermodal unit on S. Third Street.
Ideally, the second lot would be on N. Fourth Street, across from the Express-Times building, Panto said.
"I’m not saying we build big Taj Mahals for parking and nobody comes," Panto said, but added that a new garage would offer a contrast to the "industrial" looking one on Pine Street.
The city is also looking to make changes to the way drivers use its parking meters:
- Setting up a way to pay tickets -- and to report meters that are out of order -- online.
- Giving parking enforcement officers handheld devices to record violations.
- Possibly offering a discount to people who pay their tickets the same day they get them, but also setting up graduating penalties for late tickets.
Easton is raising the price of its meters next year from 50 cents to $1 per hour. The city will also install about 200 meters that can take credit cards, as well as parking kiosks in the downtown surface lots.
Audience members expressed concerns about the changes.
Frank Kutch, the house manager at the State Theatre, said the two-hour time limit on meters makes things difficult for both theater patrons and volunteers.
"If you have more than a two-hour show, you’re taking away the pleasure of the theater experience," he said. Kutch added that he was happy to see the city's plan to lower the parking garage rates in the evening. "But to expect them all to park in the garage isn’t realistic."
Others had questions about the timing/cost of the new meters.
City officials said there have been misconceptions about the meters, that drivers would be required to pay a minimum of $1. The $1 minimum is only for credit/debit card payments. The new credit card meters still take quarters, meaning it will be possible to just park at one for a 15-minute increment for 25 cents.
It will take about a month for the city to install its new meters, City Administrator Glenn Steckman told the group.
"You don’t flip a switch and all of a sudden they go from 50 cents to a dollar," he said.