Pay-for-parking lot approved in Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

Pay-for-parking lot approved in Grass Valley

Most downtown cores charge for parking, even if, like Nevada City, those meters charge a paltry 25 cents an hour. Grass Valley has been a holdout — but not for much longer.

Grass Valley's city council on Tuesday approved a pay-for-parking pilot program that will be tested for six months in just one parking lot, at the corner of Neal and South Auburn streets.

Paying for parking, even in a limited area, is intended to encourage the turnover of parking spaces that previously might have been occupied by vehicles camping out all day and, of course, generate revenue, say proponents.

The city-owned parking lot, which is currently a permit-only lot, will be the initial location for the city to try out paid parking.

“We want to test the technology and receive feedback, to see if this is something we want to expand. The goal is to find a good model that works for the city.”

— Police Captain Steve Johnson

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"This is a big change for the community," Grass Valley Police Capt. Steve Johnson told the council members, emphasizing the trial nature of the pilot program.

The lot at South Auburn and Neal streets was chosen because it's a gateway property to downtown that is readily accessible and highly visible, Johnson said.

"It's very conducive for the pilot because of its size and location," he said. "And because it has limited ingress and egress, it can be served by one pay station, so the cost is minimal."

Part of the impetus to institute the pilot, Johnson said, was to manage the limited parking downtown and to encourage turnover so that more spots are available for visitors and business patrons.

"Currently there are time restrictions (on many parking spots), but enforcement can be difficult and labor-intensive," he said, adding that enforcement also has a limited effect.

"The technology has evolved," Johnson said. "It's a good time to give this a try."

The city chose Parkeon, which will supply, ship and install a Strada pay station in the lot at no charge for the six-month trial period. Spaces in the parking lot will be numbered and users will pay for the space. The kiosk will accept all forms of payment, including cash and coin, as well as credit and debit cards and even via a cell phone app, which will give patrons the ability to monitor how much time is left on the parking space and add time if needed.

"We felt it was important that we have a wide range of payment options," Johnson said.

Pricing for parking during the trial period will be set within a range of 50 cents to $1.50 an hour, according to the staff report; the hours paid parking will be in effect will be between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The system partners with hand-held devices so that the police department can more easily identify vehicles that have not paid for parking.

"We want to test the technology and receive feedback, to see if this is something we want to expand," Johnson said. "The goal is to find a good model that works for the city."

Johnson added the kiosk will capture the data on peak hours and usage, which will make it easier for the city to analyze the success of the pilot.

Most of the people he has talked to understand the reasoning, he said.

"No one has been completely opposed to it," he said. "The most frequent response is that we knew it was coming.

"People do enjoy the fact that there are no meters downtown," he added.

One resident who spoke against the pilot program told the council that he has never had a problem finding parking and a paid lot would drive him elsewhere.

"Paying for parking is an annoyance," said Bob Branstrom.

It will be up to the city council to determine how parking revenue would be used, although the upfront cost of the kiosk would be the first priority. Enhancing existing parking and possibly expanding parking availability in the future are some options; Mayor Howard Levine floated the possibility of building a multi-level structure in the future.

The order for the kiosk was placed on Wednesday and it is being built with all the bells and whistles for the city to evaluate, Johnson said Wednesday.

Delivery is expected within four to eight weeks, he said. In the meantime, the city is working to develop signage for the parking lot.

"We want to make it very clear, that this is a change," Johnson said. "It has to be very obvious — but not obnoxious."

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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