Downtown parking meter rates could rise, be easier to use - Tucson News Now

Downtown parking meter rates could rise, be easier to use

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

From the streetcar to new ways to pay for street parking, how we get to downtown Tucson and how we park there is changing.

However, as the city and shop owners try to get more people to head downtown for food and entertainment, there are a lot of issues to be worked out, such as safety and congestion.

Some people will tell you that they won't go downtown because they can't find a place to park.

The city is hoping to change that attitude with some education about the streetcar and new garages and by making it easier to pay for parking on the street.

Still, it's a work in progress.

What we know is that ParkWise, in charge of city parking, may be seeing all sorts of changes, maybe even a new name as the city tries to encourage more people to head downtown.

"People say, 'Well, I don't want to go downtown because there's no parking.' Well, there's over 12,000 spaces downtown," says Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik.

He says much of that is in the city's new parking garages.

Kozachik says the city and downtown merchants want to steer more people toward those garages to allow more turnover in street parking in front of shops.

One way to do that is to make metered street parking more expensive, more in line with garage parking costs.

"We're looking at raising the on-street parking incrementally. That way you're not encouraging people to spend hours and hours in front of a shop," Kozachik says.

Something that will make street parking easier will be smart parking meters.

You might have seen similar meters at the University of Arizona.

Kozachik says the city has awarded the contract and the new meters should be coming soon.

You pay with a bank card.

The meter alerts your smart phone when it's time to add more money, and you use your smart phone to pay.

No more rushing out to the expiring meter.

Recently, Kozachik rode his bicycle along the modern streetcar route to check for possible trouble spots.

He says he found, what he calls pinch points, downtown and at other places along the route.

Kozachik says improperly parked cars block the streetcar for long periods of time.

Plus, there are spots where the streetcar and bicyclists just don't seem to fit together.

Kozachik wants ParkWise to eliminate some parking spots and make some of them bicycle parking spots that could fit 15 or so bikes.

"ParkWise, I understand from their perspective, these are revenue issues--the on-street parking and the meters. I'm saying the bigger picture is safety of the bike riders, and you can't stop the streetcar dead in the tracks waiting for some guy to get towed," Kozachik says.

Kozachik was set to meet Monday evening with ParkWise to pitch his ideas for eliminating some parking spots.

In the meantime, if you want to know where all those parking spots are downtown, there's a map (PDF) for that.

For more information click here.

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