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New smart meters in downtown Tucson increase price of parking

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Rebecca Noble and Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildca | The Daily Wildcat Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildcat Cars parked at meters on Congress Street on Sunday, Sept. 28.

Customers visiting Fourth Avenue or downtown Tucson next month can expect to pull up alongside new smart meters that will base rates on demand data and will increase the price of parking.

Outcry from business owners upset over workers parking on the street instead of customers has prompted the Tucson City Council to invest in these new meters, as well as raise the base rate from fifty cents per hour to one dollar per hour.

Steve Kozachik, council member of ward six, said he believes that this increase in price will discourage downtown and Fourth Avenue employees from parking their cars on the street.

“Many of the merchants have been asking for us to do this for a couple of reasons,” Kozachik said. “Probably the most important from their perspective is to create more turnover right in front of the places of business.”

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Kozachik said that the current fifty-cent rate per hour, which would amount to $4.50 for a regular nine-hour shift, makes street parking both attractive and convenient to downtown and Fourth Avenue employees.

“From a business person’s standpoint, they’d like to churn the customers through more frequently,” Kozachik said, who hopes this change will encourage employees to park in the garages.

Austin Gilliland, economic development manager for the Downtown Tucson Partnership, said he agrees with Kozachik.

“This rate increase will hopefully cause employees to start parking in the garage, which will increase the availability of street parking for visitors,” Gilliland said.

Despite this price raise, however, Kozachik insisted that parking rates in Tucson are still cheap. He said that the new prices are not competitive nationwide or even in the Southwest, and said that they are on the low end of the scale.

Gilliland agreed with Kozachik and said that downtown parking rates remain among the lowest in the nation and viewed the price raise as a necessary measure.

To help ensure that customers are maximizing the use of the parking spaces, new smart meters similar to those currently on the UA campus will be replacing the old parking meters in the upcoming month. These meters allow customers to pay the fare with credit cards and a smartphone app. The meters are also uniquely priced based on the current demand for them.

“During high event periods, you can set a higher price, or set a low rate for Sunday mornings,” Kozachik said. “We can do an assessment of when the high demand and low demand periods are, and then that dollar might come down at certain times a day, [or] it might increase at certain times a day.”

Kozachik also said that the investment in smart meters will help debt service in the parking garages.

Despite assurances that Parkwise Tucson had gone through a public outreach process, current downtown employees are not happy with the price increase or the introduction of price meters.

Rachel D’Acquisto, a bartender from Diablo Burger, said she was dismayed at the news of the rates increasing, and yet still planned on parking in front of her job at a street meter. She wasn’t aware of the upcoming introduction of smart meters.

“Of course, nobody is real thrilled with paying more money to park, but these are still very low rates that we’re talking about,” Kozachik said. “I think people recognize that this is a reasonable tweak in rates.”
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Follow Felipe Moreno on Twitter @Chilenodude


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