The Transit and Parking Commission began discussion on a new proposal to increase parking rates at a meeting Thursday.
If enacted, the proposal would increase rates on parking meters and ramps throughout the City of Madison as much as 25 percent as well as double the price of parking tickets.
Bill Knobeloch, parking operations manager for the city, presented several options to increase revenue from parking in Madison. According to Knobeloch, funds from the proposed parking rate increase would go toward the many parking ramp plans projected for 2006, including the Buckeye Lot on State Street.
Under the proposal, parking meters would increase from $1 per hour to $1.25 per hour and parking tickets would double from $10 to $20. Knobeloch said enforcing parking laws more closely would also be a factor in the proposal.
"If we [increase rates] and then don't enforce it, it doesn't take people long to figure it out," Knobeloch said.
Ideally, the city would receive at least $1 million from the increase in parking rates, Knobeloch added. However, Susan Schmitz, president of Downtown Madison Inc., said she is concerned with the way the increase would affect business and is skeptical of the need for the parking rate increase in the first place.
"The reason for the parking rate increase is mainly the Mid-State Street Plan," Schmitz said. "I am reluctant to support increased parking rates if there is no real plan or idea yet [about] how much the plan will cost, especially with the Buckeye Lot."
In addition to raising parking rates, the Transit and Parking Commission discussed other alternatives to increase funds. Knobeloch proposed increased prices on special-event parking and extended parking-meter hours as alternate solutions.
According to Knobeloch, the proposal would ideally go into effect in early February 2006.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the projected February date for the parking rate increases is much too early to allow proper public input on the issue.
"I'm not objecting to a rate increase," Verveer said. "I'm saying we should give time for a little more (public) discussion."
Like Schmitz, Verveer said he is concerned about the effect increased parking meter rates would have on downtown business. Meter rates in Madison are currently on the high side compared to the rest of the country, Verveer said, and even-higher rates will discourage shop owners as well as shoppers.
"[The increase] would send a negative signal to those coming downtown, particularly to shop," Verveer said. "If we do need this money, I think it should be coming primarily from the parking ramps."
The Transit and Parking Commission agreed the parking rate-increase proposal needs more discussion, especially among the public, before enactment. Members of the committee said they are leaving options open and will continue to come up with possible alternatives to parking rate and ticket increases. A public hearing for more discussion will be scheduled at the next meeting.