March 15, 2007
By DIANE WEAVER DUNNE, Hartford Business Journal Writer
Doing business in downtown Hartford may cost less if the Hartford Parking Authority gets its way.
The HPA unanimously approved a dramatic reduction in parking rates last week.
If Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez and the Hartford City Council agree, the HPA will lower on-street meter parking rates from $1.50 to $1 per hour, and drop parking rates at the city-owned Church Street and MAT garages from $7 to $3 for the first two hours.
“That’s huge,” said James Kopencey, the HPA’s executive director.
Daily rates also would be reduced from $19.25 to $16.50 at the Church Street Garage.
Conversely, for those who violate the city’s parking regulations, overtime meter fines would rise nearly 67 percent, from $15 to $25.
The higher fines are meant to deter a large number of parkers who prefer to pay a fine in order to capture a prime on-street parking spot, while preventing shoppers and others with high turnover needs to park on the street, Kopencey said.
More On-Street Parking
Those complying with the city’s parking regulations shouldn’t subsidize those who do not, he said.
The HPA anticipates that the higher fines will prompt greater compliance and provide greater on-street parking availability.
Hartford is rated among the most expensive cities in the nation to park, Kopencey said, referring to a survey conducted by Boston-based Colliers International. The city was ranked 10th highest in the nation in 2006 for having the highest monthly parking rates, just behind Sacramento, Calf. and Washington, D.C. The most expensive is New York City, and next is Boston.
“We have listened to public comment over time and this is a reflection of what we listen to,” Kopencey said. “Sometimes they come out and discover that their parking bill is greater than their lunch bill.”
Although the rate reductions will cost the HPA nearly a third of its $1.4 million annual on-street revenue, Kopencey said there would be many benefits. The HPA believes that expensive and unavailable downtown parking is a major hindrance to the city’s economic development. By dropping parking prices, the authority can help the city improve its economic development efforts, he said.
Kopencey is hopeful that with the city taking the lead on reducing parking rates, private parking operators will follow suit.
But lowering rates by private operators may come as a result of marketplace competition, said Jodi Morneault, who co-owns Tuesdays, a clothing store on Asylum Avenue, with her husband, Ronald Morneault.
“No one wants to hike up the penalty, but the wisdom makes sense,” Morneault said. “At the end of the day, by having competition with the parking rates, hopefully there will be programs that are more affordable for short-term parkers.”