Free parking unlikely with new downtown pay stations

New pay stations for the midtown and Clay Street parking decks in downtown are scheduled to arrive by July 1, according to a report made to the Lynchburg Parking Authority on Tuesday.
The city has not yet decided when the machines will go into service. The stations will be installed on the public parking levels of the two decks. They will charge the same rates $1 per hour with a maximum daily charge of $5 as a temporary station that has been operating in the midtown deck on Commerce Street since 2008.

But, unlike the current machine, the new pay stations are not expected to offer an initial period of free parking. The city had maintained for some time that it planned to build some kind of complimentary period into the paid parking system, but officials recently began expressing second thoughts.

Norman Hale, parking manager for the city, told the authority it will cost upwards of $10,000 to program a pay station to offer an interval of free parking and it would be difficult to prevent people from abusing it.

Edmund Booher, a representative for Duncan Solutions Inc., a Wisconsin-based company hired to provide the parking equipment, said he was not aware of any community that offered a parking grace period.

We have not had success with free time, Booher said, adding communities that start out interested in it inevitably wind up throwing their hands up due to the challenges involved.

The pay stations on the parking decks are part of phase one of the downtown plan. Other elements of that phase, which will cost about $60,000, include purchasing software and enforcement equipment.

Additional phases will see pay stations installed along the downtown streets. The earliest that would begin is next spring depending on the availability of funding. The parking authority, which is comprised of City Council members and downtown stakeholders, is expected to review a more fleshed out timetable later this year.

The on-street machines will charge a higher rate than the deck machines, although the authority has not yet discussed specific rate structures.

Hale is planning to hold a series of public meetings in the near future to distribute information about these latest developments. 
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