Lynchburg closer on choice for parking system

A Wisconsin-based company is now the top contender to supply Lynchburgs much-discussed paid downtown parking system.
Duncan Solutions Inc., one of the countrys largest parking product vendors, was selected from a field of five applicants to enter into further negotiations with the city.

Officials hope to complete those talks and have a proposal ready to submit for approval to the Lynchburg Parking Authority, an oversight committee made up of City Council members and downtown stakeholders, by February.

The city is working to move from free to paid on-street parking in the downtown central business district in keeping with the recommendations of a 2007 study. Current timetables call for pay stations to be installed on the streets in phases over a four-year period beginning next spring.

Most of the details regarding how the future system will work and what it will cost have been left up in the air pending the outcome of the vendor negotiations.

A parking fund established by the city to support this program has about $109,400 left in it, according to a report made to the parking authority last week.

In addition to the authority, any future parking contract will also likely be brought to City Council for approval. It is not immediately clear at this point what, if any, formal opportunity for public comment will be built into that process.

The city has been holding a series of public meetings recently centered on the parking program with an emphasis on some new fines and fees set to take effect Jan. 1.

Those sessions have been lightly attended so far with about 20 people attending the first five meetings. Only one more meeting remains in the series. It will be held Tuesday.

Paid parking has drawn mixed reviews from the downtown community as some question whether the new fees will deter customers from visiting the district. Supporters say it will benefit the area by promoting turnover and making parking easier to find.

The city has said it is pursuing an electronic system that will be able to accept payment by coin, debit/credit card, cell phone or special tokens that merchants could buy for distribution to their customers.

Current proposals also call for the first 30 minutes of parking to be free. The city is considering placing a pay station in the middle of each block downtown. Two stations would be installed on each block, one of both sides of the street.

For phase one of the plan, which calls for pay stations to be put in on Main Street between Fifth and 12th streets, that would require a total of 14 stations.

Negotiations with Duncan Solutions will be carried out by city staff. Duncan was chosen as the No. 1 pick following a proposal submission process overseen by a small committee of city employees representing the parking division and the departments of financial services, IT, police and community development.

Those who attend Tuesdays meeting will be able to ask questions and make comments to the citys parking manager. The meeting will begin with a brief overview of new parking regulations that will take effect on New Years Day.

Changes include raising the fine for parking past a specified time limit from $10 to $20. The fine for parking in a prohibited area will also increase from $20 to $30.

On-street residential parking permits, which are issued by the city in certain designated areas, will go up in cost from $3 a year to $15. The city will also begin selling off-street residential parking permits with the downtown central business district only for $25 a month or $300 a year.
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