Meeting held on downtown Auburn parking

City officials and members of the public brainstormed Wednesday about how the city can make downtown parking more friendly to visitors
During a special meeting at the Auburn Public Theater, members of the city council discussed Auburn's current options and asked parking officials about ways to improve convenience.
Downtown business leaders also chimed in, bringing up concerns they and customers often have about the city's current parking program.
The meeting took place as the city prepares for about $1 million in renovations to its parking garage and is planning to bring more visitors to the downtown district with an annual musical theater festival.
Julie Liccion, the city's parking supervisor, said the garage needs improvements. Between 200 and 225 people park in the 398-space lot daily with permits, Liccion said. Regular customers also include jurors, downtown residents, volunteers and other visitors.
On an average day, she said, the garage is between 60 and 65 percent full. That number is bigger when juries are larger.
"Our facility is used by a lot of people," Liccion said.
Then there are the people who park on the streets or in public lots, which use automated kiosks and parking meters. City council members and others peppered Liccion and Auburn Police Chief Gary Giannotta with questions about possible changes to the system for those visitors.
Councilor William Graney asked about having 90 minutes of free parking downtown. Councilor Matthew Smith wanted to know if they can establish a special permit for elderly or physically impaired residents.
And both asked if there's a way to deal with the issue of snow around the kiosks making it difficult for some older drivers to print a receipt.
To that last concern, Giannotta said the city's parking enforcement personnel will likely not write tickets if they can't get to the kiosks through snow. He also said the city used to have two hours of free parking downtown, but the merchants and employees would park in the same spot for half the day.
"The whole purpose of metered parking in a business district is to move people," Giannotta said.
As for special permits, he said the most difficult part of that program would be deciding how much to charge. But Giannotta also said the department is willing to implement any program the council wants.
"We're open to anything," he said.
Liccion went over a number of parking discounts offered by the city, including reduced rates at the garage for rooftop parking, cash key meters, validation and juror stamp reduction. She also pointed out that visitors can drive up to kiosks located at the public parking lots, purchase a ticket without leaving the car, and park in any downtown spot.
"This is a great option for people who have a hard time getting out of their vehicles," Liccion said.
Both Jesse Kline, of the Cayuga County tourism office, and Connie Reilley, of the Downtown Auburn Business Improvement District, asked about ways to make parking more friendly to visitors. Downtown businesses and organizations are often paying for customers' parking tickets, they said.
Giving a ticket to an out-of-towner is a good way to discourage tourism, Kline said.
"They are enraged," Kline said of visitors who stop into the office for information only to go back to their cars and see a ticket.
Michael Chamberlain, an organizer of the proposed musical theater festival, said Auburn's current parking capacity can handle visitors from the festival. He noted that many of the shows in the downtown area will take place outside of normal business hours, when the garage is mostly empty.
Councilor Gilda Brower, who organized the special meeting, said the city needs to do what it can to make downtown more inviting for those visitors. The parking situation should not drive away tourism or business, she said.
"I really think we have a convenience issue," Brower said. 
City of Auburn
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