The city of Rochester has prepared for much of its growth in a wise and methodical fashion, recognizing that managed growth and development can be a sign of a mature and growing community. The opposite is decline and a withering of a community.
Over the last decade, the city has withstood the reconstruction of Main Street, expanding it and updating with new infrastructure. After a difficult period, including the economic downturn, shoppers and diners are back in force, new stores have filled vacancies, and the city's Principal Shopping District (PSD) and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) have figured out how to coordinate their efforts in order to best serve businesses, commercial owners and residents, as well as creating vibrant events around festivals and holidays that entice visitors to flock to Rochester.
To accommodate those working and visiting the city, staff and the DDA built two new parking decks, for a cost of $12 million. The parking platforms, which opened last fall, provide an additional 550 parking spots. Rochester now has more than 3,000 street and lot parking spaces around the downtown area. To pay for the new parking decks, Rochester City Council approved a special assessment district (SAD) in which 141 downtown properties will contribute a total of $255,000. The DDA, PSD and city of Rochester also provide funding.
To pay off the remainder of the funding, users of the system must use the lots and pay for them.
And therein lies the problem.
Residents have been coming to city council, as recently as July 25, requesting residential parking permits for the spaces in front of their homes near the downtown area, as business owners and employees have opted for parking on residential streets rather than shelling out money to purchase a monthly parking permit for the new parking decks or flat lots. Residents described accidents caused on their streets, broken bottles on lawns after bar nights, people on their porches and other incidents – clearly an invasion of private neighborhoods, and an inexcusable effort to get out of paying for maintenance of their own city.
Since the two lots officially opened last fall, monthly passes have been $40 a month. To incentivize the purchase of passes, at an April special meeting of council, the permit cost was reduced from $40 to $20, with the reduced monthly permit rate change going into effect on July 1.
We feel this was a mistake. Rather than lowering the monthly passes in an effort to placate some, enforcement of parking in the neighborhoods and outside the lots, or at expired meters, should be stepped up. Get a few parking tickets and suddenly the cost of the parking pass won't be quite so high.
The parking lots are an excellent, long-term asset to the city of Rochester. Those who work and shop in Rochester must contribute to paying for them, and help shoulder the success along with the city and businesses.