The glory days of Wild West parking downtown may be coming to an end. No longer will it be a safe bet to not sweat it when your meters runs a few minutes long, and if you’re thinking of feeding that one-hour meter all day while you clock in hours at work, you might reconsider.
Then again, soon you may no longer need to carry a roll of quarters just for a quick jaunt into the bank or corner store.
Starting July 1 the city of Knoxville is cracking down on downtown parking culprits, hiring more officers (through the Public Building Authority) to police meters, increasing rates for meter and some garages, and expanding parking meters to cover Saturdays instead of just during the work week–all in efforts to make the center city more pleasant for fossil-fuel-dependent visitors, officials say.
It’s also projected to boost the city’s revenue from parking meters five-fold, from $300,000 this past fiscal year to an estimated $1.5 million in FY 2016-2017, which also happens to start July 1. Money brought in from ticket citations is expected to remain flat at $225,000, according to figures provided by the city.
“That said, when the city factors in its total expenses for traffic enforcement and operating lots and garages, the overall revenue does not exceed expenses,” spokesman Eric Vreeland said in an email. “All revenue that the city will collect through the new meters and enforcement will get plowed back into downtown parking and amenities, but it’s not a money maker.”
Downtown and Fort Sanders will also see the addition of 1,000 new solar-powered parking meters capable of taking payment by credit or debit cards. The new meters, being installed over the next several months, will replace many aging, semi-functioning meters, but will also bring the pay-and-stay street parking system to a few new city blocks, including parts of Summit Hill Drive and Gay Street.
There are lots of changes going down in the next few days. Chief among them:
- Starting July 1, you must now feed the meter six days a week, Monday thru Saturday, between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.! Sunday meter parking will still be free (and you can still park for free in any of the city-owned parking decks on both Saturday and Sunday), but city spokesman Eric Vreeland says so many people are now drawn downtown on Saturdays that parking has become a premium, so the city is going to charge you for it.
- Short-term parking meters will now cost $1.50 per hour, a roughly $0.50 increase from current rates which vary some depending on where you are at downtown. The city says the new scheme will be simpler.
- Long-term parking meters are a thing, and they’ll only cost you about $0.30 hourly for up to 10 hours of parking. However, they are located in areas considered to be on the periphery of downtown, like the Gay Street Viaduct, along Depot Avenue, and South Central Street. Most of those locations have free parking nearby.
- Monthly parking rates in all city-owned parking garages (except one, see next bullet) will increase by $5. Hourly parking will stay the same at $1 per hour.
- Monthly parking rates for the Civic Coliseum parking garage is being cut by $5. It was $20, but starting July 1 it will be just $15 monthly. That’s because there’s literally hundreds if not thousands of unused parking spots there (2,500 in all!), it’s located semi-close to Gay Street (about a 5 minute walk), and the free trolley picks up there every 7-8 minutes to motor visitors into downtown proper.
- The city didn’t mention this in its announcement about parking changes, but it’s worth noting that the new trolley routes also loop past the (completely free) parking lot off Jackson Avenue, under Hall of Fame Drive in the Old City. Yay free!
- A total of 10 PBA-clad parking enforcers will take to the streets, chalk in hand, looking for neigh-do-wheels. Six of those will patrol downtown and four will work Fort Sanders, mostly along Cumberland Avenue, between White and Lake avenues and 17th Street west to the railroad tracks.
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