Sacramento to ring downtown arena with higher-priced parking zones

Sacramento's new fast-entry downtown garages

New technology will make downtown garage use easier for arena attendees. Nine-second transaction times expected, instead of thirty to sixty seconds at the former Sleep Train Arena. Matt Eierman, city parking chief, explains.
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New technology will make downtown garage use easier for arena attendees. Nine-second transaction times expected, instead of thirty to sixty seconds at the former Sleep Train Arena. Matt Eierman, city parking chief, explains.

The city of Sacramento is proposing a series of event-parking zones around Golden 1 Center where it can charge variable prices for street and garage parking when the downtown arena opens in two months.

The proposed zones will be discussed Tuesday at a City Council law and legislation committee hearing. City parking officials are seeking the OK to establish boundaries for four event-parking zones for street meters in a 12-block area around the arena.

Parking chief Matt Eierman said no decision has been made yet on event-related rates. But he said the amounts will be higher close to the arena, notably in the immediate three-block area. He said city staff is contemplating flat fees for major arena events that could range from $11.25 for fans who reserve a city garage spot in advance to $18.75 for those seeking a street-metered spot close to the arena.

“We’re still working out details of what that pricing is going to be,” Eierman said.

Whatever the prices, they’ll no doubt cause sticker shock for people used to parking evenings downtown for free. But they also may be a discount for fans who’ve been paying $15 to park at Sleep Train Arena for Kings games and $20 for concerts.

The city’s goal is to set prices that encourage drivers to park in garages instead of on the streets, Eierman said. The variable pricing and discounts for garage reservations are designed to reduce confusion and congestion on streets close to the arena. City officials say people also should consider taking light rail and buses to the arena, or bike, walk or use ride-sharing services.

“We really want people to plan ahead,” Eierman said. “We’re going to incentivize people, by pricing, to get on our (smartphone) app or use our website to preplan their trip and prepurchase their parking.”

Most Sacramento downtown meters now close out daily at 6 p.m. Those hours will be extended to 10 p.m. in most of downtown next month. Some midtown meters will be extended to 8 p.m. Downtown and midtown parking will remain free on Sundays. The additional parking revenues from arena events will help the city pay for its share of the arena construction as well as pay for parking improvements and other potential city service improvements over time.

Although they intend to establish a 12-block event parking area, city officials say they plan to charge higher event-night rates only at meters in a three-block radius of the arena between G Street and O Street, and the riverfront and 10th Street. Eierman said the city will watch how the parking situation develops during arena events before deciding whether to increase meter rates on streets beyond the three-block radius.

Higher rates will be in effect only for events that draw more than 15,000 fans to the new arena, under the proposed city rule changes. The arena holds 17,500. Most Kings games are expected to top 15,000 in ticket sales. The arena opens Oct. 4 with a Paul McCartney concert with 15,500 tickets sold, a full house for the arena when seating is configured for that type of concert.

Eierman said the city will unveil parking prices and other parking information in a few weeks.

Under the current proposal, street parking rates in the three-block arena area will be set at 25 percent higher than the garage fee to encourage drivers to park in garages. City staff has talked about a possible flat event fee of $15 in downtown city garages during major events. That would mean a $18.75 price for street parking close to the arena.

The city also plans to offer a 25-percent discount off the garage event fee for motorists who make reservations and pay in advance. That would mean drivers who pay in advance would spend $11.25 for a garage spot.

Another option: Drivers can park a mile south of the arena in lots under the W-X freeway for $2 a night and walk, bike, take light rail, buses or ride-sharing cars from there to the arena.

Eierman said the city’s goal is to leave some street spaces available for people coming downtown to shop and eat at restaurants when major events are happening at the arena. The meter cost will remain $1.75 per hour for anyone who parks for less than two hours on the street near the arena during arena events.

City officials say they are creating a smartphone app and web page that will allow arena patrons to reserve a spot in one of five city garages. The city is investing $5.7 million in upgrades to its parking garages, including vehicle recognition technology that will open the gates, allowing prepaid motorists to enter and exit garages with minimal waiting, and signage that will tell drivers how many parking spots are available on each garage level.

The special event parking rates will be enforced starting two hours before an arena event.

The city's new parking meter app lets you pay for more time on meters using your smart phone. Previous time limits will no longer apply at a select group of meters around the Crocker Art Museum. The zone for extended time meters will be phased in

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak