City Beat

Sacramento City Council approves higher parking meter rates

The city is proposing raising parking meter rates from $1.25 an hour to $1.75.
The city is proposing raising parking meter rates from $1.25 an hour to $1.75. Sacramento Bee file

The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday voted to raise parking meter rates by 50 cents an hour. The hourly fee will increase to $1.75 an hour starting in mid-December.

The last time the city increased parking meter rates was in July 2008, and parking officials said the current rate of $1.25 per hour is below what is charged in similarly sized cities.

City parking manager Matt Eierman said meter rates have increased just six times since 1944. The new rates will go into effect in the next 30 days.

In addition to the higher rates, the council also approved a pilot program that will allow drivers to remain parked in some central city spots beyond the normal time limit if they are willing to pay higher hourly rates for the extra time.

That program, dubbed SpotZone, will first be offered at 10 parking meters in Old Sacramento and 13 meters around 18th and L streets in midtown. City parking officials have said that if the test goes well, they will ask the City Council to extend it to all city parking meters.

Drivers will be able to use an app on their cellphones to pay for the extra time, allowing them to avoid parking tickets. In the last 12 months, the city issued 12,474 tickets at $47.50 apiece for drivers who overstayed the time limit in two-hour zones, Eierman said.

“Unforeseen situations arise, and motorists find themselves caught between their business meetings and getting a parking citation,” Eierman said.

The changes represent the first moves in what the city has called a “parking modernization” program downtown that will likely include additional changes in the coming years. The city aims to put some of these in place in time for the opening of the new Golden 1 Center arena at Fifth and K streets next October.

Most meters in the downtown area currently shut down at 6 p.m., just before Sacramento Kings games will start. One of the changes being discussed would be to start charging for street parking in the evening hours.

“We will be returning to the City Council in the next 30 to 90 days with a formal recommendation,” Eierman said.

Last month, the city signed a deal for $5.7 million in technology upgrades to garages, including one that will allow people to go online and buy a reserved spot days or weeks ahead of time. At the time, Eierman said the goal is to provide a destination for drivers coming to concerts and games, so they’re not circling blocks, looking for parking.

Steve Hansen, the city councilman who represents downtown and midtown, said the city is trying to increase the availability of street parking by encouraging people not to stay in a spot all day. “We want the long-term parkers in the garages,” Hansen said. “We don’t want them sitting on the street all day blocking spaces.”

City officials say the higher meter rates reflect the reality of the costs of administering the city’s parking inventory, which is currently subsidized by the general fund. The city is also counting on higher parking revenue to free up general fund money that will be used to help repay bonds used for the city’s $255 million contribution to the arena.

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