Transportation

Sacramento parking meter rates to rise this week

It will cost you 50 cents more per hour to park in Sacramento, starting Thursday.
It will cost you 50 cents more per hour to park in Sacramento, starting Thursday. RBenton@sacbee.com

Parking meter rates in Sacramento will increase 50 cents an hour starting Thursday, city officials announced. The hourly charge will go from $1.25 to $1.75, an increase approved last month by the City Council. It’s the first rate increase since 2008.

The city will continue offering holiday street parking specials through Christmas Day. The city is allowing free parking all day on weekends at meters between I and L streets and Front and 29th streets. Those meters also are free on weekdays after 4:30 p.m. through Dec. 25. Officials said all other parking rules will be enforced, including posted time limits.

The city also plans this month to launch a pilot program that will allow drivers to remain parked in some metered spots beyond the normal time limit if they are willing to pay higher hourly rates for the extra time.

That program, called SpotZone, will be tested at 10 parking meters in Old Sacramento and 13 meters at 18th and L streets. City parking officials said if the test goes well, they will ask the council to extend that service 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 stay longer while avoiding parking tickets. In the past year, the city issued 12,474 tickets at $47.50 apiece for drivers who overstayed the time limit in two-hour zones, City Parking Manager Matt Eierman said.

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

The changes are part of an ongoing “parking modernization” program, Eierman said. The city already has installed more than 4,000 “smart” meters that take credit cards and other coins besides quarters.

“The city has been in the process of upgrading technologies to make paying for parking much more convenient,” Eierman said in a statement. “An increase in the parking meter rate will allow the city to continue to provide better service to meet the needs of businesses, residents and visitors in the downtown core.”

Most meters shut down at 6 p.m. Eierman has said he likely will ask the council for approval to extend meter hours past 6 p.m. in preparation for the opening of Golden 1 Center next year, which will host nighttime events such as Sacramento Kings games and concerts.

The city also recently signed a deal for $5.7 million in technology upgrades to its downtown garages, including one that will allow people to go online and buy a reserved spot days or weeks ahead of 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.

The higher meter rates are expected to encourage more long-term parkers to use downtown garages, leaving more meters available for people who are stopping in for shorter visits to stores and restaurants.

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

For more information on the city’s parking changes, go to sacpark.org.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak

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