Back-Seat Driver

Downtown Sacramento: ‘Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded’

Not all downtown signs reflect new the new 10 p.m. meter hours yet.
Not all downtown signs reflect new the new 10 p.m. meter hours yet.

Last week the city began issuing tickets to drivers who fail to feed downtown meters after 6 p.m. That sparked some anger and even boycott threats on the internet.

“My friends are starting to debate going to DT now solely because of the parking. Bad move Sac,” one Reddit commenter said.

“So much easier to find a cool spot on the outskirts. Cheaper, less stress and easy transportation,” another wrote.

Those comments come just weeks after the opening of Golden 1 Center, which has been drawing tens of thousands of drivers to the central city, most of whom pay to park at meters or in downtown garages.

It reminds me of a funny Yogi Berra line about a popular restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”

City Councilman and downtown resident Steve Hansen is among those who have been monitoring the effect of the arena and new parking rules on downtown. He sees a downtown on the upswing in popularity and predicts many of those grumbling about feeding meters will continue to come downtown, or will return.

Representatives of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership business and property owners’ group and the Midtown Business Association report the new era of post-6 p.m. meters appears to be going well so far for businesses. It’s tough on some downtown workers, though. Restaurant servers, for instance, no longer can park on the street in front of their workplace because of meter costs and time limits. But that is part of the reason the city decided to extend meters: Workers were taking up street spots, leaving few or none for restaurant patrons.

Downtown workers can get a city discount rate at city garages. Others can park for free under the W-X freeway and shuttle in. But I’ve talked with workers who don’t know that. One arena worker told me she pays $25 every work night to park at a garage next to the arena. That’s one of the most expensive garages downtown.

That suggests the word hasn’t gotten out as well as it should about parking options. For instance, the city recently – with little publicity – dropped the price of the garage at 10th and I streets to a $5 flat fee on nights when major events are happening in the arena. That’s a nine-minute walk to the arena, and is near a lot of restaurants, bars, hotels and clubs, which is good for both evening workers and Kings fans. Six other nearby garages charge $11 or less.

The city dropped the price, by the way, to get more fans to park north of the arena, away from the more crowded L Street and Capitol Mall south of the arena.

It’s definitely complicated out there now. How many people know, for instance, that parking meters on the west side of 16th Street run until 10 p.m., but the ones on the east side run until 8 p.m.?

There have been some glitches in the early going, as well. A reader emailed us that the street signs at 13th and H last week still said meter hours end at 6 p.m. She paid after 6 p.m., just to be safe. Good thing, because those meters are set for 10 p.m.

Some people complained of meter malfunctions last week when they tried to use the city’s Parkmobile phone app, which allows you to buy extra meter time, past the regular time limit, via your phone. You can do it remotely from a bar or restaurant. City officials say the app is working well, overall. They ask people to call 311 to report problems.

I checked out the Parkmobile app on Saturday, buying 15 extra minutes at a meter for 44 cents with a 35-cent transaction fee. It worked. In fact, the app was like an overzealous personal assistant: It sent me a confirmation text, a 15-minute warning, and three emails updating me. Enough already.

If you wait until the last minute to add meter time via Parkmobile, though, the meter may flash red for a minute before the new information gets to it, causing the row of lights on the meter to turn green again. If you get a ticket during that limbo moment, city officials say you can challenge it. Parkmobile records will show you paid.