Free parking hours for some public spots Downtown may soon get shorter and parking in those spots may soon get more expensive.
Memphis City Council members heard a proposal Tuesday from city engineer John Cameron that would cut free parking by six hours each day and raise parking prices at parking meters from $1 per hour to $1.25.
The moves comes after the city invested $1.7 million in about 1,200 new, electronic meters in 2013. At the time, projections held that the meters would pay for themselves in new revenues generated by them, Cameron said.
Revenues from the new parking meters have nearly doubled the revenues made from the old, mechanical meters, Cameron said Tuesday, from $450,000 per year to about $900,000 per year. Even still, the new funds are running about 10 percent below expected and the money is needed to pay for the new meters, noting about $1 million is needed annually.
Public spots Downtown are now free from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Cameron’s plan would make drivers pay for spots in the Central Business District, the Entertainment District, and the Medical District from 8 a.m. to midnight. Parking in the spots on Sunday would remain free all day.
Extending the hours would boost revenues from the spots as would simply increasing the rates by a quarter per hour, Cameron said.
Council member Wanda Halbert said there is a “major parking problem Downtown right now for the average citizen,” noting that there was simply not a lot of spots available. She also criticized the idea that council was told the new meters would support themselves only to be told now that they won’t without new fees and times.
Council member Alan Crone urged caution on the part of the plan that cut free parking hours.
“Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference,” Crone said. “I know I’m accustomed to 6 o’clock (for free parking Downtown). I think it may be one of those areas that may have unintended consequences; people getting tickets when they’re not expecting it.”
Crone said he would discuss the matter with the Downtown Memphis Commission and Downtown merchants.
Cameron said he was open to changes on the ordinance and to scrap the move altogether.
The ordinance would require three readings by the council to become law.