Rochester Extends Parking Fees. Here’s Why That’s OK

Rochester City Council recently voted to extend the hours for paid parking in the city. Previously, parking in Rochester was free after 6pm, but beginning July 1st, free parking will not begin after until 8pm.

Without a doubt, a sea of screams from local business owners and downtown visitors is about rise to protest. They will claim this will deter people from coming downtown and blame the city for attempting to take advantage of new growth.

Let’s look at this another way. For years now, Rochestarians have enjoyed free parking after 6pm, something residents and visitors of many cities can only dream of. The reason behind this, most likely, is that there simply wasn’t much in Rochester to see… free parking removed a crucial barrier between drivers and the handful of downtown destinations.

Fast forward to now, as the city begins to crawl out of a decades-long hibernation and into a state of relevance again. Downtown Rochester is one of our fastest growing neighborhoods. Businesses are beginning to relocate to Center City again. The Inner Loop infill project is beginning to take shape. The city finally has some momentum, and it’s about to start rolling even faster.

Just like with any business or product, if the demand is high and fiscal resources are low, the cost will rise. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing and it’s not going to be as devastating as everyone thinks. Here’s some things to consider with regard to increased parking fee hours, including a few positives.

1.  Rochester is Back!

There is a palpable energy in the streets again and this city is once again in demand. If the city was still stagnant, free parking after 6pm would still remain. This decision should be seen as a positive sign of projected growth in Rochester, not as a deterrent.

2.  It’s Still Cheap

Rochester is still a relatively inexpensive place to park when compared to other urban areas. Parking abounds in our city, though the prevailing perception often contradicts this reality. Whether parking is free after 6 or after 8, the rate is still very competitive and spaces are still plentiful.  And remember, parking is still free on weekends.

3. Parking Costs Money To Create and Maintain

Parking costs the city money. As hard as it might be to believe, parking doesn’t generate revenue, it costs the city money when you consider the big picture. Instead of generating tax revenue like a business or a home, our parking spaces and garages have to be paved, plowed, maintained, policed, striped and maintained some more. The cost of city parking is horribly under-appreciated, but it could not be more of a reality.

4.  Everything Increases In Price

Has your grocery bill increased in ten years? How about cable and utilities? Rent? Housing costs? Car payments? Insurance?  Whether it’s buying milk or maintaining a parking space, goods and services increase in price over time.  My rent has increased by $250 in the last 10 years, so it’s safe to guess that the cost of city parking will likely increase like anything else.

5.  We Can Handle A Few Bucks

The population that the extra two hours of paid parking will impact is likely the population most able to absorb the hike.  If the price hike was on bus travel, we would be having a very different conversation.

6.  Lots Of Other Choices

The bus is still $1. Bike share is $1 per half hour. It is still very possible and often easy to avoid these extra hours of paid parking by leaving your car outside Center City and taking alternative transportation for your downtown needs.

Conclusion

My guess it that, like any other sought-after service that inevitably increases in price, people will make a fuss about this for a few months and then accept it. But at the end of the day, quite frankly, the downside to a better Rochester simply means eventually we are all going to have to pay a little more to use it.  The positive takeaway is that this is a very small price to pay for a clear sign that our city is back in business with a bright future of exciting growth and opportunity ahead.