Officials strive for parking balance in midstate urban areas

Federal Taphouse employee Alex Sontag pays for parking at a new multispace, on-street pay station in Harrisburg’s central business district.-(Amy Spangler)

When it comes to maintaining a thriving downtown, officials and business owners know, parking is a huge variable.

Easy parking, enough parking and parking at a fair price. Some officials say it is getting harder and harder to accomplish all three goals.

In urban areas such as Harrisburg and Carlisle, officials are striving to achieve the former values at the expense of the latter. That means costs are on the rise.

“You need to strike a balance between the parking being available, simple to use, but not so expensive that people don’t want to shop downtown,” said Sean Shultz, a Carlisle councilman.

Carlisle recently tripled its fine for an expired meter, taking it to $15. In addition, a new digital payment option available at meters next year will make it easier to pay for parking. Vehicle owners will be able to add time to meters remotely via smartphones, Shultz said.

The cost to park remains the same: 50 cents per hour for the gray parking meters downtown and 25 cents per hour to park at gold meters in residential areas. The first 15 minutes are free at all meters.

The fines were hiked because officials felt $5 was not enough of a deterrent to tardy parkers, Shultz explained. Every downtown study the borough has paid for over the past 20 years, he added, reached the same conclusion: Carlisle needs to move vehicles in and out faster.

“You don’t want people camped out in those parking spaces all day long,” he said. “You want those spaces in front of the stores to be available for people going in and out of the stores.”

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In Harrisburg, SP Municipal Services is installing multispace, on-street pay stations in Harrisburg’s central business district. The meters are enforced from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with a standard rate of $3 per hour, payable in 15-minute increments.

Streets with original meters remain at current rates — $1.50 per hour until 5 p.m. — and will be enforced according to the existing schedule until the new on-street meters are installed. Cash keys are not accepted at the new pay stations.

John Hilton

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