Parking rate increase considered for Downtown Helena - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Parking rate increase considered for Downtown Helena

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City leaders will consider whether to raise hourly parking rates by 25 to 50 cents across downtown Helena.

The Helena City Commission will discuss the proposal during an administrative meeting on Wednesday; no immediate action will be taken.

Dave Hewitt, director of the Helena Parking Commission, said Helena’s parking rates haven’t been increased in more than ten years. He said the commission wants to equalize the cost of parking in most of downtown. They’re also dealing with higher costs for everything from maintenance and personnel.

The commission has proposed charging $1 per hour at most parking garages, lots, and meters. Garages currently charge 75 cents an hour, while lots and meters cost 50 cents.

Parking meters on Cruse Avenue currently cost only 25 cents an hour. That rate would be increased to 50 cents. Hewitt said that area would remain cheaper, because it’s intended to give employees at downtown businesses an affordable place for long-term parking.

Hewitt said the increase would also fund future projects.

One of the planned investments is the “Smart Meter Program.” It would replace current parking meters with new models that accept credit cards and debit cards.

“Our current meters, they’ve been on those poles for over 20 years, they take coins only,” Hewitt said. “They’re not convenient.”

Helena's Downtown Master Plan calls for a number of changes to the parking system, including allowing drivers to park free for the first hour in garages and lots. Hewitt said the Parking Commission isn't ready to offer that yet, but this planned increase will help cover the costs once it happens.

Hewitt said any increase in downtown parking rates go into effect no earlier than late summer.

During Wednesday’s administrative meeting, the city commission will also consider a bid to replace automated pay machines and gate arms at the parking garages on Sixth Avenue and Getchell Street.

Hewitt said the current machines need to be upgraded to accept new credit cards with electronic chips.

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