Thursday, November 12, 2009

Downtown Nashville parkers to lose free Saturdays

By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • November 12, 2009 Saturday visitors to downtown Nashville soon will have to feed the parking meters just like on the weekdays or face a ticket. The affected area runs from Broadway north to James Robertson Parkway and from Rosa Parks Boulevard east to Second Avenue. The Metro Traffic and Parking Commission voted earlier this week to enforce parking meters downtown from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. Meters are currently enforced 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with free parking nightly and on weekends. It costs $1.50 to park at a downtown meter with a two-hour limit. Expired meter tickets start at $11. Officials say the new parking guidelines, which go into effect in January, were handed down to create turnover in the downtown spaces. Metro Public Works Department spokeswoman Gwen Hopkins-Glascock said the industry standard is to have an 85 percent occupancy rate of parking spaces in an area. Change could bring in extra revenue "Metro has almost 100 percent occupancy," she said. "People are staying in spots all day and not allowing others to use them." Hopkins-Glascock said a feasibility study was conducted in the summer on all parking meters, lots and garages owned and managed by the city. According to the study, seven other cities comparable to Nashville had Saturday enforcement. Hopkins-Glascock said the change would bring in extra revenue for the city, but officials are not certain how much money could be generated from weekend parking. Hopkins-Glascock said the public works department would not incur any additional costs. "Our existing personnel will adjust their regular 40-hour workweeks to cover Saturdays," she said. Kathy Jernigan, a Nashville resident for more than 20 years, says she's skeptical that no extra costs will come out of the personnel shift. "I tend to believe it when I see it," she said. "Everything seems to increase costs, and when that happens, it comes back to me as a person who lives here." Jernigan said she doesn't go downtown very often. "When I do go, I have my chosen places to park, and I pay for it," she said. The extra revenue will help offset a slight deficit within the parking program, officials said. Each year, Nashville sees about $1 million in revenue from parking meters, but the city pays more than that to operate and manage them. "The operating costs have steadily increased but the revenue hasn't," Hopkins-Glascock said. "We don't foresee those operating costs going down, so we looked at ways to bring the revenue in line to help cover the expenses." Contact Nicole Young at 615-259-8091 or

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