Grace period for Midtown meters causes Downtown controversy

The doorbell rang as a Capitol Shoe Repair customer walked in to pick up a pair of repaired shoes. Within a matter of minutes, the woman walked out the door.

Owner and cobbler Lee Card said his downtown shop offers quick service.

“Folks are in and out within 10 minutes,” he said.

Those running errands often roll the dice and skip paying the meters to head inside. Card said ever since Standard Parking began strict enforcement, their luck has run out.

“We’ve had quite a few very upset with us because they’re getting tickets,” he said.

Card got his own parking fine Thursday evening when he ran inside to close up shop. He said his meter was paid through 5:16 p.m. and he received the fine six minutes later.

He understands customers’ plight. The National Guardsman is a skilled shoe grinder, but what rubs him the wrong way is a rumor that Standard Parking digital meters in Midtown will have a feature that offers the first 15 minutes for free.

Card was one of many Downtown business owners who asked abc27 if this was true. Calls made to Standard Parking’s corporate office went unanswered, but a person on the Harrisburg Parking Advisory Board said the truth is in the print of the Parking Asset Transfer Agreement.

Buried in the lengthy legal document is a subsection which outlines the details involving the Midtown meters:

(b) The Transferee is authorized to add eighty-eight (88) parking spaces to the Meter Parking Spaces at the locations shown on the map attached as part of Schedule 4 and identified as “Proposed New Parking Meters.” Such additional parking spaces shall provide a 15 minute “grace period” before users are required to pay the Metered Parking Fee. The Transferee shall provide not less than sixty (60) days prior notice to the City of its commencement of operation of the Metering Devices for such additional spaces, which notice shall include a detailed explanation of ho~v the “grace period” will be implemented. If the City does not provide notice to the Transferee objecting to the details of the “grace period” implementation within thirty (30) days of its receipt of the notice, the City shall be deemed to have approved such details and the Transferee may proceed to install and operate the Metering Devices. The City shall not unreasonably object to the details of implementation and if it does object, it shall provide specific details of its objection.

The paragraph details a 15-minute “grace period” for the 88 metered spaces along Third, Verbeke, Reily and the immediate area.

Card said Downtown businesses were never informed of this provision, nor was it an option for business owners along Restaurant Row.

“If they’re going to allow a 15-minute grace period in Midtown versus Downtown, they’re saying business there in Midtown is more important than business in Downtown,” Card said.

Udkarsh Ghandhi paid a meter outside Café Fresco and was headed inside for a quick sandwich.

“I come here, grab a lunch and get it to go,” he said.

Ghandhi did not understand why the deal would benefit Midtown restaurants when he feels the Downtown corridor has a more robust lunchtime rush hour.

“I don’t mind having 15 minutes free there,” he said, “but having 15 minutes free here would really help.”

Alyce Wooten, owner of Alyce & Tre’sures Hair Gallery on Reily Street, said her customers are already talking about concerns of paying to park. Wooten said hairstyling takes hours and the 15 minutes free feature would not benefit her customers.

“I feel it’s unfair,” she said. “It’s hard. We’re trying to make a living here. I can’t make a living if I gotta charge people to park.”

Wooten believed only a few businesses in Midtown would benefit from the free window. She and Card just want the parking meters to be fair for all.

“If they’re going to continue to enforce the meters for the first 15 minutes here Downtown, they should be doing the same thing in Midtown,” Card said. “Make it fair for everybody.”

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