Pilot program to bring 15 minutes of free parking to downtown Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – People will be able to take advantage of 15 minutes of free parking in downtown Harrisburg during a new pilot program by SP Plus.

White and red “Loading Zone” signs have been replaced with blue and white “15 Minutes Free” signs along Second Street.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Lori Fortini said, “but I think it’s really only going to apply to those that are picking up lunch to-go.”

Fortini is correct in her assumption. City communications director Joyce Davis said the move is a collaborative effort between the city, SP Plus, and downtown businesses.

Mark Jeannette, owner of Tinder Box, said the free parking will allow for more customer turnover and entice many to do quick business.

“It was very important for us to work with [SP Plus] and the city to make sure this was quick and easy for the customers to get in and out,” he said. “It’s a great thing.”

Downtown business recently reported a collective 50-percent drop in foot traffic and revenues. One business owner who asked to remain anonymous said sales decreased by $10,000 in one year.

The 15 free minutes aims to help bring back the business during the day while there are discounted happy hour parking rates and four free hours on the Pango app using “LUV HBG.”

Pat Davis, owner of Hornung’s True Value Hardware, said she is not happy about the change.

“I had a 30-minute loading zone spot. Now, I have one 15-minute free parking spot,” she said.

Davis said her customers and contractors relied on a full half-hour to shop and pick up supplies.

“They should give two parking spots in front all along here,” she said.

Jeannette said past generations have put the city in its precarious position nowadays and businesses must adapt. He said people should be able to pick up a cigar, sandwich, slice, or shawarma without tacking on an added $1.50 for 30 minutes when most trips take a few minutes.

Davis said the damage has already been done and people don’t want to return to the downtown in fear of a $30 ticket. She said most foot traffic returns when parking is free and her doors are closed.

“Tell you what, the streets are parked up after 7,” she said.

The city and SP Plus will hold a news conference Thursday morning to discuss the pilot program.

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