HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Stakeholders in the city’s parking system will meet Wednesday to help solve a fiscal crisis. One source tells ABC27 News that parking rates will be discussed.
Leasing parking assets was a key component of the Harrisburg Strong Plan, one that helped the capital city rid itself of nearly a billion dollars in debt. The contingency was parking would generate enough revenue to pay creditors and subsidize operations.
That’s not happening.
“This whole thing is a disaster from all kinds of different angles,” Nevin Mindlin said. “It’s doing great harm to Downtown.”
Mindlin, an outspoken citizen and former mayoral candidate, said the city’s parking bonds were recently downgraded by S&P and called junk by Bloomberg. He said it’s not hard to figure out why revenue is down.
“If you price something higher and higher where there’s no real demand to start with, there’s going to be less and less of it,” he said.
Yes, parking rates doubled in most areas. Parking garage rates and fines increased. Enforcement became stricter when SP+ took over operations in 2014. Others argue parking became easier with credit card-accepting machines and the mobile app Pango.
For the third straight year, the parking system will not make full payment to the city.
“We’re killing city government on this deal and that should be fundamental,” Mindlin said.
Hindsight is always 20/20. However, Mindlin has long been especially critical of the parking deal. Mindlin endorsed mayoral candidate Dan Miller, who was running as a Republican after a ballot switch, because the former city controller was adamantly against selling assets.
In an October 2013 report by ABC News, Mindlin warned voters not to elect supporters of the Strong Plan.
“If my interpretation is really correct in where they’re going, we’re in standing to be in very deep trouble,” Mindlin said. He also added the caveat “within five years” to his statements.
In 2016, Mindlin is not saying “I told you so”, but has sorrow for a parking deal in dire straits.
“I always called it the Wrong Plan, not the Strong Plan,” he said, “and I think that’s absolutely true. It ignored basic facts.”
Mindlin contends the plan relied too heavily on people driving into the city. He believes higher rates scared many away from Downtown, a budding Midtown has spread business to other parts of the city, and with the rise of ride-sharing services and a younger generation focused on walking and biking, the overall population parking in paid zones has decreased.
A Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority board meeting will be held Wednesday morning, where parking asset stakeholders will discuss how to generate more revenue and figure out which creditor to pay first.
One source close to the board tells ABC27 that raising rates will be discussed. A figure amount was not given as several options would be presented.
Mindlin said if the board agrees to raise rates, it would have another adverse effect on revenue.
“When you raise the cost of something that already is not in use, you make it less in use,” he said. “Therefore, you will raise less money.”