More downtown Harrisburg parking changes draw mixed reactions

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Parking rules changed again in Harrisburg Wednesday, and the shift is getting a mixed reaction from those who work and spend time downtown.

The price of street parking is not changing; it’s still $1.50 per half-hour downtown, but now your payment method — whether you use quarters or a card — matters.

To Kunal Sharma, every parking change matters.

“People walk in, they always have to worry about parking,” said Sharma, who co-owns Bollywood Bar and Grille on Second Street. Since the restaurant opened in August, he believes parking fees have kept people away.

“Overall, it’s good, but it could be better,” he said of the business. “You’re always hungry as a business owner, you know. You want more and more.”

There are two main changes he’ll be contending with this time. First, if you pay with a credit card, you have to pay for an hour minimum, not a half-hour. You can still pay for a half-hour using quarters.

Second, there are way more 15-minute free parking zones downtown, up from four in a pilot program started last year to 26 now.

“I do think it does help, especially during lunch time when you just want to run in and grab a to-go order,” said Todd Vander Woude, executive director of the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District.

He’s seen an increase in traffic downtown in recent months and years and thinks not only will the free spots bring even more, the hour-minimum won’t deter it.

“It seems to me that a lot of people that are coming down here, using credit cards, are spending more than an hour,” he said.

“You want to sit, enjoy the ambience, atmosphere, the food,” Sharma said.

He wants his customers to spend more time, too. That’s why his restaurant pays your parking if you eat dinner there.

“They know they didn’t pinch their wallet and they had a good time,” he said, “and didn’t spend too much money.”

Sharma’s not convinced these changes will encourage people to come downtown — and that’s exactly what his new business needs.

ABC27 reached out to the city’s parking contractor and the mayor’s office for comment on the changes. Neither had responded by Wednesday evening.

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