Harrisburg mayor ready to put money on the line to stop parking rate increase

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Will parking in Harrisburg get even more expensive? City leaders are trying to put the brakes on that.

It already costs $3 an hour to park in the city; simply put, no one wants to pay that much, let alone more. Now Mayor Eric Papenfuse is putting money on the line to try to bring that number down.

“If you just walk down the strip right now, there’s no place that’s full of people,” Aaron Killian, the new executive chef of Capital Gastropub on 2nd Street, said.

Everyone on restaurant row, Killian included, knows it: No one likes parking in the city.

A potential customer will “probably come down here once, figure out they just paid $9-12 to park for a while and decide not to do that anymore,” Killian said, chopping onions and carrots Thursday afternoon for his upcoming dinner service.

In his six weeks at the downtown restaurant, he’s noticed most of their business comes after 7 p.m. That’s when parking is free.

“A lot of people I know from across the river… for that sole purpose just don’t want to come downtown,” he said of the parking rates.

“It’s been a constant battle,” Papenfuse said.

Your credit card might take an even bigger hit in the near future. Trimont, the company that manages the city’s parking system, is proposing raising the rate to $3.50 an hour.

“They’re coming from a perspective which just says, you know, if we have a problem with our balance sheet, let’s just raise rates,” Papenfuse said.

He explained the current rate isn’t raising enough money to pay the city in full or to pay for capital improvements to parking garages, but he thinks raising the rate more will drive more people away.

“That’s just the start,” he said of the proposed increase, “$3.50, then $3.75, then it keeps going.”

Instead, he’s proposing to lower the rate to $2.50 an hour to bring more people to the city and increase collections overall. If that doesn’t bring in more people and up the cash-flow, he said, parking officials can take the difference out of what they pay the city.

“Businesses need to flourish downtown,” Killian said. He admits he’s no economist, but to him it’s simple cause and effect.

“If someone’s going to raise parking even more,” he said, “then even less people are going to want to come down here.”

Both of those proposals are in front of the county and AGM, the parking bond insurers. They’re the ones who will ultimately decide what to do, though it’s not clear when that will happen.

Papenfuse thinks there will be a decision soon.

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