Changes protect on-street spots for small businesses
COVINGTON, Ky. – Seeking to preserve on-street parking for the small businesses who need it to survive, the City of Covington will begin enforcing parking meters on evenings and Saturdays.
The long-overdue change brings Covington in line with surrounding cities and is partly in response to complaints from business owners about spots being monopolized by drivers who leave their cars parked throughout the weekend and evening hours.
“As downtown grows and becomes busier, we want to ensure that our businesses have parking for their customers and clients,” City Manager Ken Smith said. “These metered spots are designed for constant turnover. That’s their purpose. If a car is left in a spot every late afternoon or from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, that hurts surrounding businesses.”
The change takes effect immediately, although there will be a grace period – i.e. “courtesy tickets” or warnings – as the public gets used to the new rules and the meters are recalibrated and relabeled. The City will be working with merchants near metered parking to find ways to educate their customers.
The new hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Previously the meters weren’t enforced on Saturdays and after 5 p.m. weekdays.
The new enforcement was approved by the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night as part of a raft of changes related to parking. Those changes include:
- Increases in metered rates from $1.10 to $1.50 an hour, matching the rate in other urban areas on this side of the Ohio River. Drivers will continue to be able to pay with cash at the meters or via the free PassportParking® app available for download at the App Store and Google Play.
- $5 increases in monthly passes at several public parking garages and surface lots (bringing most to $55 or $60 a month).
- Language “cleanup” in ordinances to continue refining the authority of the Covington Motor Vehicle Parking Authority and its status as legal “owner” and manager of parking assets. (The authority was created in 2018 to operate and maintain on-street and off-street public parking in Covington. Its five members are approved by the Board of Commissioners. The City contracts with ABM Parking Services for day-to-day operation.)
- Hiring of a first-ever executive director to handle administrative duties for the parking authority and help the City take a more strategic and analytical approach to its parking challenges. Kyle Snyder will split his duties between that position and duties as the City’s infrastructure development specialist.
Other changes are possible down the road, including the return of parking meters to business areas like the MainStrasse Village, and better signage.
The changes were recommended by consultants who undertook a comprehensive analysis of the City’s parking, by the parking authority itself, and by City staff working in areas like economic development and public works.
The City is in the process of updating a webpage, HERE, to reflect the changes and show the locations of the public parking available in Covington.
While small, the fee increases will enable the City to begin making more robust investments in upgrading its parking, Smith said.
“We definitely need more parking garage space, and we need to upgrade amenities, such as kiosks,” he said. “But you can’t modernize or add facilities and options without revenue, and we’ve been falling behind.”
The perceived lack of parking is an ongoing source of complaints in Covington. As in urban areas across the nation, however, some of the complaints are based on unrealistic expectations that parking should be free and always available right in front of a destination. For example, people who think nothing of walking from the far reaches of a mall parking lot are unwilling to walk the same distance from a garage or a lot to a restaurant or bar.
“On-street parking is a commodity, clear and simple,” Smith said. “We have a lot of parking downtown, if you know where to look, but there will never be enough spots along a busy street to accommodate three to four cars per household, plus visitors, plus customers going in and out of stores.”
The city manager called the parking changes “growing pains” as Covington’s economy continues to gain momentum.
“If you have an abundance of parking downtown, that’s a sign of a ‘dead’ city,” he said.
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