IF YOU WANT FEWER SHOPPERS, CHARGE MORE
Free Saturday street parking was once a draw for Fifth Avenue Mall shoppers and others who just needed to pop into a downtown Anchorage business to pick up that one item. In the past, residents had learned to do their serious downtown shopping on Saturdays so they didn’t have to pay an extra $5-$10 for the privilege of shopping locally.
No more. Street parking will be metered on Saturdays same as Monday through Friday, and meter rates will go up along with parking lot fees, the city announced Monday. One parking lot will double its price on July 1.
“The 2016 rate increase is part of an overall strategy to improve garage operations, particularly in the areas of maintenance, security, aesthetics and technology,” Brian Borguno, EasyPark parking director, said, in the announcement.
SPENDOWITZ DOWNTOWN PARKING ZONE
Monthly parking permits have been ratcheted 10-20 percent higher in Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s effort to improve downtown Anchorage. The Sockeye parking lot at Third Avenue and C, will more than double, from $30 to $65. The Fifth Avenue Mall parking garage fees are untouched for now.
Street meters will cost 50 cents more per hour, a 40 percent increase at a 2-hour spot. Parking lots that were $1 will go up 25 percent to $1.25.
This is a tough time to be a business owner in downtown Anchorage. In recent years, it has actually been far too easy to find a parking spot during the daytime, because customers have been chased away by the city’s EasyPark aggressive enforcement. Merchants looked at the street parking vacancies with dismay, because they know that if you charge more for parking, customers vanish.
“There are just too many parking spaces open on any given day for my comfort,” one longtime downtown business owner said. “It’s an economic indicator that I pay attention to.”
Meanwhile, the Berkowitz adminstration turned the top floor of a parking garage into a hip urban park, (at $50,000 per parking place). His adminstration then turned around and is charging people to park on Saturdays, and raises the meter fees on all days.
Shoppers weigh values such as experience, ease of use, choice of merchants, and the overall cost of doing business. With downtown parking rates increasing at more than three times the rate of inflation, shoppers could be heading south to the Dimond Mall or east to Tikahtnu Commons, where “easy park” actually means something. Some merchants win in this Berkowitz scenario, while others lose.