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Winter parking revenue falls short of projections

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

The quarters, dimes and nickels have been trickling through Truckee’s downtown parking meters at lower than half the pace anticipated this winter.

Whether people are finding free spots, not paying or not coming to downtown at all, the meter revenue for downtown Truckee parking is coming in at 47 percent of projections. Employee parking is making only 13 percent of its projected revenue.

While backers of metered parking say the stunted revenues are due to start-up difficulties and a hit-and-miss winter season, others worry the town may find itself subsidizing downtown parking to the tune of greater than $150,000 each year.

Initial projections may have been wildly optimistic, according to Truckee Town Councilman Richard Anderson.

While town officials agree it is too early to make a decision on the ultimate success of the parking program, there are growing indications the town could be in a deep financial hole in its first year of paid parking.

The town is expecting to borrow $435,000 from the general fund to start the program in its first year. By the end of the fiscal year in June, the town is expected to pay $299,450 in expenditures. Revenues are now projected to reach $237,504.

Truckee Downtown Merchants Association President Stefanie Olivieri is still optimistic about the program, saying metered parking will begin paying for itself soon. The problem has not been incorrect projections or a poor program, but a slow winter, she said in an interview on Monday.

“Traffic in the downtown is off. It is off in the region,” Olivieri said. “There is no question that paid parking will pay for itself in the long run. It works everywhere.”

According to Truckee Town Councilman Josh Susman, part of the problem with revenues has been that the town has tried to ensure the parking meters are palatable to most locals. The reduced hourly rates, relaxed enforcement and initiation of the program with a grace period have all eaten away at revenues, Susman said.

Meanwhile, vehicles have begun clustering at the free spaces downtown, said Truckee Parking Coordinator Kelly Beede. And ticketing is only being enforced on about 10 percent of the parking violations because of the town council’s direction to allow each vehicle one warning before a parking violation is enforced.

The town council asked that Truckee parking staff keep monitoring the use of the free employee lot at the Catholic church to see if it remains underutilized. If employees do not use the lot, the town should investigate dropping that lease, Susman said.

While the paid parking program has been controversial, it has kept two railroad-owned parking lots, totaling 90 spaces, from being closed, according to the town. The lease rates had been raised and had become too expensive for the few merchants who pitched in to pay for the lots, and the 90 parking spaces were in danger of being barricaded, according to town officials.

“I think that paid parking is so important. Without it I think that the viability of downtown is at risk,” said Olivieri.


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