After a negative public response to a proposed expansion of parking meters Downtown, city councilors postponed a plan by Mayor G.T. Bynum to shrink free parking areas and extend hours to nights and weekends.
Bynum wants to overhaul the parking meter system but he backed off and tried to explain that the changes were simply ideas from a study by his staff. Bynum said his administration has spent nine months trying to fix the parking meter problem Downtown.
“It is an embarrassment for the city for the way it’s been allowed to operate,” Bynum said at a Downtown Coordinating Council meeting last week.”
Bynum said while he was a councilor, he supported a plan to improve the parking meter situation but that was blocked by former Mayor Dewey Bartlett. Bynum wants to “fix” the situation in a way that “people don’t think about the parking meters Downtown.”
Bynum said the purpose of having meters Downtown is so customers will enter stores and restaurants, finish their business and then leave to make room for more customers. Bynum claimed there have been numerous requests by Downtown business owners to have parking meters.
“It is not, as it has been characterized irresponsibly, as a revenue scheme,” Bynum said. “I would want for us to have no meters.”
Bynum said all the money generated by expanding paid meter parking would be spent to maintain the system. Tulsa has many parking meters that don’t work because of batteries that have not been replaced.
Bynum said he wanted the committee to evaluate all the suggestions, including:
- Using a computer application for paid parking;
- Better signage;
- Having meters that always work;
- Increase parking meters to the east side of Downtown;
- Extend the hours to 8 p.m. and add Saturday to Monday through Friday.
Bynum said he would recommend not extending parking meter hours past 5 p.m. and Saturday until the city can come up with “a system that works.”
Bynum’s proposal has some Downtown merchants worried because the growing difficulty and cost of parking may cause some Tulsans in other parts of the city to stay away from Downtown.
Bynum presented a plan to stop free parking in the East District and to expand the hours in which parking must be paid. The new hours will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, in contrast to the current range of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. This would have a direct impact on Downtown business and activities, especially on parking for Driller baseball games this spring.
Even though the plan is designed to raise fees, it maintains a $1/hour rate (with a two-hour limit).
Another part of Bynum’s plan is to make it easier to pay without using currency but rather a smartphone application. That means more credit card usage for parking.
Some city councilors are worried that the changes will be a hardship on visitors to Downtown, who already complain that the newer systems are hard to understand and difficult to use.
Visitors to the Police Building in the former City Hall Complex are complaining about the elimination of parking meters and the installation of a complicated ticket system using a kiosk. On busy days, long lines have formed at the kiosks as visitors try to figure out the system.
And some of the new multi-pay parking meter stations have displays that are almost impossible to read with instructions that are difficult for infrequent visitors to Downtown. Bynum’s plan also calls for doubling the number of parking meter readers to raise revenue by ticketing cars parked in violation Downtown.