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CITY-OWNED RAMPS, LOTS TO HIKE FEES ON MAY 1

Parking in downtown Buffalo's city-owned ramps will cost more starting May 1.

For the first time in more than a decade, the city Board of Parking has approved a price hike at its seven ramps and three surface parking lots.

"We've had zero increases in 10 years. In fact, we've had two decreases," said Mayor Anthony M. Masiello. "Nobody likes to see fees go up, but I think people will understand that we're not gouging them."

Under the new parking fee schedule, monthly ramp rates will climb from a current range of $40 to $93, to between $44 and $96. Those who choose reserved monthly parking plans, guaranteeing a specific space in a specific ramp, will pay steeper fees, from a current range of $90 to $115 per month, up to $115 to $140.

The Mohawk Ramp will charge the lowest rates for both categories of monthly parking, while the HSBC Center ramp will charge the most.

Daily fees, which range from $4.50 to $6, will go to a flat maximum rate of $6 per day at all city parking facilities. Hourly rates will remain unchanged at $1.25.

The rate hike is expected to generate an additional $800,000 annually at the city-owned ramps and lots.

Kevin J. Helfer, executive director of Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps, the private board that operates the city's parking facilities, said that overall the price hikes will average out to 6 percent. He also said there was a conscious effort to put the brunt of the increase on reserved spaces.

"The hope is a number of those customers will switch to regular monthly plans, which will free up more spaces for transient parkers," he said. "On any given day, about 20 percent of reserved spaces are sitting empty, but we have to hold them open."

Masiello said it is fair to charge "a premium price for a luxury service."

Of the 8,000 spaces available in city ramps and lots, 4,700 are used for regular monthly parking. A total of 965 slots are used as reserved parking.

The parking ramp operator also is introducing a new, semireserved parking option at the Augspurger Ramp, called "nested monthly" spaces. Instead of being assigned to a specific slot in the ramp, a motorist will have a guaranteed slot in a bank of spaces set aside for those users.

The 86 spaces, on the third floor of the ramp, will cost $100 a month, compared with $125 a month for an exclusive reserved space.

Ellicott District Common Council Member Brian C. Davis, whose district includes several of the ramps, said he doesn't expect a lot of complaints about the higher rates.

"The truth is people are more interested in accessible parking than cheap parking," Davis said.

Davis did, however, criticize the city parking board Civic Auto Ramps for not alerting Council members to the rate hike.

Even with the increases, hourly, daily and monthly fees at most city ramps are still below those charged in 1997, when rates were trimmed for a third time in two years.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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