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City moving to offer free parking Saturdays

Motorists who park at meters in downtown's business district on Saturdays wouldn't have to worry about getting tickets under a plan that Mayor Byron W. Brown and a majority of Common Council members are pushing.

It would end confusion over which downtown streets require meters to be fed on Saturdays. And it would go one step further, expanding the boundaries for free Saturday parking to other downtown streets.

The Public Works Department is proposing that zone be extended to include some streets around the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and in northern parts of Allentown.

Currently, metered parking is supposed to be free on weekends on about two-thirds of all downtown streets. There's only one problem: signs on many of the streets still have outdated information saying that parking is only free on Sundays.

Legally, motorists could still be ticketed until new signs are installed that reflect the new policies.

But Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson told The Buffalo News on Friday that as soon as the Council approves the plan, he will direct officers not to ticket vehicles parked at downtown meters on Saturdays. City parking enforcement officers have not issued any weekend tickets in the central business district.

Public Works Commissioner Joseph N. Giambra said all new signs should be installed by early summer. The city has a contractor to help with the task.

The plan is being advanced in the wake of a parking enforcement blitz by police officers in all parts of the city. Downtown business leaders complained that some motorists were being unfairly ticketed on weekends.

"Free Saturday parking is important because we want to bring people into downtown Buffalo on weekends," said Brown. "We want them to see all that downtown has to offer."

Council members echoed that view, and five lawmakers are sponsoring legislation that would make the central business district a free parking zone on Saturdays.

Antoine M. Thompson, of Masten, and Joseph Golombek Jr,. of North, are the lead sponsors. Brian C. Davis, of Ellicott, Richard A. Fontana, of Lovejoy, and Michael P. Kearns, of South, are co-sponsors.

The Public Works Department has filed a companion bill that spells out geographic boundaries where free weekend metered parking would be permitted.

The zone would start on the southeast line of Georgia Street at Erie Basin Marina, run to West Mohawk Street, then to South Elmwood Avenue and Virginia Street. It would extend east on Virginia Street to Delaware Avenue, and east along North Street to Michigan Avenue. It would extend south on Michigan to South Park Avenue and to the Buffalo Harbor and Erie Basin Marina.

Officials stressed the plan does not affect existing parking laws in other parts of the city, including the Elmwood Strip and the Hertel business district, where meters must be fed on Saturdays.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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