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Charging stations for electric cars coming to downtown ramps

Charging stations for electric cars are coming to downtown.

Parking officials want to install 16 charging stations in the eight downtown city-owned parking ramps: Main Place, Mohawk, Adam, One Seneca, Turner, Augspurger, Fernbach and Gallagher.

Each will have two stations, Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer said.

"This is obviously the wave of the future. It’s environmentally friendly," Helfer said.

The Parking Department conducted an informal review of the number of electric cars that use the ramps.

"There are about 20 to 30 on any given day," Helfer said.

The initial plan is for drivers to continue paying the $7 daily rate for the ramp or enter on their monthly passes, which about 80 percent of the customers at the eight ramps have, he said. For now, motorists will not have to pay extra to use the charging station, but that may change, Helfer said.

"How many people are using it every day? How long is the average charge? How much electricity are we consuming? What is our cost?" Helfer said of potential factors that could lead to an extra fee. "Once we have that data, then we’ll probably modify the program around it. It’ll be a policy decision, but we wanted to make sure through our data analysis that we get maximum utilization out of the spots."

Planners do not have a firm date right now for when the charging stations will be up and running, said Samuel F. Iraci Jr., executive director of Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps, which manages the eight ramps for the city.

But officials are hoping to have everything up and running by the summer, or September at the latest, Helfer said.

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus already has free charging stations on Ellicott Street, Helfer said. Someone pulls up to the parking meter, pays for the parking space and charges their car, as well.

"They’re paying for the parking spot – similar to here. You’re paying for a parking spot, too," he said of the city’s ramps.

At the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, people also can charge their electric vehicles for free with parking. Three charging stations are available in the daily/hourly parking garage.

Kohl’s department store on Delaware Avenue in North Buffalo has a free charging station in its parking lot.

"Get a charge while you shop," reads a sign at the parking spot where the station is located.

The estimated cost of the City of Buffalo’s project is $195,201, Helfer said. A grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Zero Emission Vehicle & Infrastructure Rebate Program would cover $162,688 of the projected cost. The Common Council this week authorized the Parking Department to execute a contract with the DEC to get the funding.

The remaining $32,533 for the project will be paid by the city out of the parking enterprise fund, Helfer said. The fund finances ramp improvements, using parking revenues to pay off the debt.

The Parking Department now will request proposals for the charging equipment, software and installation of the charging stations. But if the bids come in too high, the city will contract with the New York Power Authority, which has purchased electric vehicle charging stations and software in bulk at a reduced priced, Helfer said. BCAR staffers will handle ongoing maintenance of the charging stations.

There will be marketing and signage to let people know the charging stations are available,  Helfer said.

"Anything that we can do to reduce the carbon footprint is good for the city," Helfer said. "I think it is logical that the more locations that have charging stations, the more likely it is that electric cars will be in demand."


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