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After thousands sign petition, Buffalo to return some free parking

Common Council President Darius Pridgen on Wednesday responded to the widespread uproar over reduced free parking and higher rates on downtown streets by calling to return some free parking on weeknights and weekends.

Mayor Byron Brown met with Pridgen and agreed to the changes, said mayoral spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge.

"Working on making amendments to the parking policy," Pridgen said in a tweet Wednesday.

The new higher rates will remain, but some free parking appears to be coming back.

There are no two-hour limits on parking on downtown streets. The new parking policy approved the day after Christmas did not call for two-hour limits, but many people were confused by all of the changes and thought two-hour limits were being implemented at night.

Pridgen's resolution calling for changes, to be introduced Tuesday, is expected to pass given the mayor's support.

Under Pridgen's resolution, metered parking on weeknights and on Saturdays would be in effect only during major events downtown, such as games and concerts at KeyBank Center, Canalside, Shea's Performing Arts Center and Sahlen Field.

He also wants parking officials to do a better job of informing the public about parking policy changes.

On Dec. 26, the Common Council voted unanimously to approve parking changes in the Central Business District. The changes included ending free parking on weeknights and Saturdays, raising metered fees to up to $2 an hour and adding several hundred street parking spots.

That night, Reba Allen, a downtown restaurant worker, started an online petition to protest the parking changes.

By Wednesday, more than 21,000 people had signed the petition.

"I think that's amazing," Allen said when told of Pridgen's resolution.

"My concern is for the everyday person who has to work downtown. I'm really happy about that development," she added.

She also credited state Sen. Chris Jacobs, who asked Common Council members in a letter to rescind the policy.

"This new parking policy is a very significant change, both in terms of a major increase in hourly parking rates and the times those parking must pay," Jacobs wrote before Pridgen filed the resolution.

City worker Nick Long put up a new parking sign in the Cobblestone District. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Earlier Wednesday, city workers were busy installing new parking signs in the Cobblestone District and around Canalside.

Dharold West, a property manager in the Cobblestone District, said he noticed the new signs indicating paid parking from 4 to 10 p.m. on Mississippi Street. He pointed to the signs that said the metered parking can only be paid through the Buffalo Roam parking app.

"What if you don't have a credit card?" he asked.

But some think the new fees would mean more revenue for the city, plus free up parking for more motorists by discouraging some from parking their cars for long periods of time, especially in the Cobblestone District.

"If anything, it's going to help the city," said Carrie Hocieniec, an administrative assistant with the Erie County IDA who was taking a break on Perry Street.

Sandra Wilkins, co-owner of Raclettes Buffalo on Main Street, and other business owners, were worried about how the metered parking at night would affect them.

She said she's not opposed to the price increases, but worried that customers would avoid downtown, especially during the colder winter months.

"People want to be in close proximity and Buffalo Place worked so well with the business owners when they put the 'Cars on Main' to make sure that the businesses had plenty of parking available – metered until 5 p.m.," she said.

Fewer free parking spots in Buffalo? Online petition fuels opposition

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