A new parking policy for downtown Buffalo has drawn a lot of ire, caused confusion and resulted in some proposed changes.
The new parking plan, which the Common Council unanimously approved Dec. 26, initially called for reduced free parking and higher rates on downtown streets.
Earlier this week after an online petition fueled opposition to the new parking policy, Council President Darius G. Pridgen and Mayor Byron W. Brown agreed to return some free parking on weeknights and weekends. 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.
Even as the modifications go to the Council Tuesday for a vote, the city wasted no time rolling out the new policy with the changes Thursday night for a Buffalo Sabres game at KeyBank Center "in anticipation that the changes will be adopted," Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer said.
He noted that 103 of the 115 new available spaces were used on Thursday in and around KeyBank Center at $2 per hour from 5 to 10 p.m.
“People will realize these are brand-new spots near the arena, highly accessible and more affordable than current options right now. And in some cases, you might pay $6 or $8 for on-street parking rather than $15, $20 or more for either surface lot or ramp parking," Helfer said.
Readers still had questions about downtown parking, including costs for the new signs as well as clarification on the changes and enforcement of the new parking plan.
Questions were compiled by Digital Engagement Editor Qina Liu and answered by News Reporter Deidre Williams.
From Cassandra Sharrow: How much did all those new signs cost?
A: "Incredibly little" because the city has its own sign shop and workers and the city is reusing "a majority" of the signs needed, said Helfer.
The city has a stockpile of old signs, many of which have been damaged or faded, that have been stripped and can be used for future use at different locations, Helfer said.
"We recycle almost all of our signs. We're reusing them. We already have staff. It's a very minimal cost," Helfer said.
From @mikebhungry: Is paid evening/Saturday parking only in areas surrounding special events?
A: Event parking rates will be in effect on weeknights or Saturdays when shows, concerts and games are happening at KeyBank Center, Canalside, Sahlen Field or Shea's Performing Arts Center and only in the areas surrounding those venues. For example, if there is a Sabres game, event parking would be in effect for streets around KeyBank Center, but if there is nothing going on at Shea's Performing Arts Center that same night, event parking would not apply around Shea's, Helfer said.
How are people, especially out-of-towners, going to know where that area is and when special event parking is being enforced?
A: Read the signs. The signage should tell you," Helfer said.
In addition, the city will post event calendars on the city's website and through media releases. Right now, the city is using message boards, but the plan is to use signage that will say "Event Parking" in effect, Helfer said.
From Gary Borek: Are they going to put up new signs outlining the rules and the exceptions?
A: The signs are the rules and regulations.
"Whatever the sign says are the rules and regulations of the day," Helfer said.
From Edward M. Thomas: Where are the free parking spots?
A: It depends, Helfer said. Parking after 5 p.m. on non-event nights is free. People can park on an event night on streets in a non-event area where parking is free after 5 p.m., he said.
Take a Sabres game, for example, he said. "You can park for free on Pearl Street between Court and Church, walk to the above-ground train and take that for free" to KeyBank Center. So you can go to a Sabres game and pay zero for parking."
Also Perry Street and part of Michigan Avenue are free, Helfer said.
From Jeffrey Block: So when do the tweaks to the new law take effect?
A: The recent changes will be introduced Tuesday during the Common Council meeting and are expected to pass, given the mayor's support.
Right now, "event parking now is only in play for the KeyBank Center/Canalside area in this first phase of new signage," he added. All of the signs will be gradually installed at all of the venues.
"We can't make them all at once," Helfer said.
From Jack Saviola: Still wondering who requested these changes?
A: A lot of the recommendations, ideas and concepts for the new parking plan have come from ongoing discussions with numerous stakeholders in the central business district and from the Buffalo Place Access and Infrastructure task force and its 2016-2018 Downtown Access Study, Helfer said.
From Chris Mierzwa: Any idea if the Buffalo parking enforcement bureau has the ability to electronically monitor expired meters so as to dispatch "meter maids" in an expedited, accurate fashion to write parking tickets as versus relying only on periodic drive-bys for enforcement?
A: "What we do is use technology to make our job more efficient," Helfer said. "For instance, some of our trucks have license plate readers. So when a person uses Buffalo Roam or a Pay and Display machine, they have to put in their license plate number. All that information gets transferred into the license plate reader. So if our enforcement officer is going down the street, they don’t have to get out and walk car-to-car anymore. The technology will read if the meter is paid or expired."