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Albany Mayor Announces New Parking Initiative

Battling a long-held perception that there's no parking in downtown Albany, Mayor Kathy Sheehan joined the Albany Parking Authority and the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District this morning to herald free parking on the street and in city garages on weeknights and weekends in the downtown area.

"These changes send a message: downtown is open for business. It's open for visitors, it's open for residents, it's open nights, it's open weekends, and that's good for business," said Sheehan.

APA Chair Kevin O'Connor says the start of free parking on downtown streets rolls back from 6 to 5 p.m.  "On nights and weekends we've determined that our 2,600 spaces in our garages will be free to the parking public in downtown. The other side of this is that we're going to make it more expensive for people to park longterm on the streets. You can park at any one of our garages for $11 all day long. On the streets now it's going to go from $21 up to $30 for all-day parking on the streets. It's a very expensive thing to do. It's not where people should be parking, but some people have been doing that. So we want to incent people to use our garages and the other public and private garages downtown."

City officials note that over $180 million has been invested in the last year in the downtown area,  and 110 new market residential units are expected to come online there over the next month. The new free parking plan serves a triple purpose: making living downtown a more attractive idea; making the city more tourist and business friendly; and giving people already in town an incentive to linger instead of dashing to their vehicles to avoid paying for another hoursworth of parking.

New York state Senator Neil Breslin says the new plan will enhance the city.  "To get the revitalization going we're looking at apartment units that are going to be ready for occupancy shortly, and the numbers that are beginning to come together. The first ones are the hardest. Then you get that core group and it begins to build, and now the parking improvements. I know folks who get out of work here at Environmental Conservation, 5 o'clock, now they don't have to worry about parking."

Sheehan agrees.  "That's really what we're hoping for, is that you don't worry about having to go and move your car or put more money in the meter. There should be more on-street parking available as a result of this, but then also being able to stay in the garages, because you're not gonna be charged. Right now we only have one garage of the parking authority garages that's open on the weekends, but the parking authority's gonna look at that, and as demand increases and as technology comes online that allows us to explore being able to keep garages open for more hours, that's another thing that we're looking at.

The changes further Mayor Sheehan’s Downtown economic development strategy that’s been guided by the community-driven Albany 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

Sheehan says parking rules will not change in areas outside of the BID.

It was not immediately clear if the city’s new residential parking permit program, now in effect in the Center Square area after years of discussion, could expand to downtown.

The new free parking, made possible through a collaborative funding partnership between the APA and Downtown Albany BID, is already in effect.

  • The parking changes are as follows:

On-street Parking

Payment at meters within the Downtown Albany BID will now be free starting at 5 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, a change that will affect 420 street parking spots. Street parking will remain free on Saturdays and Sundays within the BID.

Meter rates will remain the same for the first two hours during the day, but rates for those who stay longer are being increased to encourage turnover. In hours three to five, the meter increases 50 cents per hour. In hours six through nine, parking will increase $1 per hour. The graduated fee structure encourages on-street parking availability for shorter-term customers of Downtown businesses. Visitors who want longer-term parking can use off-street facilities and save money. All-day on-street parking will now cost $30.25 compared to $11 in APA garages.

Off-street APA Garage Parking

Previously at APA's three Downtown garages, it cost $2 to park starting at 6 p.m. on weeknights and $5 per day on weekends. Now, parking at all three APA garages will be free from 5 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday, a change that will apply to the 2,600 parking spots in the three Downtown APA parking garages.

Free weekend parking will be provided at the Riverfront Garage, located at Columbia and Broadway, which is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. The Riverfront Garage has 800 parking spots.

The other two APA garages—the Green-Hudson Garage, located at Hudson Avenue and Green Street, and the Quackenbush Garage, located on Orange Street between Broadway and Water Street—are not open on weekends. But in October, the Green-Hudson Garage will be open 24/7, and also will provide free weekend parking.

Through a partnership with First Niagara Bank and the Palace Theatre, free parking also is available at the Quackenbush Garage for all Palace Theatre events. The garage is open during and for two hours after Palace events finish so patrons can enjoy Albany’s nightlife.

The evening and weekend free parking rates do not apply during other special events Downtown, when special rates are in effect. (Specific information related to upcoming events, garage availability, and pricing can be found on the APA’s website at parkalbany.org.)

Additional Downtown parking information can be found on the following websites:  albanyny.gov, and downtownalbany.org.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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