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Changes to Albany’s street parking rates accompany 5 p.m. citywide paid parking end

 A parking kiosk along Albany's Central Avenue
Dave Lucas
A parking kiosk along Albany's Central Avenue

Parking in the city of Albany is getting a little less complicated.

The Albany Parking Authority is updating its metered parking system. On-street parking meters that shut off at 6 p.m. will be recalibrated to stop accepting payments one hour earlier, 5 p.m.

Executive Director Matt Peter expects the change will making parking easier for both visitors and small businesses. Downtown Albany meters shut off at 5 p.m., so motorists were often confused and hesitant to park by meters having different hours especially driving away from the heart of the city. Peter, also a county legislator, says the decision to level the parking rules came after the Authority received positive feedback from an experiment conducted in the summer and fall of 2022.

"And so we did a test pilot program of this, up on New Scotland Avenue right across from St. Peter's. And we did it for about three or four months," Peter said. "And what we did is we kept the first two hours the exact same rate, we kept the all day rate the same. And we took the last hour, that was at 6 p.m. and divided it amongst the other hours as far as cost goes. And we tried this out for three or four months. And what we realized, according to the businesses, they saw an uptick in customers. We saw only a minor loss of revenue, sometimes it was a little bit of a gain, sometimes a little bit of loss, but enough to basically be revenue-neutral for the authority. And once that pilot program was successful, some businesses on Central expressed their desire to do that as well, because they understand why the meters are there, but that slight tweak is helping them capture people to stop at their establishment as they're going home."

Peter adds cutting back the hour doesn't really affect authority finances or overall goals. But it might make a big difference for a motorist wanting to make a quick stop at a store on the way home or grab a bite to eat after work without the hassle of having to look for a kiosk and buy a ticket.

11th ward Common Council member Alfredo Balarin agrees establishing a citywide parking meter expiration time removes a hindrance to drivers.

"I think it's good because it makes it consistent with other areas in the city, as well, as it makes it more favorable for small businesses on Central Avenue," Balarin said. "We have to be consistent with how it is, the parking regulations are more closely aligned with other business districts. It just makes good sense."

Peter says the 15-minute lock out period that protected the ParkAlbany App’s progressive meter rates is also being removed, so the app will permit users to continue their parking session in the same zone for up to an hour after that session expires.

"What we've been able to do by working with our provider, Passport companies, who does our third party app, which is the ParkAlbany App, we've been able to say that, OK, if you log out, and if your session ends, and you want to continue your session in the same area for up to an hour, it can follow you in the sense that it continues the rate, and therefore no lockout period is necessary," said Peter. "And that really is something that came from the business community as well as individuals who loved using our app. But sometimes if you just forgot to reload, you were stuck waiting that 15 minutes and you're there worried about a ticket. And so now we've solved that problem. And that plus, the, you know, meters turning off at five, were the two top complaints we've had over the last couple of years and we're happy to make those adjustments."

Peter says that by Wednesday, no parking meter zone in city will extend past 5 p.m. Existing meter rates for the first two hours of parking in most zones will stay the same and there will be no changes to any parking meter zones that currently end before or at 5 p.m.

Peter notes the changes are supported by the Albany Common Council and local business community, and the Authority will continue monitoring commercial corridors.

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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