Two weeks after the Phoenix City Council implemented the first phase of a large parking meter restructuring, students and residents of the downtown community are still feeling the effects of these changes.
As of Aug. 18, the parking meter hours at 2,000 meters have been extended an additional five hours and during weekends and holidays. Starting in October and November, Phoenix will switch to a demand-based meter pricing system.
Leon Woodward, who owns the parking lot north of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on EastFillmore Street between Central Avenue and First Street, said he feels this change is not good for the Downtown community and its ASU students.
“They’re going to screw the kids over,” said Woodward. “And if it weren’t for the kids, we would not have a campus. They’re screwing the people that are making this campus.”
He points out there are free spots available around downtown, but they are not always easy to get or are inconvenient for students.
Woodward said an example of this is right down the block on the northwest corner of Fillmore and Seventh Street, where the University of Arizona Cancer Center is being built.
Meters along Fifth Street, Pierce Street, McKinley Street and Garfield Street have been removed to accommodate the large group of construction workers who are working on the site.
However, some meters on the other side of some streets remain, like at Phoenix Union Bioscience High School.
Woodward said the city makes an exception for the construction workers by allowing them to park for free. He said he believes this exception is a double standard within Phoenix’s parking meter agenda.
This decision by the city council is not illegal, but Woodward said he thinks it is immoral.
Cost and Effect of Changes
During a Phoenix City Council meeting on July 28, the council agreed to extend parking meter hours an additional five hours. Meters will now run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, including holidays.
The first phase of Phoenix’s two-phase parking plan, along with several other changes to the city’s budget, is now in motion to help fill a $38 million budget gap.
In October and November, Phoenix will implement the second phase of its parking plan. Following in the footsteps of most major cities, such as San Francisco, meter rates will now run on a demand basis.
As of Aug. 18, the hourly rate for parking in downtown Phoenix is $1.50. When the second phase is implemented later in 2014, the city can adjust meter rates anywhere between $0.50 an hour and $4 an hour depending on which parking zone a meter is in.
The amount of activity occurring in the downtown area such as sporting events or other special interest events will directly affect the meter rates.
Additionally, Phoenix has devoted $300,000 to replace older meter models that only took coins with new smart meters that accept both credit cards and coins.
The board has also allocated $250,000 to roll out meters in “Future Zone 4,” which will be between Roosevelt and Fillmore streets.
Rick Hudson, who is on Phoenix’s Development Advisory Board, estimated operating costs, in the 2014-15 year, for ten months are $868,000, up about $150,000 from this current year, according to Hudson.
As for a full year, in the 2015-16 year, the expected operating costs are estimated to be around $900,000, Hudson said.
According to a City Council report, these changes are expected to bring in $800,000, after implementation costs, to General Fund Revenue in 2014-15.
Some students feel entitled to reduced parking rates. Nursing alumna Darby Ball expressed her view.
“I think the rates are fair,” Ball said. “I do feel that (students) should have lower parking rates since we’re already paying a lot for tuition. We can’t afford it.”
On a normal, busy day, parking meters can fill up quickly, causing students to park further away from campus. Sometimes these areas that are further away are not always the safest.
A concern for students who have to park further away from campus, not in designated University lots, is safety. It is no secret that some areas that surround the Downtown campus are not entirely safe.
During the Phoenix City Council Meeting in June, after discussing the implementation of smart-meters, Mayor Greg Stanton and Vice Mayor Jim Waring hinted at the concerns for public safety in a brief interaction.
“We hope in the very near future that there will be no more dirt lots to park in downtown Phoenix,” Stanton said.
“Yes, I almost got mugged at one of them once,” Waring said. “Three guys accosted me — dicey.”
Safety is not something to joke about; it is a legitimate concern for students. Sometimes, a street over from campus is not safe, even in a car.
Urban management graduate student Alison Richardson said she was nearly carjacked in broad daylight.
Richardson said while she was at a stoplight on Central, a man who was pretending to talk on his cellphone suddenly rushed to her car and attempted to break into her car.
She reacted instantly and sped away, crossing the light rail tracks back into traffic and parked in the visitor parking lot at the Cronkite School.
Richardson explained her situation to an ASU police officer in the lobby of the Cronkite School. The officer said that it was not in ASU’s jurisdiction.
The officer notified the Phoenix Police Department, but by the time they arrived, the man had already fled the scene.
“I was going to the University Center to go study,” said Richardson. “I have night classes; my classes go from 6 to 8:45 at night. There’s no way I’m walking down to the Fourth Avenue lot at night.”
Another concern for other students, including Richardson, is the convenience of public transportation. Richardson and all Downtown campus students have been encouraged to take public transportation instead of parking at meters.
That may work well for undergraduate students who are living on-campus, but for professional graduate students like Richardson who may live off campus, and at times very far away, public transportation may not work well for them.
Richardson, who lives in Laveen, said that she and her family will occasionally take public transportation to downtown. However, she said it still isn’t a viable option for them because of how far away they live.
Communicating with Students
Communication between the city council, ASU and students could have been better, Richardson said.
“I don’t think anybody was informed about what was going on. They didn’t consider our perspective as students,” said Richardson. “By the time that students realized what was happening, everyone was gone for the summer. (The vote) could have turned out differently if it would have happened right now.”
It took Richardson calling her councilwoman, ASU and the ASU Transportation Department to find out how the parking changes would affect ASU students. And even then, their answers were not clear, Richardson said.
With the new law school being built adjacent to Taylor Place, it has only knocked out more parking space and may cause a larger parking problem when the project is complete, she said.
Richardson feels ASU should expand the evening parking pass to include weekends in order to accommodate students who have weekend classes.
She encourages the University to continue to communicate with Phoenix and work together on a solution to accommodate the needs of the students.
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this article misspelled Phoenix Vice Mayor Jim Waring’s name. This version has been updated to the correct spelling.
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