CLEVELAND — Whether you come downtown to live, to work or to play, there’s one thing most in Cleveland can agree on: parking can pose a bit of a predicament.
“The parking situation downtown has always been kind of finicky,” said Karrington Wimbish, who works downtown.
Joshua Fleischer lives in Avon but often comes downtown for Indians games. He said the parking meters that only take change as payment are, rather, inconvenient.
“I think it’s necessary to maintain parking but it is a bit antiquated, to a degree. I think they’re inconvenient in the sense that I don’t carry change a lot with me,” he said.
Ward 3 councilmember Kerry McCormack said he’s gotten calls about the outdated parking system for years.
“I cannot tell you how many people I talk to, whether they’re residents or visitors to downtown Cleveland, or other areas of the city, that find it laughable that we can only pay parking meters with quarters and the issue is a lot of people don’t have quarters, anymore,” he said. "It was needed 15 years ago, quite frankly."
He said as the representative of downtown Cleveland, he knows it affects the business owners and that is why he has pushed for changing the parking system.
“I’ve been pounding the table about this, about how to update the system,” said McCormack. “The city commissioned a study to understand how to update our parking system, quite frankly, they’ve sat on that study for a couple of years now.”
The city paid Desman Design Management in 2019 to create a plan regarding the modernization of street parking. But McCormack said he had to threaten legal action for Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration to release the findings from the consultant.
“I actually had to submit a public records request into the city to get the plan. At first, they refused to give it to me, so we had our attorneys on council threaten a lawsuit to get me the plan,” he said.
Now that he has it, McCormack has asked other council members for a meeting to discuss the proposal.
The plan is set in phases. Phase 1 would start with downtown, Ohio City, Detroit Shoreway and University Circle and then the rest of the city.
It consists of replacing single-space meters with multi-space credit card-enabled kiosks. McCormack said it would also accept payment on an app or cash.
It’s also proposed to use Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) enforcement, which uses cameras to capture digital images of license plates, then a computer to convert plate images into alphanumeric characters.
The plan suggests increasing the hourly rate from $1.00 to $1.50.
“The idea of spending more and getting the same doesn’t appeal to me, but at the same time, I understand that sometimes in order to have new things it costs money,” said Fleischer.
“A 50 cent increase may be a lot to some people, depending where they’re parking but we spend more on a cup of coffee each day, so it can’t be the worst, especially if we are paying for improvements,” she said.
The total cost of the plan is $3,419,000, with a return on investment in 3-4 years, according to the city website.
But McCormack said he believes the return on investment will be exemplified in more than just revenue dollars.
“This is a critical upgrade for the city to make us friendlier to visit, more business-friendly and more accessible,” he said.