CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — For some people, it was the little things during the pandemic that made a very tough year, easier. One of those things was free parking in Downtown Cleveland and some surrounding suburbs. But, now that health mandates have ended, tickets are coming back in the metro.
Unless you're in some suburbs.
For more than a year, drivers coming to Cleveland Heights found plastic covers over all the parking meters and a big sign hanging outside the parking garage. The "free parking" message cannot be missed.
Noah Carter has been working at Eddy's Barbershop off Coventry for nearly a year.
"The garage usually has spots available," he said. "It's been awesome. You don't have to worry about if your meter is going to run out or anything like that."
Leadership here started free parking to support local business during the pandemic; an incentive to get people back in the small downtown area.
Carter said it was good for customers too. They didn't have to run out after an appointment or worry about not having enough money in change.
"They can just hang out and do what they need to do," Carter said about the change he's seen in customer behavior during the last year.
The benefits of free parking aren't just for customers. Residents have taken advantage of the covered meters too.
For Ben Shepard, a free spot meant not having to rush through an oil change in his car.
"Living in the Coventry area, it's probably saved me $100 so far this year," he said. "We appreciate it. We don't expect it to last."
And in Downtown Cleveland, it won't last.
Recently, bright green flyers on car windshields tell drivers parking enforcement will be coming back on July 6.
Parking tickets and meters bring in revenue for the city. Numbers requested from News 5 show that in 2018 and 2019, parking meters brought in $1.8 million. The lockdowns and health orders that kept people at home during the pandemic dropped 2020 revenue to $565,000. But, officials expect a bounce back for 2021. They project meters in Cleveland will bring in around $800,000.
Cleveland Heights did not respond to News 5's request for revenue numbers.
Not everyone is looking forward to the change.
Leonard Paul thinks the nickel and diming of drivers doesn't have to come back.
"All it's going to do is make people come down here less," Paul said about any potential fallout from the change.