Park CR, Downtown Businesses Evaluate New Parking System

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- New parking meters have decorated downtown Cedar Rapids for about six months. But some people still question whether the new meters actually help, or cause more parking headaches. In October, new pay stations replaced the coin operated parking meters.

The new meters are energy efficient and offer more payment options for customers. But some area business owners say the new pay stations are actually hurting downtown.

"I get a lot of people that come in here and they're not just angry, they're furious," said Simply Divine Owner Melanie Primasing.

Simply Divine Owner Melanie Primasing says it's a daily concern over the city's new parking pay stations.

"They went and changed the meter before making more spaces. The problem's never been the meters; it's always been the spaces," said Primasing.

But Primasing says the new pay stations only made matters worse because they're confusing and too spaced out. Park Cedar Rapids General Manager Jon Rouse disagrees.

"One of the reasons we made that change was to allow the customers several payment options," said Rouse.

Like using a debit or credit card. But Primasing says the bad outweighs the good.

"Customers tell me they are not coming downtown anymore. That's what really breaks my heart and hurts all of us," said Primasing.

"There's also some concern over where the handicap spaces are located. So if you park here that means you'd have to walk at least 30 yards to get to the nearest pay station to pay for your space.

"The pay by phone method is a very good alternative and we're actually holding a focus group in the next couple of weeks to address some of those issues," said Rouse.

Rouse says it's a learning curve for the city, businesses, and drivers. He says his department educates the public on how to use the machines and gave drivers a grace period by handing out more warnings than citations.

"It usually takes a good year and a half to two years to have these things fully implemented where everybody understands it," said Rouse.

Rouse says they're targeting certain areas like near the Armstrong Building where overtime violations are more common. Primasing says it's costing her valuable business. Her solution...

"Just because you spend a whole lot of money for a system doesn't mean you keep it. Sometimes you cut your losses," said Primasing.

Primasing says other downtown businesses have to operate under a "good neighbor policy" and not allow their employees or staff to park in customers' spaces along the downtown streets. Rouse says the new pay stations should give the city a 20% increase in revenue compared to the old meters.
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