New parking meter program coming downtown

Christina Bucciere

The city of Kent will install 225 smart parking meters downtown by the end of October.

The Parking Action Committee, comprised of representatives from downtown businesses and city staff members, made the recommendation to install the meters to Kent City Council in response to complaints that parking spaces weren’t available for retailers and restaurants downtown. The council approved the purchase in January.

The parking meters are the next phase in the “comprehensive parking plan” the city developed to match the parking needs of the growing downtown business sector, and the purchase will cost the city about $179,130 for the meters and the posts, said Bridget Susel, director of community development.

The meters are the same as those installed on Kent State’s campus, and accept coins, credit and debit cards, as well as pay-by-phone and contactless payment methods.

Susel said the city anticipates the rate will be $1 per hour for a maximum of two hours.

“The goal of the program is to facilitate greater turnover of the on-street parking in the central business district in order to provide more options for the patrons who visit the variety of service and retail commercial establishments operating in the city’s newly revitalized downtown,” she said.

It is estimated that the city will collect 75 cents for every $1 spent, and the remaining 25 cents will go to the meter company, IPS Group, Susel said.

The PAC met Sept. 19 and approved a motion to recommend to City Council during its next session that the meters initially be active during regular business hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

“This is with the understanding that the hours and days of operation will likely be reduced as data collected from the meters provides a better understanding of the peak daytime utilization periods, higher volume parking locations and daytime usage rates for the work week, as compared to the weekend,” Susel said.

The PAC and city council anticipate discussing the various aspects of the on-street metered parking program, including proposed recommendations for various aspects of its implementation, at the Oct. 1 Council Committee session.

The next phase in the parking plan will be to review current surface parking lots and existing permitting systems to assess whether any changes are need, Susel said.

Bob Mayfield, co-owner of McKay Bricker Gallery and member of the PAC, said when his store moved downtown about five-and-a-half years ago, he saw parking would be a problem for his customers.

Mayfield joined the PAC three years ago to help provide a solution after receiving comments from patrons that parking was difficult to find because employees of the downtown businesses were parking in front of storefronts.

“Customers should be able to park right in front of the store,” Mayfield said. “The parking meters allow us to increase the turnover and provide spaces because somebody who works downtown for eight or nine hours a day is not going to park at a meter all day long.”

Contact Christina Bucciere at [email protected].