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Cruel timing for meter-rate hike

This is the wrong time for the City Council to do so, in our view.

No one should be surprised to see a proposal come before the council to double parking meter rates. Parking meter rates have been an ongoing discussion for the past six years, and with good reason. Parking meter fees are supposed to help support capital improvements to the city’s parking ramps. There is work that will need to be done on those ramps whether the city has the money in its parking fund — and the only other way to pay for that work is through property taxes.

This is a problem, then, that is coming to a head after six years of festering.

The council’s unwillingness to take any sort of action for more than half a decade, however, should not penalize businesses now dealing with another shutdown from Gov. Tom Wolf. January and February are typically slow months for small businesses in the first place. In 2021 the state has added a three-week shutdown of many small businesses, which means many people’s disposable income will shrink even more. Downtown businesses don’t need another strike against them now in the form of higher parking rates.

With the benefit of hindsight, the council would have been better served to increase parking rates a little bit at a time to arrive at a rate that makes the parking fund sustainable. They chose not to do that.

Past mistakes do not mean an all-or-nothing approach is the proper path now. Perhaps the best path forward is a mix of a slight parking meter fee increase and an increase in tax revenue while a parking rate fee increase plan is put into place.

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