Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg Freezes Over: Free downtown parking to begin next week.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse this morning announced the imminent arrival of free “happy hour” parking in much of downtown.

Spring is in the air, and free parking is on the horizon for much of Harrisburg’s downtown.

Parking within the boundaries of the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District (HDID) will be free after 5 p.m. starting next Monday, April 2, Mayor Eric Papenfuse announced this morning. The free rate will be in effect for a one-year trial period.

Papenfuse stressed this morning that the deal would only apply to metered spots between State and Mulberry streets. Rates will still be enforced at city garages and metered parking spots outside of that zone.

A map of downtown Harrisburg’s coming free parking zone after 5 p.m.

Papenfuse hopes that the targeted elimination of evening parking enforcement will bring more patrons to downtown businesses. Harrisburg City Council approved the deal this month after restaurant owners complained that the current $2 per hour evening parking rate hurt their business revenues.

The policy change comes after Harrisburg entered a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Dauphin County Commissioners and HDID to offset meter costs from 5 to 7 p.m. for meters within the business zone. Harrisburg and Dauphin County will contribute $110,000 each and HDID will kick in $50,000, bringing the total cost of the subsidy to $270,000.

That money will be paid to SP+ and Standard Parking, the entities that took control of Harrisburg’s municipal parking system as part of a debt restructuring plan in 2014. The $270,000 sum represents the total revenue SP+ has collected from meters and enforcement fines between 5 and 7 p.m. in the HDID zone.

Papenfuse said that Monday, April 2, also marks the start of the second business quarter, which will allow SP+, HDID and the local government entities to track the effectiveness of free parking on business revenues. Members of City Council have said that they will only renew the deal next year if it carries a clear economic development incentive.

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