Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Park Here: Harrisburg weighs renewing free downtown parking deal

It was hard to find a place to park on N. 2nd Street early on Tuesday night, as motorists took advantage of free parking after 5 p.m. in downtown Harrisburg.

Free parking may stay on the menu in downtown Harrisburg, as City Council tonight introduced a measure that would extend complimentary street parking for another year.

If approved, the resolution would offer free street parking in most of downtown after 5 p.m., an arrangement that has been in effect since April 2018.

“I certainly hope it will be renewed for another year,” Mayor Eric Papenfuse said, following Tuesday’s council session. “I think it’s been extremely successful.”

The current, one-year agreement actually expired on April 1, but the parties involved agreed to extend it through the month, until it could be renewed for another year, Papenfuse said.

Technically, the resolution would allow the city to enter into an agreement with Dauphin County and the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District (HDID) to split the $270,000 price tag. The city’s share would be $110,000, with Dauphin County, which has already approved the agreement, also kicking in $110,000. HDID would cover the remaining $50,000.

That money would be paid to Trimont Real Estate Advisors, the asset manager for the parking system. Trimont, along with operator SP+ (locally, Park Harrisburg), took control of the city’s municipal parking system as part of a debt-restructuring plan in 2014. The $270,000 sum represents the total revenue that SP+ had collected from meters and enforcement fines between 5 and 7 p.m. in the HDID zone, which ranges roughly from State Street to just past Chestnut Street (see graphic below).

Papenfuse said that the city has already accounted for the expected expense as part of its 2019 budget, with the money originating from its share of parking revenues.

HDID’s Executive Director Todd Vander Woude tonight said that he enthusiastically backed another year of free evening street parking. HDID members, many of which are restaurant owners, have reported increased happy hour and dinner business over the last year since the free parking went into effect, he said.

“I’ve heard very positive things from businesses and customers alike,” he said. “There’s been an increase in downtown business. It’s all been very positive.”

The resolution also requests a city contribution to continue another parking program—the four hours of free street parking on Saturdays enabled by using the code “LUV HBG” for users of the ParkMobile app.

That code went into effect more than four years ago to try to help businesses that said they were being harmed by the $3-per-hour charge for Saturday street parking, which had been free when the city ran the parking system.

Trimont had never requested payment before for revenue allegedly lost through use of the app. However, according to the resolution, it now is requesting $90,000 for the next year. The administration is asking council to approve $40,000 to cover the city’s portion of the payment.

Papenfuse said that the city and HDID would make a presentation to council on the resolution during an upcoming work session. A vote, he hoped, would follow at the following legislative session in two weeks.

“To me, this is an example of something that’s worked extremely well,” he said. “It’s been successful.”

Continue Reading