Editorial: Fix parking in York City

York Dispatch
  • A new study showed that about half of the parking spaces downtown are empty during the day.
  • York City needs to change its parking prices.

Parking problems in downtown York are all in your head.

That's the conclusion of an audit by Desman Design, a firm the city paid $85,000 to take a hard look at York City's parking situation and see where the troubles are.

The report, based on use of the city's parking spots on two days in the spring, found that York has plenty of parking. People just don't like to use it.

The firm found 792 on-street parking spots in the central business district, 113 of them not metered, and 2,424 publicly accessible spots in lots and garages.

Audit: York City has parking, but people don't use it

And there are always empty spots, the study found, The survey kept track of parking 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 31 and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. April 1, and the on-street spots were never more than 56 percent full and the off-street spots never more than 45 percent full.

So why do Yorkers always think there's nowhere to park downtown?

York City has a mix of city-run and privately owned public parking around its downtown area.

To finesse it a bit, we're frugal and we aren't inclined to walk too far to get to our destination. To be blunt: We're cheap and lazy.

Business owners hear it all the time: There's nowhere to park. What the customers mean is, there isn't a spot directly in front of your store, preferably where someone else has already paid the meter for the 15 minutes I plan to be here.

Let's be real. If you go to Baltimore, Harrisburg, even Lancaster, you'll expect to pay to park somewhere, and you'll expect to walk more than 10 steps to get where you're going. York is a city too, and people going to the shops or offices should have the same expectations.

What's next for York City parking?

There's also the disparity between the cost of parking at a meter and the cost in a city-owned garage.

Meters cost $1 an hour. Garages cost $2.50 an hour. Who would expect any self-respecting Yorker to pay more for a garage when he could continue to drive around the block and find a metered spot for cheaper?

Desman noted this in its study, but recommendations on what to do about it will come later.

We can give the recommendation right now: Switch the prices.

Early in 2015, Pam Zerba, head of the city's General Authority, which runs the city's parking, asked the city council to increase meter prices and lower prices for the garages. But it didn't happen.

We understand that it's hard to tell merchants that customers are going to have to pay more to park on the street, but let's face it, the best way to get Yorkers to change their behavior is to give them a financial incentive. If it's cheaper to park in a garage, Yorkers will park in the garage. They'll complain about having to walk to their destination, but they'll do it.

And really, walking is what a downtown area is all about. Park in a garage, walk to your destination, maybe see another place you want to stop by, maybe grab a snack. Enjoy being outside, see other people walking around. Don't worry about whether your meter has run out and you're getting a ticket.

If the city really wants to attract people downtown and keep them there, it's time to stop studying the matter and take steps to fix it.