Jeramey Jannene

City Removing Some Downtown Meters

You can now park for free on a portion of E. Knapp St.

By - Jun 28th, 2021 02:14 pm
Two-hour parking sign on E. Knapp St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Two-hour parking sign on E. Knapp St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee drivers in search of free parking now have one more place to look.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) removed the parking meters on E. Knapp St. between N. Milwaukee St. and N. Broadway due to low usage.

“Over the past few years there has been a decline in usage of the parking meters on Knapp,” said DPW spokesperson Brian DeNeve via email to Urban Milwaukee. “This section was on the list prior to the pandemic due to low usage.”

The formerly metered spaces, near the Milwaukee School of Engineering campus, are now available for free, two-hour parking.

E. Knapp St. is located on the north end of Downtown, where parking meters and mid-rise buildings give way to two-hour parking and two-story duplexes.

The change comes as part of DPW’s effort to replace all of the meters serving its approximately 7,000 metered spaces. That effort, which started in East Town in 2018, includes replacing both the coin-operated meters and the approximately 300 LUKE multi-space machines. Most of the new meters, which cost $904 each, serve two parking spaces. All of the new meters accept credit cards in addition to coins.

DPW has yet to implement a 2018-authorized change that allows for market-based, dynamic pricing. It did, however, institute an across-the-board, hourly-rate increase in 2020 that boosted rates from $0.50, $1.00 and $1.50 per hour to $0.75, $1.25 and $2.00 per hour. It was the first increase since 2011.

What is the right price for parking? UCLA professor Donald Shoup has written the seminal book on the matter. In the “High Cost of Free Parking” Shoup explains that street parking should be ideally priced to create an 85 percent occupancy rate; otherwise, a tragedy of the commons occurs. People circling the block looking for hard-to-find spaces create congestion and businesses lose customers because of perceived difficulties in getting to them. The 85% target ensures that a street-parking space is effectively always available.

Alderman Robert Bauman, who sponsored the city’s 2018 legislation, characterized the city’s plan as “making sure some people don’t get free lunches while others get gouged” when it was up for approval.

A DPW formula included in a report attached to the 2018 policy change called for meters to be suspended or eliminated when occupancy rates fell below 30% and prices were already reduced.

DeNeve said the city does not have readily available data on the block’s uage because the prior meter on the block only accepted coins.

A fair number of the spaces on the block, and one to the north, are already free for those driving the right vehicle. The Department of Homeland Security and its U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency lease the office building at 310 E. Knapp St. Multiple on-street spaces are labeled “No Parking Except Law Enforcement Vehicles.”

At the other end of the block, Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton‘s Three Leaf Development has substantially finished construction on a three-unit apartment building at 1245-1247 N. Milwaukee St.

The city budgeted to receive $4.85 million from parking meter revenue in 2021, down from a pre-pandemic estimate of $5.18 million in 2020, but up from 2019’s actual collections of $4.30 million.

Categories: Transportation, Weekly

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