Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Extends Downtown Parking Meters To 9 P.M., Adds Saturdays

Change intended to make it easier to park, but will also grow city's revenue.

By - Mar 2nd, 2023 10:35 am
New Park-o-Meters in Milwaukee. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

City of Milwaukee smart parking meter. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Those driving to downtown Milwaukee will need to start plugging the meter later into the night and on Saturdays.

The policy change, said parking services manager Thomas Woznick, is intended to make it easier to find a place to park. It’s part of a slow shift to a market-based parking strategy.

“This is something we think is very practical. It’s very sensical,” said Woznick to the Public Safety & Health Committee on Feb. 16. “It will provide more access and availability for parking because those that choose to pay for it will be able to access it. Those that choose to do something else will go somewhere else, off-street parking, some other options. It’s better for traffic. It’s better for access patterns. It’s better for considering options for mobility and access and other transportation modes.” It will also bring the city more revenue.

The policy, unanimously adopted by the Common Council Tuesday, extends parking meters to 9 p.m. and requires the meters to be plugged on Saturday. Time restrictions will end at 4 p.m., avoiding the need to move a vehicle every two hours, but still requiring a meter to be plugged. The policy does not have a specific enactment date.

The city currently has approximately 6,200 parking meters, 4,000 of which are in what the Department of Public Works (DPW) calls the central business district. That area encompasses Westown, East Town, the Historic Third Ward, Deer District, The Brewery District and the Lower East Side south of E. Lyon St.

“The vast majority of that footprint currently has a time restriction between Monday through Friday of [8 a.m. to 6 p.m.],” said Woznick. It will now extend to 9 p.m. and include Saturday. Most of the meters are currently $2 per hour.

Woznick said the policy change would net the city “several hundred thousand dollars a year. It might be more than that a year. It might be up to a million dollars a year annually.” The city is budgeted to receive $4.8 million in parking meter revenue in 2023.

The meters in a half-mile area around Fiserv Forum are already subject to a similar policy when an event takes place, with DPW progressively increasing the hourly rate if nearby off-street parking prices increase.

Woznick said DPW doesn’t see the need for the time restriction after 4 p.m., believing it will see the turnover by simply charging for the space.

A proposal to add Sunday meter parking restrictions, initially proposed alongside the other changes, was held in December by the committee. The committee also initially held the other changes, citing the need for more information. In February, the 9 p.m. and Saturday changes were passed without opposition.

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% occupancy rate, otherwise, a tragedy of the commons occurs, with people circling the block endlessly creating congestion and businesses losing customers because of perceived difficulties in getting to them. Shoup’s theory calls for lowering parking prices if too few spaces are being used.

A report produced by DPW in 2018 details a local formula to be followed, with these dynamic rates:

  • When average occupancy is between 80‐100%, the hourly rate will be increased by $0.25
  • When average occupancy is between 60‐80%, the hourly rate will not be changed
  • When average occupancy is between 30‐60%, the hourly rate will be lowered by $0.25
  • When average occupancy is less than 30%, the hourly rate may be further reduced by $0.25 increments or lifted entirely

But DPW is not implementing the dynamic model at this point.

As of 2018, a DPW report found that the city had the fifth-lowest meter rates out of 14 large Midwestern cities. That year, the council authorized raising the three hourly base parking rates to $0.75, $1.25 and $2.00 per hour. It was the first increase since 2011, but wasn’t implemented by DPW until June 2020.

DPW, according to a spokesperson, does not have an immediate schedule for implementing the extended meter hours.

Categories: City Hall, Weekly

5 thoughts on “Milwaukee Extends Downtown Parking Meters To 9 P.M., Adds Saturdays”

  1. Mzalewski says:

    Effective When ??

  2. says:

    They make it sound like upping the parking fees will be something we will really like. It will be better for us. 😩

  3. dnarvey says:

    I like the city having a million dollars a year to provide other services, and don’t mind paying a dollar when I need to temporarily store my 3,500 pound vehicle on city property.

  4. Polaris says:

    Not to be overly snarky, but up to a million dollars a year could well cover the fines needed to make whole the victims of city police and alders…

  5. Kevin Germino says:

    As a regular customer Downtown I’m excited to see this change. There’s a lot of times where I’d like to quickly stop in somewhere but don’t want to deal with the parking hassle. It’s much easier to park during the weekday when the meters are on

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