Metered Parking Spaces Debut in Downtown Roanoke

 For the next 90 days Park Roanoke – the private firm that manages the paid parking spots for the city – will conduct a pilot program that entails about 5 percent – around 65 spaces – of street parking spaces in the city that will now be metered, 7 meters in all. It’s an effort to free up more short term parking spots on downtown city streets; something merchants have been seeking in the past.

The first hour is free; the second will cost a dollar and the next hour is three dollars, with a three hour maximum. Payment information isn’t entered unless more than the first free hour is needed. Coins and most credit/debits cards (no AMEX) are accepted and payment can also be made via an app. Drivers will enter their license plate number into a “Smart Meter” kiosk to start the process.

The goal is to make more spaces available for those that just want to dart in, pick something up quickly and then leave before they have to pay. After 90 days the pilot program will be evaluated – and could either expand or go away – depending on the results.

Wyatt Poats is the general manager for Park Roanoke.  He said “it is a bit of a change” for those not used to metered parking (although Roanoke did have parking meters downtown at one time) and they would work with motorists during the pilot program – even with those that may pull away without making the necessary payment.

“There is the potential to receive a citation, but again, early on we are going to make sure people understand it. We want to increase the [spaces available] so people will come downtown.”

Poats said downtown merchants have been supplying positive feedback about the change in recent months; the concept of reintroducing metered parking downtown has been discussed for years. “I think a lot of folks understand that there is a parking supply challenge and this is designed to create more parking on street.”  There’s a survey online at ParkRoanoke.com where feedback is also welcomed, said Poats.

Similar machines have already been installed in the surface lots that Park Roanoke also manages, so the technology isn’t entirely new to the area. The pilot program is only in effect Monday-Friday from 8am to 5pm through late September. “More parking, more access,” is how Poats sums it up.

Gene Marrano