City needs to do something about long lines at Santa Cruz’s new ‘paystations,’ reader says

Dear Street Smarts, Q: I enjoy your Street Smarts column and read it regularly. Here's a complaint and question about the new parking lot kiosks for buying time in the previously-free parking garages. Most of the time, including this past weekend when my wife and I went downtown to participate in the Cabrillo Music Festival's street fair at the Civic, we've encountered 5-10 minute lines at all the parking kiosks in the old Cedar/ Church Street parking structure. It's not people's fault that they can't immediately understand how to operate these kiosk meters, but it's very annoying when you have to wait 5-10 minutes to pay for something that used to be free. And when you're running to an appointment, this must be especially aggravating. In my opinion these kiosk meters aren't very user-friendly -- especially if you want to add time -- and there are too few of them, hence the frequent long lines waiting to pay and the frustration among those who have to wait. If the city is going to put these kiosks in, at least install enough of them to handle the demand, I recommend doubling the number of kiosks because I have yet to find one without at least two people -- and often 4-8 -- waiting to pay ahead of me, especially in the evening. Individual parking meters are so much easier and quicker. I'm sure downtown merchants are being hurt by fewer shoppers who have given up on parking downtown now that it's almost never free anymore and these kiosks lines are so prevalent. Is it really worth these aggravations to shop or visit downtown? After this past weekend, I'm beginning to have my doubts. My main question: Since it seems to be strictly a money issue for the city, does the income from these new parking garage kiosks really compensate for the tax revenue lost from those who are no longer willing to shop downtown because of the cost and annoyance where it used to be free? Niels Sundermeyer, Santa Cruz A: In response to the first part of your question, two new parking “paystations” are on their way to the Cedar/Church Street Garage, said Marlin Granlund, the city’s parking program manager. “They will be shipped from the manufacturer on August 26,” he said. In regard to fiscal impact of the new pay parking kiosks, “the use of the lot is actually increasing from when we first installed the machines,” said Granlund. The new machines were installed in March. “We have gone from 17,000 transactions per month to over 21,000 transactions per month and our revenue from parking as gone from an average of $4,500 per week to $6,000 per week," he said.
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