City ponders plan to add parking meters on campus, downtown
The Stevens Point city officials held a meeting with local stakeholders to discuss its plan to add metered parking around the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus, in the downtown area and on some residential streets.
In 2015, the city commissioned a parking needs analysis to determine the city’s current parking stock and where it could improve parking services. The study also identified missed opportunities around the city for metered parking revenue.
After review of the parking study, city officials and the Community Development Department drafted a three-phased plan to update parking in Stevens Point. Phase I includes plans to install kiosk-metered parking on the streets around UWSP’s campus as well as some streets in residential neighborhoods close to campus under the assumption students often park for free there.
Phase II includes plans to add kiosks to downtown street and lot parking. Phase III is less structured at this point as it wouldn’t really be considered for more than a decade but could include parking decks in high-demand parking areas.
“Things in government never move quickly. This study was commissioned in early 2015 by the council at that time. There had been, for years, concerns regarding parking throughout the city, but the two areas that were of main concern were the university area and the downtown area,” said Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza.
The entire study is available at stevenspoint.com/DocumentCenter/View/3846 and includes detailed maps of proposed metered parking.
“What we’re talking about now is the short-term recommendation for the university area. Now, there’s been some talk that we’re targeting the university specifically. That’s not true. This is the part that’s being enacted first. I fully expect to have Phase II with downtown set up very shortly, and we’ll probably consider that in 2018,” Wiza said.
However, university officials raised the concern that downtown stakeholders, such as the Downtown Business Association, could produce enough pushback to halt the project, leaving the university the only area with metered parking.
“My concern goes to fairness … the plan is to have parking kiosks downtown as well in Phase II, and I absolutely believe that’s your plan and your intent, probably the council’s intent as well. I’ve seen lots of plans, though, with ‘Phase II’ that never actually got done and my concern is that the downtown merchants association will be very concerned about Phase II and if Phase II never happens, then we’re here with parking with parking meters and downtown does not,” said UWSP Chancellor Bernie Patterson. “Let me ask you this, was there any consideration of doing downtown first and then the university?”
“To answer some of your questions, yes,” said Wiza. “We’ve been talking with the Downtown Business Association and yes, they are not happy about it. But I will stand here and tell you right now that if I have any say in it, those phases are going to be implemented.”
“I also want to point out that it’s not just all about meters. This was a comprehensive parking that focuses on two-hour parking, four-hour-parking, overnight parking, long-term parking, restricted parking, no parking – meters are just one piece of that overall parking recommendation,” Wiza said.
Wiza also said thought had been given to implementing the downtown phase first, but possible upcoming developments could drastically change the dynamic of downtown parking, such as the 60-unit hotel Cobblestone Hotels is currently building and some potential land developments on the former Lullaby site.
Growing costs of road upkeep and the need for infrastructure was one of the reasons the conversation about charging for parking started in the first place, Wiza said.
“One of the things that prompted some of the issues was our road maintenance schedule. We have roughly 150 miles of roads in the city of Stevens Point. Based on our annual budgeting to repair those roads, we are able to replace a road once every 150 years. That’s not sustainable,” Wiza said. “So, we looked at ways we could make that more sustainable.
UWSP students also attended the meeting, and several stated they felt like putting metered parking around campus unfairly targeted students who had to commute to class from outside of Stevens Point.
Wiza said installing metered parking is a way to get people who use the roads to help pay for their upkeep. For example, residents pay for road upkeep through taxes. But non-residents also use the roads, and metered parking is a way to spread the costs.
“Studies have shown that a standard parking spot costs about $200 a year to maintain. So, there’s no such thing as free parking. Someone is paying for that parking,” Wiza said.
Other opponents to the proposed metered parking included nearby residents who objected to having metered parking in front of their homes, saying they shouldn’t have to pay to park in front of their house.
No action was taken at the meeting, nor was any date for possible action laid out. To submit concerns or ideas how to improve parking in Stevens Point, visit www.stevenspoint.com and click on the “Comments and Suggestions” link at the bottom right-hand corner of the page in the “Mayor’s Office” box.