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Downtown Phoenix parking could go from cheapest to priciest

PHOENIX — If Acting Street Transportation Director Ray Dovalina gets his way, Phoenix drivers can say farewell to free metered parking on weekends and holidays — and even weeknights after 5 p.m.

As part of a downtown parking overhaul, Dovalina wants to extend enforcement hours to seven days a week, including holidays, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“We want to see turnover on a lot of these parking meters,” Dovalina said. “Because right now, what happens is after 5 (p.m.), anybody can come in and park in the parking meter and stay until the following day, and we don’t have any turnover.”

Dovalina said higher turnover will help downtown businesses attract more customers. They also anticipate more people using public and private parking garages as well as public transit.

Phoenix relied on its own research along with a December 2012 report by the city of San Francisco, which showed that among large cities, Phoenix was the only one that did not enforce metered parking on weekends.

The proposal also calls for eliminating the current $1.50 per hour rate and phasing in variable pricing, meaning rates would change based on demand. During slow periods, the rate could be as low as $0.50 per hour, while busier periods could cost drivers $6.00 an hour.

According to a city council report, the Street Transportation Department collected about $1.65 million in parking meter payments during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which resulted in $1 million in net revenue. Based on preliminary estimates, the department thinks a variable rate plan and longer enforcement could generate an extra $1-2 million a year.

Expansion would require as many as 640 new meters that could accept credit cards and adjust to rate changes, four new workers to enforce longer hours and one manager to oversee the program.