With the elimination of free parking on weeknights and Saturday along with increased rates at certain meters in downtown Buffalo, many residents are speaking out in opposition of the recent changes. However, GObike Buffalo Executive Director Justin Booth believes this could benefit the city in the long run if the revenue generated is invested in public transit improvements.
“We have a public transit system that is not as robust as we have in other cities,” Booth said. “But if we begin to use some of this parking revenue to invest in a better public transit system,” he said, “we can give people better options to choose and hopefully they will do so.”
Booth said cities like Portland have already benefited from doing just that.
“They’ve been able to demonstrate that they drive four miles less on average than people living in other metro areas. They’ve been able to show $2.6 billion going back in to the local economy. Because of that, they also have the most micro-breweries per capita,” he said.
Free parking has been eliminated on weeknights and Saturdays and increased rates at certain meters will be $2 an hour.
Booth said it’s about changing behavior patterns and points to the work GObike has done with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
“Six years ago, single occupancy vehicles, drive alone trips was at 88% in to the medical campus and (with) the work that we’ve been doing we’ve been able to drop that down to 80%. That’s a significant reduction,” Booth said. “Downtown as a whole has an 82% drive alone rate and if we were able to simply drop that 2% down to 80% and be consistent with the medical campus, that’s 2500 new parking spaces that we would be able to open up and make more available.”
An online petition on change.dot.org protesting the parking rate costs has exceeded over 21,000 as of January 2, 2019. For some employed downtown, it’s a no-win situation. Could providing employers with free transit passes be a solution? Booth said it could help because until these changes were implemented, it had been a similar price to drive to downtown Buffalo and park then it was to use the NFTA.
“How are we supporting employees in their daily trips? How are we encouraging them to use public transit? How are we encouraging carpooling? How are we encouraging walking and biking and people who live downtown I think are all part of that equation,” he said.