Buzzing petition hopes to reduce sting of parking changes - abc27 WHTM

Buzzing petition hopes to reduce sting of parking changes

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A petition is circulating to fight Harrisburg's recent parking rate and fine increases. City residents are hoping to change Standard Parking's newly introduced policies.

'DEAD' flashed on a few parking meters outside the Pennsylvania State Museum Thursday afternoon. A driver left a note on their windshield in hopes to explain why they were unable to feed their parking meter.

Amanda Owens parked in a spot with a dead meter until a Standard Parking worker explained she was about to receive a parking ticket.

"It's 5 degrees, and I had to go around the block to find another spot to take my children out to go the museum," Owens said. "It's an absolute ridiculous situation. And it's going to drain the economy of the city."

Owens is among many who feel the changes are unreasonable in Harrisburg. Since Standard Parking transitioned into the operating manager of the city's parking meters and garages, the company has introduced several talked about changes. 

Earlier this month, Standard Parking increased the fine cost for parking tickets from $14 to $30, $50 if the ticket is not paid within four days.

Owens expressed her frustration when she received a ticket last week to find out Standard Parking did not observe Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as a "free day." The upset mom had to pay the $50 without any sympathy from Standard. Owens's trip to the State Museum Thursday was to renew her membership, but she decided a renewal wasn't worth the parking hassle.

Other changes will include the raising of rates that'll cost 75 cents for 15 minutes, $3 for an hour. Metered hours will be expanded to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Standard Parking will no longer offer free parking after 5 p.m. Customers and restaurant owners alike expressed their worry with people turning away from Downtown's popular happy hour.

Owens's reaction to the city's new parking changes is what many local businesses fear the most.

"I can't do business meetings down here anymore, because I don't want a $30 ticket if I go over two minutes on my meter," she said.

Restaurant Row owners met earlier this week to discuss what their next move may be. Adam Brackbill, a concerned resident and young entrepreneur, began action in his own way. On Wednesday night, he launched hbgpetition.com, an online petition seeking signatures and comments regarding the parking changes.

"People can complain, people can be upset all they want, but your voice matters," Brackbill said.

Brackbill explained the petition is an outlet for people to voice their opinions and frustrations about the recent parking changes. He hopes if enough people participate in the conversation, Standard Parking may have public negotiations to compromise.

Brackbill noted not all change is bad. A businessman himself, he cited studies that show a small parking hike may be just uncomfortable enough for customers to promote patron turnover downtown, which in turn would improve local businesses.

City Council President Wanda Williams pointed out many people forget the former Harrisburg Parking Authority has not raised rates in "five or six years." She acknowledged her office and other city council members have been bombarded with complaints—she's seeking solutions.

"I've been in conversation with two individuals [with Standard Parking], so we're going to try and rectify some of that—those problems," Williams said.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse's Communications Director Joyce Davis said there was not an update regarding the soon-to-be formed Harrisburg Parking Advisory Board. As a part of the asset transfer in the Harrisburg Strong court-approved recovery plan, a committee is required to be formed to allow the public a body to air grievances and suggest changes or improvements to the otherwise private company.

Standard Parking told abc27 News last week paying meters would get easier once 35 new credit card and smartphone applicable meters would be installed downtown next month. The company also said they would hope to offer parking promotions for paying customers in the near future.

Brackbill hopes his petition will be the first organized and tangible response from the collective community to go in front of the HPAB when formed.

"If it can make a change—good," Brackbill said. "If not, at least we voiced our opinions."

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