ANCHORAGE (KTUU) If you’ve parked downtown on Saturdays recently you likely know there’s a two hour limit at the meter. Failing to move your car can result in a $20 fine. It'a a change implemented in July as part of a pilot program.
“Having a two hour restriction prevents people from occupying a space from morning to night and enforcing people to park in the other locations,” said Easy Park Parking Director Brian Borguno.
After a little more than two months of data collection, the Anchorage Community Development Authority, a municipal corporation, voted to extend the program through the end of the year. It was scheduled to conclude at the end of September.
“After we met with the stakeholder group they provided some feedback that they’ve seen some positives from the program, we’re still doing data collection and analysis and they wanted to see it extended through the end of the year to see some additional months of data,” said Borguno.
He says the program is not having a negative disadvantage on downtown businesses. After Channel Two News spoke with the owner of three businesses and the manager of a fourth store it's clear concerns remain.
“Just last weekend I had three women in the quilt shop and I just said how do you feel about it, they said ‘no, it’s not a warm feeling, it’s not y’all come, kind of feeling and we would just choose to go elsewhere,’” said Jana Hayenga. She owns Quilted Raven, Cabin Fever and Woolly Mammoth.
Easy Park says the program has managed to take 50% of cars remaining in place all day and reduce that to 25%.
“I think they’re correct. I mean it has increased turnover in those spots. I don’t know that it’s increased any sales in stores,” said Hayenga.
She said she understands the need for more data beyond tourist season, but argues a four hour limit would be better for business.
“It keeps them in the downtown and the chance of them coming into one of my stores is great but it also goes into other stores and restaurants and whatever is happening downtown,” Hayenga said.
The manager of Octopus Ink said the program has led to a noticeable change in foot traffic in her shop, “…people usually come later in the evening I would say because it’s free past six,” said Aspen Murray.
She first learned of the pilot program after receiving a ticket herself.
“I didn’t know you can’t just add more time to your meter and that you had to move your car so that’s how I learned. I learned the hard way,” Murray said. And she says her customers are telling her it’s an inconvenience.
“If they’re cutting their time quicker, they’re going to spend less money but we’ll see what they do. If they keep extending it, that might be where I get annoyed.”
With 166 documented citations so far, Easy Park says not everyone knows the rules yet, ”We’ve made an impact but I don’t know that we’ve solved the problem and it could be just because it’s a pilot program,” Borguno said.
He says Easy Park will meet with the stakeholder group in November. Borguno says a decision on whether to keep the enforced two hour Saturday parking rule indefinitely could come in December.