Parking meters continue to cause stress for small businesses in downtown Phoenix

The Phoenix City Council’s implementation of extended parking-meter hours in August has had a range of effects on local businesses and shed light on the patchwork of parking options downtown. (Annika Cline/DD)

The Phoenix City Council’s implementation of extended parking-meter hours in August has had a range of effects on local businesses and shed light on the patchwork of parking options downtown.

Businesses that see activity in the evening have experienced some of the biggest changes now that meters operate until 10 p.m., instead of the previous 5 p.m.

KP Edwards, general manager of The Turf Irish Pub on First and Pierce streets, said he and other local business owners lobbied the City Council to return meters to general business hours because that system worked best for businesses closer to the arts district than the business district. He said the city did not contact him for his opinions until after he and other business owners approached city council.

“The thought at that point was ‘Why didn’t we do this to begin with, why didn’t I get contacted when you were talking about these parking meter changes so you could hear our concerns or hear our thoughts on it?’” Edwards said.

The Turf is located in Zone 4 — an area between Fillmore and Moreland streets that encompasses the arts district. This is the only zone that does not have an established price range proposed for meters yet.

Infographic by Jayson Chesler

Demand-based pricing was supposed to go into effect in November, according to the city’s plan as of August. While the prices of downtown parking meters have not changed yet, business managers like Edwards said the time extensions have affected their businesses.

The meters in front of The Turf operate in 2-hour increments from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then 4-hour increments until 10 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, they operate in 4-hour increments all day.

“In my opinion, a lot of the major changes are being driven by the main entertainment areas like CityScape and Arizona Center, where they want people to be turning those spots because they don’t want an employee to come and park in that spot and take up that spot for eight hours,” he said. “In a way, it does help businesses in a high-traffic area.”

He said the effects of the extensions are different outside of the major entertainment areas.

“We’re small businesses, we don’t have the volume, we don’t have the traffic that they have,” he said. “I think what happens sometimes is that a blanket policy goes out without really taking into consideration how it’s going to affect the different areas.”

There is a parking lot to the north of The Turf, and Edwards said The Turf shares a small portion of the lot — about 20 spaces — with the restaurant Squash Blossom, which closed earlier this year. The rest of the lot is owned by ASU and a private tenant. ASU students often don’t want to pay to park in ASU’s spots, so they park in The Turf’s and Squash Blossom’s free spots, Edwards said.

“We can’t really tow anybody, but the problem is that everybody knows that, so we end up with a lot of parking there,” he said. “We’ll come in on Sunday afternoons and our parking lot is full, and we’ll get inside and there’s four people inside the business.”

Edwards said people filling his business’ free spots is an indirect effect of the parking-meter changes. He said he met a staff member from the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel in his lot who parks there for free and walks to Van Buren and Third streets for work.

Joshua Hahn and Kenny Barrett, co-owners of Growhouse on the corner of Garfield and Sixth streets, are situated in an area with three different kinds of parking options: metered, free with a 2-hour limit and free 24-7.

Hahn said the city cannot put meters on Sixth Street because there are residences there as well. But, this street recently implemented signs on one side of the road that limit parking to two hours with the aim of increasing customer turnover.

Hahn said the signs on Sixth Street have been helpful because people don’t have to pay to park there, yet they leave relatively quickly, creating a general ebb and flow of customers. On the Garfield side of the building, there are about six parking meters that only take change — a factor that Barrett and Hahn said drives many people away.

“Those meters prohibit people from parking,” Barrett said. “They sit there empty all day.”

Barrett said the meters are annoying because they do not display the hours, so people are unaware if they can legally park there. Hahn said the meters deter people from parking, and that a system of monitored, free parking — or an easier method of payment for the existing meters — would be more effective.

The situation is completely different on the other side of the road from those meters. Across Garfield Street from Growhouse is a vacant lot with free parking. Barrett said those parking spots are almost always filled by students and people who work downtown.

Hahn said he would like to have signs that limit parking to two hours on Garfield Street — like those on Sixth Street — instead of the old meters.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” he said. “I want there to be monitors, but I don’t want to scare people away.”

But some business owners said the meter change hasn’t affected their business.

The Vig Fillmore assistant manager Chris Hardin said the meter change had only a minor effect because The Vig, located on Fillmore Street and Fourth Avenue, offers a free valet service for its customers in a private lot. He said the valet service is necessary because there aren’t many public parking spaces nearby, although there are about six meters to the side of the restaurant.

Maurizio Borro, manager of the restaurant Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana, also said he has not seen any changes with the parking-meter extensions. Pomo, which is located next door to The Turf, has about six meters at the front of the restaurant. Borro said the majority of the customers pay for parking in the ASU lot.

“Our pizza is good enough that people will come here and pay for the parking,” Borro said.

Clarification: Dec. 1, 2014: This article has been clarified to show that the future price change for meters is still in the proposal period and has yet to be established.

Contact the reporter at sajarvis@asu.edu