Seeking to preserve on-street parking for small businesses that need it to survive, the City of Covington will begin enforcing parking meters in the evenings and on Saturdays.
The long-awaited change brings Covington in line with surrounding towns and responds in part to complaints from business owners about spaces being monopolized by drivers who leave their cars parked throughout the weekend and into the evening.
“As downtown grows and gets busier, we want to make sure our businesses have parking available for their patrons and customers,” City Manager Ken Smith said. “These metered spotlights are designed for constant rolling. This is their goal. If a car is left in one place every late afternoon or from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, it harms surrounding businesses.
The change takes effect immediately, although there will be a grace period – i.e. “courtesy tickets” or warnings – while the public gets used to the new rules and meters are recalibrated and relabeled. The City will work with merchants near metered parking lots to find ways to educate their customers.
The new hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Previously, meters were not applied on Saturdays and after 5 p.m. on weekdays.
The new app was approved by the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday evening as part of a series of parking-related changes. These changes include:
• Increase in metered rates from $1.10 to $1.50 per hour, matching the rate in other urban areas this side of the Ohio River. Drivers will be able to continue to pay in cash at meters or via the free PassportParking® app available for download on the App Store and Google Play.
• $5 increase in monthly passes at many public parking lots and surface lots (bringing most to $55 or $60 per month).
• “Clean up” the language in the ordinances to continue to refine the authority of the Covington Motor Vehicle Parking Authority and its legal status as “owner” and manager of parking lots. (The authority was established in 2018 to operate and maintain public on- and off-street parking in Covington. Its five members are approved by the Board of Commissioners. The City contracts with ABM Parking Services for day-to-day operation. )
• Hired a first-ever Executive Director to handle the administrative duties of the parking authority and help the City take a more strategic and analytical approach to its parking issues. Kyle Snyder will split his duties between this position and his duties as the City’s infrastructure development specialist.
Other changes are possible on the road, including the return of parking meters in commercial areas like the MainStrasse Village, and better signage.
The changes were recommended by consultants who undertook a comprehensive analysis of the City’s parking, by the parking authority itself, and by City staff working in areas such as economic development and public works.
The City is in the process of updating a web page at www.covingtonky.gov to reflect changes and show available public parking locations in Covington.
Invest in the future
Although modest, the fee increases will allow the city to begin making more robust investments in improving its parking lot, Smith said.
“We definitely need more parking space, and we need to improve amenities, such as kiosks,” he said. “But you can’t upgrade or add facilities and options without revenue, and we’ve fallen behind.”
The perceived lack of parking is an ongoing source of complaints in Covington. As in urban areas across the country, however, some of the complaints are based on unrealistic expectations that parking should be free and always available right outside a destination. For example, people who are comfortable walking from the confines of a mall parking lot are not willing to walk the same distance from a garage or lot to a restaurant or bar.
“Street parking is a commodity, plain and simple,” Smith said. “We have plenty of parking spaces downtown, if you know where to look, but there will never be enough spaces along a busy street to accommodate three to four cars per household, the more visitors, the more customers entering and leaving stores.
The city manager called the parking changes “growing pains” as Covington’s economy continues to grow.
“If you have an abundance of parking spaces downtown, that’s a sign of a ‘dead’ city,” he said.
From the town of Covington