INSIDE PRINT

Charleston plans to increase the hourly parking rate to $2 and extend the enforcement period to 10 p.m. Grace Beahm Alford/ Staff

Now that all 1,700 new parking meters have been installed across the peninsula's central business districts, the city of Charleston plans to increase the hourly rate to $2 and extend the enforcement period to 10 p.m.

Right now, meter spaces cost $1 an hour and are monitored from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The changes are expected to go into effect later this month. 

Charleston City Council agreed late last year to raise parking fees as part of a strategy to balance the $211.9 million operating budget this year without raising property taxes. Still, the changes aren't exactly receiving a warm welcome from residents. 

Josh Martin, one of Mayor John Tecklenburg's advisers, said the overall goal is to improve the way the peninsula's parking system functions.

The $1 hike will make meter parking cost the same as parking in a city-owned garage. Longer enforcement hours encourages more turnover of spaces that right now are occupied for hours at a time after 6 p.m., Martin said.

"Our retail district does not close at 6 p.m. and so, we’re extending that to provide more turnover parking for various businesses — retail, restaurants — to be more in keeping with the hours of operation," Martin said.

Facing concerns that the changes will add more parking burdens to downtown hospitality workers, the city has promised to wait until the new park-and-ride bus service for workers is up and running. 

The city and the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau are working with the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority on the new service. CARTA has to work out details with its bus drivers before finalizing the launch date.

Workers aren't the only ones raising concerns. Some residents across the city on Wednesday didn't like the idea of paying a dollar more to park downtown.

"It will make us think twice about going downtown if parking fees are doubled," said West Ashley resident Lynn Wessen Phillippe.

Other residents said it won't affect them much. 

"We Uber every time we go downtown for the night. It’s about the same price," said Kristen Murray, who also lives in West Ashley.

Natalie Taylor, owner of King Street gift shop Vieuxtemps, didn't see the benefit of a higher parking fee. 

"Parking is a constant struggle. This increase would be a huge blow to our customers," she said.

Experts have said the city's parking meters have been too cheap. If anything, they recommended meters cost more per minute than city parking garages.

In 2014, national mobility expert Gabe Klein recommended raising the meter rates to encourage and fund alternative modes of transportation.

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Reach Abigail Darlington at 843-937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.

Abigail Darlington is a local government reporter focusing primarily on the City of Charleston. She previously covered local arts & entertainment, technology, innovation, tourism and retail for the Post and Courier.