Parking rates at meters in Downtown Milwaukee may rise for special events


Milwaukee parking meter rates could rise, and the city could charge more to park downtown on days of special events, under a proposal coming to the Common Council this month.

Legislation passed by the Public Safety and Health Committee, on a 4-0 vote, would raise the top hourly metered rate 50 cents to $2 per hour. The lowest rate would go up a quarter to 75 cents an hour.

The Department of Public Works would be given authority to raise rates, higher than the normal daily rates, during special events such as a Milwaukee Bucks game or a concert.

Also, the legislation would expand metered parking hours to 9 p.m. and would add Saturdays.

Altogether, the changes could generate an additional $2 million in annual revenue, city officials said.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that people coming to special events in the downtown area would pay a little more than on typical days and evenings,” said Ald. Bob Donovan, chairman of the Public Safety and Health Committee.

The changes would be up to the Department of Public Works, according to Ald. Robert Baumann, whose 4th District includes much of downtown.

“It gives them the authority to raise rates, but they wouldn’t be required to do it,” Baumann said.

Revenue from city parking, including parking tickets, covers expenses such as the maintenance of parking lots and meters.

“And a substantial percentage of the net income, anywhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 18 million dollars a year, is transferred to the city’s general fund to offset property taxes,” Baumann said.

“A lot of the parking revenue is generated by non-Milwaukee residents, and that is the only way the city has to recoup some of the costs of providing infrastructure that is used by thousands of people who don’t live in the city and don’t pay property taxes here,” he added.

Under the legislation, expected to come before the council for a vote Sept. 25, meter rates could go up throughout the city.

“But most of the special events are downtown, so the greatest impact would be there,” Donovan said.

The city would be able to adjust rates by using new “smart meters” being installed to replace thousands of coin-based meters.

It broadens the range of what could be charged based on market conditions, according to Baumann, who said he favors the proposal.

“We are pretty much giving the (DPW) the same free-enterprise authority that private parking operators have enjoyed for many years,” he said.

Donovan, whose 8th District includes much of the city’s south side, said he supported the legislation during the committee hearing.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable that the meter rates be increased for special events over and above what is normally paid. I think most people would recognize that,” he said.

It could raise the cost of attending downtown events, which are already too expensive for some families.

But “those people are already avoiding those events … the cost is so high already,” Donovan said.

Many businesses with on-street parking are in the Third Ward.

Ryan Mleziva, general manager of InStep Physical Therapy and Running Center, at 403 E. Buffalo St., said his customers park on the street.

“Luckily we are a block off the main drag, so parking hasn’t been a huge concern for us,” Mleziva said. But to avoid a parking citation, the store encourages customers to bring enough change with them for the meters.

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