Raleigh might start charging for evening parking, as too many revelers are leaving trash and bodily fluids in the city’s downtown parking decks, according to city staff.
That’s the message that emerged at City Hall this week, and it’s likely to become another other topic in Raleigh’s debate about the side effects of a revitalized nightlife.
“Presently 60 percent of our crews’ time is now spent on janitorial duties. … Sanitizing and deodorizing are the most labor-intensive and time-consuming,” said Gordon Dash, the city’s parking administrator, at a Raleigh City Council meeting this week.
Weekends in the eight city-owned decks have become busier and smellier in the last few years, Dash said. Several lots are filled to capacity late into Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and the crowds are straining his budget and his maintenance crew, he said.
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“We have 23 elevators that are subjected to harsh use, graffiti and vandalism,” Dash said, noting that staff is picking up twice as much trash from the decks compared to 2012.
The answer, he told the council, might be a flat fee for nighttime use of the decks. Currently, most of the parking structures are free after 7 p.m. and on weekends. On-street parking is free after 5 p.m. and on weekends.
The new revenue could expand the maintenance staff of nine. Dash also wants to add more security cameras to elevators.
Currently, the city’s lots pull in about $12.1 million in parking fees per year. Another $1.2 million comes from parking meters, and $2.4 million more comes from parking violations. That money pays for operations, maintenance and debt service from the construction of the decks and lots, which house some 8,500 spots.
It’s unclear how much the city would charge for evening parking. The Raleigh City Council would likely vote on the change as part of its budget process during the next several months.
“Daytime customers are bearing the burden of supporting nighttime users,” said Councilman Russ Stephenson.
The city also will look to build parking decks in the years ahead. Raleigh already is leasing 89 percent of its long-term spots, and a boom in apartment construction will fill those areas to capacity in 2016, Dash said.
The warehouse district lots also have little room left, and the arrival of the planned Union Station transport hub and other development won’t help.
“All of the lots (in the warehouse district) are at or near capacity, and some have waiting lists, mainly because of the low parking rates,” Dash said.
Parking is still available around downtown, he said, so in the short term, those warehouse-area workers may have to hoof it. Still, Councilman John Odom said new parking in that area is a high priority.
The city may look to developers and private groups for help in funding construction.