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With tourism season peaking and budget crunch lingering, Niagara Falls raises parking rates

WBFO file photo

It will cost you more money to purchase a parking space in downtown Niagara Falls this summer. The Council member sponsoring the measure says it's a means to take some of the city's budget burdens off the shoulders of taxpayers. Critics are concerned about the message it may send to out-of-town visitors.

Under the measure passed 3-to-2 by city lawmakers, parking rates increase to five dollars per hour, for a maximum four hours, at public curbside spaces from May through October. The cost lowers to three dollars per hour the remaining months of the year. The cost to park in a city-owned lot increases five dollars to 30 dollars per day from May through October, while parking in the other months will cost ten dollars.

The price increase comes at a time the City of Niagara Falls faces an estimated $13 million budget deficit. While higher parking prices won't make a significant impact, he admits, the sponsor of the measure says it will bring a little relief to the city's taxpayers.

"We can't just hope a golden nugget is going to get dropped on our lap," said Councilman Bill Kennedy. "This isn't going to be a multi-million dollar piece but at least it's something to get us started."

Kennedy told WBFO that as part of the measure, the Public Works Department has the right to lower rates in times of lower traffic. 

Councilman Chris Voccio was one of two lawmakers who voted down the measure. He said he's not necessarily opposed to the idea of raising parking rates but he felt the proposal was rushed. Voccio told WBFO he had only about 24 hours to consider it but more time should have been spent talking to all stakeholders.

He's concerned the price increase will turn off some tourists from future visits.

"I don't think it'll have an immediate impact. My fear is it will have a long-term impact," he said. "The family that comes from Omaha, Nebraska or from wherever is shock at the prices we charge for parking and they figure the next time they plan on taking a family vacation, they go somewhere else."

Kennedy, though, doesn't believe the difference will do much to dissuade tourists.

"I'm not trying to price gouge, by any means, but I've been to tons of places throughout the country, points of interest, wonders of the world, huge national parks," he replied. "To see a wonder of the world, I don't think people are really be too concerned with paying a couple extra dollars an hour."

Kennedy warned residents that along with higher prices will come increased enforcement efforts. He says while many take the risk and play "parking roulette," there is another option available to residents.

"There is a city resident parking permit that you can get for 25 dollars, which equates to a little over two dollars a month, to park down there if you choose to," he said. 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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