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750 new parking spaces created in downtown Buffalo

It's going to be easier to park in Buffalo's Central Business District, although it might cost a buck or two more.

City officials have been prowling the downtown streets, checking parking spaces. They have found hundreds of spaces that can be legalized, although you will now have to pay more and pay until 10 p.m. each night.

Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer said the public should notice the difference.

"We have created about 750 spots that we call new spots, that were either no parking anytime," Helfer said. "We vetted that with our city engineer, Mike Finn, along with traffic engineer Eric Schmarder and other stakeholders in the transportation community to make sure that it was safe to add those parking spaces on the street."

Helfer said there is also a need to re-arrange those spaces and perhaps improve Metro Bus or Rail shuttles.
"Unless we can get people to utilize periphery parking, unless we can get people to utilize the Metro, unless we can do a partnership, for instance, with the Sabres or others, that's the key to our future because we just can't continue to build ramps," he said. "It takes so long to build a ramp. It's so cost-prohibitive and where you locate a ramp only will help a select few in that geographic area."

Helfer said a new ramp would cost around $20 million.

All this is part of the first hard look at downtown parking in years, as the economic boom and the return of the Central Business District as an evening recreation site are using up spaces. There is also the issue of people who live downtown needing spaces for those who have cars.

Of course, those downtown residents taking up parking spaces is a problem. Helfer said an alternative is a special rate in the parking ramps.               

"Thirty dollars a month for a night monthly rate and people who live downtown can park their car in the ramp, from 3 p.m. to 9 a.m. and on weekends, all day long," Helfer said. "So the only time they can't park there is that six hours a day, between 9 and 3, Monday through Friday. So out of a 168 hour week, they can park for $1 a day basically for 138 of those hours."

Helfer is going before the Common Council Finance Committee on Tuesday to talk about the additional parking spaces.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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