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New downtown parking system gets mixed reviews

Mike Desmond/WBFO

Buffalo officials are happy about parking changes that have added hundreds of parking spaces downtown while charging for later hours. However, that attitude is not shared by all.

WBFO spoke with motorists accessing the new spots prior to Thursday's Buffalo Sabres game. Jerry Casper was one of the thousands arriving for the game and rushing inside from the weather.

"Where I parked, it was really easy," Casper said.

Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer says the new spaces around the arena are being used, citing a recent game when 226 spaces were filled and the city picked up an extra $1,200 in fees.

Most of the fees were paid courtesy of the Buffalo Roam app.

"I just don't like the idea of having to use an app for it," said Jim Smigelski. "Before, you could use quarters. So, that kind of rubs me the wrong way."

According to Helfer, about half of the city's parkers utilize the Buffalo Roam app.

"We've had zero complaints. As a matter of fact, we've had a lot of compliments because people can get to a hockey game, depending on what time they get there, and for $6 or $8 park very close to the arena instead of having to go into the ramp," Helfer said.

The changes are being moved up to the Theater District in the vicinity of Shea's. Helfer hopes that pushes downtown residents to take advantage of cheap parking ramp rates, which would free up more surface spaces.

It's all part of a long-range plan, Helfer said.

"We just don't want to encourage everybody to drive. There's got to be alternative modes of transportation," Helfer said. "We want to encourage people to car pool. We want to encourage people to take the rapid transit."

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.