The decision to install 1,400 parking meters in downtown Bloomington last year was met with strong public opinions. Now, six months after the installation, residents and business owners continue to express concern.
Lyle Feigenbaum, owner of Scholar’s Inn Bakehouse located downtown, says the six months since the installation of the meters have been the roughest months in his professional career. When he was approached about the meters during the planning stages, he was opposed to the idea but didn’t know what to expect from the change.
“The effect has been beyond my wildest dreams. I never anticipated it would be this devastating,” Feigenbaum says.
He says he has lost a significant amount of business in the morning hours, when customers don’t want to deal with the hassle of paying a meter when they only want to buy a cup of coffee.
The Bloomington Chamber of Commerce released a non-scientific survey this week to gauge the opinions of local businesses, residents and consumers.
“I’m hopeful that we can look at the data, we can stay positive, and we can come to a compromise so that businesses like mine don’t have to suffer so dramatically,” Feigenbaum says.
Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jeb Conrad says they have gathered over 4,000 responses so far and the feedback has been mixed. Some consumers have said they are willing to pay the fee because meters have made parking more accessible. Others, however, have said the meters prevent them from parking and going to downtown businesses.
“We have found out from this survey’s initial results so far that there still seems to be a lot of confusion about the rules,” Conrad says.
Some survey participants say they don’t know where they can park, what times, and at what cost. Conrad says this is an opportunity for partnership between the Chamber of Commerce, city government, businesses, and residents to discuss parking management as a whole.
Bloomington City Councilman Steve Volan has been an advocate of parking meters since 2005. He says the meters offer benefits such as allowing people to park for more than two hours and increasing the guarantee of finding a spot.
However, he recognizes that businesses and consumers have been affected by the meters and he is willing to make changes. Suggestions include adjusting the times of meter operation and providing discounted rates at certain times and locations.
Many residents have inquired about where the funds from the meters go. The flat one dollar per hour rate was set in part to pay for the installation costs. The city is also still paying off debt from the construction of parking garages. After those are paid off, Volan doesn’t know where the funds will go and urges city government to be transparent in their use of the funds.
“If I had my way, all the dollars would stay in the meter district,” Volan says. “They would only go to burying power cables, improving sidewalks, and fixing sidewalks in the area where the meters are.”
Volan also advocates the parking app Parkmobile, which allows smart phone users to pay for their metered parking and find open parking spots. Those without smart phones can call to pay for their meter. The download is free but there is a small fee for each transaction.
Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan and other city officials were invited to Noon Edition, but were unable to attend.
You can listen to the full conversation above.
Steve Volan -
Bloomington City Councilman
Lyle Feigenbaum -
Owner of Scholar’s Inn Bakehouse downtown
Jeb Conrad -
President and CEO of the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce
Noon Edition airs Friday at 12:06.
Lacy Scarmana contributed to this report.