Annapolis City leaders and residents had a unified message Wednesday for those running parking operations in the historic downtown: changes are needed.
Members of the City Council’s Finance and Transportation committees sat down with representatives from Premium Parking and the Annapolis Mobility Resilience Partners Wednesday night to discuss concerns about parking downtown and the Noah Hillman Garage’s fee system.
The meeting comes after the passage Monday of a resolution calling for an investigation into the Hillman Garage concession agreement.
Representatives from Premium Parking, the company that manages the day-to-day operations for the garage and downtown parking operations, and AMRP were present for the meeting.
Eivind Dueland, who was representing AMRP, the consortium that oversaw construction of the garage, agreed that there are still issues with the rollout of the parking facility.
“We want to alleviate as much as we can,” he said. “I fully recognize that some of the rollout and startup of the garage’s operations has not been ideal.”
Following a presentation on Premium Parking’s current efforts, council members had an opportunity to ask questions and receive answers. Then the public was given time to express their concerns.
Karma O’Neill, a Ward 2 Democrat and chair of the Transportation Committee, criticized the 14-digit codes that residents receive to activate free two-hour parking in the garage.
Currently, the code can only be used through the Premium Parking app and not the ParkMobile app, and can only be used once a day, according to O’Neill.
“There has to be a better way than a 14-digit code I have to put in every time I go into the garage,” she said.
Dueland said that the council can direct city staff to execute policy changes such as making certain parking free in exchange for increasing rates in other areas to make sure that overall revenue targets are being met.
Similar concerns were raised by residents in parking districts 1 and 2, including Beth Dolezal who asked that Premium Parking offer long-term parking passes to residents who have guests who are staying for weeks or months. She also requested the return of free two-hour parking in residential districts 1 and 2.
“Can [you] imagine that every time someone comes to visit you, they have to pay for parking, even if they are going to stay 15-20 minutes,” she said. “We just need to get back to the free two-hour parking.”
Other residents like Rosalind Calvin expressed support for an idea proposed by Premium Parking Vice President Chester Escobar to create a residential focus group to gauge resident concerns.
“The thinking should turn to what benefits businesses and what makes [downtown] a welcoming place,” she said.
In March, a petition that circulated Annapolis residents complaining that the parking system is “overly cumbersome, complicated and time-consuming.” The petition outlined bringing back two-hour free parking in addition to discontinuing the promo code system for guest passes.
Residents want the ability to access their guest passes online while also being able to track how many they’ve used. Lastly, they hope to gain access to a multiday pass for overnight guests.
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“Our concerns back in March are exactly the same concerns that we have now,” said Susan Marguiles, one the petitioners, Wednesday night.
Council member Eleanor Tierney, of Ward 1, said in an interview Thursday that she does not want to raise parking rates, but would like to explore ways to establish a “convenience pass” for residential guests that addresses these concerns. Tierney chairs the Finance Committee.
“I am sure that there is some way for [Premium] to accommodate the residents for the short visits. There has to be a way,” she said.