Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Meter maid

Parking meters are so foreign to most Spa City residents that few remember when Broadway was lined with them just more than four short decades ago. Back then, clipping off the posts was offered as a way to revitalize the city’s failing downtown.

“Look back at how downtown business was prior to 1966, and you will see that the free parking was the beginning of Saratoga as we know it today,” said former city Mayor James Murphy Jr. in a letter to the Saratogian.

But for a certain school teacher-turned-political operative, parking meters just might be the answer to solving summer traffic congestion leading into the city, thus making it a greener place.

“People are realizing that we have to look at paid parking,” deputy Public Nuisance commissioner Eileen Finneran told the Saratogian Monday. “Every community around us has it, except Clifton Park, but they don’t really have a downtown.”

Alas, Finneran can’t take full credit for her flawed thinking in this case. She had a group of graduate students from UAlbany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy pitch the idea of establishing 50-cent parking meters along the city’s main drag. These students were trying to cut down on the “two-hour shuffle” residents apparently witnesses with increasing frequency.

The project was apparently part of their thesis and a requirement to graduate from the program. For their sake, let’s hope it wasn’t a major requirement. Details aside, they’re thinking is about as flawed as the mindset used by the political hacks now usurping the city’s Public Safety office.

It’s an idea that has worked awfully well in cities with burgeoning downtown areas, like Schenectady, which is riddled with parking meters. Not only is the Electric City’s business district a powerhouse, it never experiences massive traffic congestion along the main arteriole of Erie Boulevard during rush-hour times. And if you buy this, please stop by iSaratoga’s bridge sale: This week, bidding for the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge over the Mohawk starts at $15; act soon or lose out.

Seriously, Finneran must have a few screws loose to think the idea of metered parking would take hold anywhere in Saratoga. The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce has been quick to nip any such idea in the bud, claiming the meters would add a new layer of hardship on Broadway businesses. Likewise, these business owners have cried bloody murder every time the suggestion has been whispered. Even Finneran’s political ally Lew Benton has railed out against the prospect of Broadway meters.

“The whole idea of paid parking is so foreign to our thinking in this city,” he told the Times Union in 2006, when metered parking was suggested as part of the city’s draft transportation plan.

In truth, stamping four-hour meters along Broadway would do absolutely nothing to limit the ingress and egress of traffic into the city. The same vehicles would come into the city; the same vehicles would struggle to find a parking space along Broadway, and the same people now leaving those vehicles there would reluctantly fork a few quarters into a meter.

Metered parking would add a tacky element to the city that already whored itself to building a pair of useless parking garages. The meters give the impression a municipality is willing to wrest just about any ashtray nickel and dime (or quarter in this case)they can from whoever wanders into its limits. Perhaps that is the fiscal situation now facing the city with its waning revenues. On a side note, if the city does decide to meter parking on Broadway, allow iSaratoga to be the first to offer Finneran as the city’s new meter maid. That way, at least those who are against her ridiculous metering idea will have a chance to nail her with a pair of quarters instead of the meter.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why stop there.
Let's do what Bloomberg wants to do in the City.

Any car that wants to get into downtown Saratoga pays $8 bucks.
Trucks will be charged $20 bucks.

I'll bet if they did this they would be able to scrap those plans for the traffic circle.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parking in Saratoga isn't really all that bad except in July and August, and even then all it usually means is walking a few blocks instead of parking right in front of where you want to go. The downtown business owners could solve their own problems by requiring all employees to park at some lot and take a bus to downtown.I suspect many employees might even like not having to switch parking places every two hours.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...


GACK! Hold the phone and stop the cyberpresses for a brief technology update. TODAY's Parking Technology is NOT what it was for our nickel & dime forbearers who sneered at the streetscape of coin-banks-on-a-stick. Today's machines are called "Pay & Display" where you go to a remote machine to BUY as many hours as you NEED. Place the receipt on your DASHBOARD and walk away... and watch your clock. WE can choose to place one machine every hundred feet with tasteful signage. On the subject of aesthetics, they do NOT all resemble massive ATMS. We could follow the lead of ASPEN--

The more common version for those who lean towards modernism--

But in today's world, our sidewalks need NOT be marred by steel celery stalks.

From a BUSINESS standpoint, a "Pay & Display" system is ideal for our "desination" economy. Now, to take this stance, we must agree that TOURISTS & VISITORS are priority #1. The long-term big-buck shopper buys 7 hours and shops care-free. The lunch party takes 2 hours and goes. Workers can have the sun-soaked upper floors of both city garages all day for free, with "Pay & Display" income from the cool, shaded ground floors. The 2-hour shuffle is a dinosaur, a beast with TEETH. I have seen the crazed reckless driving and adrenaline-fueled anger of frustrated visitors going head-to-head with harried office workers. But if it is a must-have, we can convert the present "All-Day" lot across from the Carousel to our time-honored 2-hour tradition.

DOES "PAY & DISPLAY" WORK? You can find myriad examples of towns like ours going through the same process- ANGRY debate, BEGRUDGING tests, SUCCESSFUL traffic solution. Kinda' like the Carousel. Or the Glens Falls traffic circle. See what "Pay & Display" did recently for Nashua and Manchester in NH.

Just because we're a Victorian Gem reliant on Horses doesn't mean we can't embrace a bit of modern technology and a bunch less stress.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“People are realizing that we have to look at paid parking,” deputy Public Nuisance commissioner Eileen Finneran”

Of course Finneran would be all for it anything that adds power to The Generalissimo is music to her ears.

It was just a few days ago Generalissimo Kim wrote

Recently, the Mayor announced a radical, illegal, and ill-advised interpretation of the Charter in which he has commanded the Director of Human Resources to report directly to him regarding all personnel matter of this Department,

I don’t know what you call these words in Saratoga but back in Kansas we call these FIGHTING WORDS!!

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parking garages are much better than surface lots, which are like missing teeth in the mouth of any downtown, and are particularly egregious in a thriving one like Saratoga. And the newish garage on Church Street has an OK new building in front of it.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo! Again, you offer the finest in incessant complaining but with no alternative idea.

Simply brilliant.

Maybe parking meters are a bad idea; I have no background or training in transportation analysis, so I'm not qualified to say one way or the other.

However, I do have a fairly well-honed "whining detector," which is going off full-tilt at present. Do you ever offer constructive ideas, or does looking for things to whine and complain about crowd out any time you might put to productive use? (For example, offering an alternative idea of what you think might work?)

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Uncle Smoove said...

It’s appropriate that these recommendations emanate from the Rockefeller College, since the ex-gov was no stranger to poor fiscal policies. Have to wonder if Ms Finneran studied there as well

Lets review… There are currently a finite number of parking spaces downtown that are available to people coming to the City. A meter Maid walks the street and tickets cars that are there for more than 2 hours.

Under the Rockefeller proposal, there will be the same number of parking spaces available and the same meter maid will patrol Broadway, giving out tickets to cars with expired meters.

At best, the city will pick up a few bucks on each parking space and the public Safety Commissioner will have a new rationale for creating another patronage job (somebody will have to collect all those quarters and you can bet it won’t be the cops). At worst, visitors will be disgusted that not only will they have to thread through the double parkers looking for a parking place, they now must also carry change to feed the meters. Some of those disgusted visitors will decide to do their shopping someplace else. Perhaps the big boxes at exit 15 that boast plenty of free parking.

What Eileen calls congestion, the downtown merchants call traffic, and they need it to survive. Too bad there aren’t any retailers on the City Council these days (Matt McCabe, where have you gone). Hope those quarters offset the loss of sales tax dollars!

3:29 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


Here's a solution: Parking and congestion isn't that much of a problem. In fact, were I to rank the problems in Saratoga Springs, parking and traffic wouldn't even make the top 10. For two months out of the year, it's a problem. But that's because the city literally triples in size. Even then, I've never had a problem finding a parking space. Sometimes it's a few blocks away from my destination, but when you have a city like Saratoga, that's never that big of a deal. Walk. Enjoy the city. Maybe you'll find a new corner you'll enjoy.


I understand the need and desire to find new revenues, but I find something highly offensive about charging for public parking on public roadways. Take for instance the Poughkeepsie train station, where you can park nearly a mile away from the platform and still end up paying to keep your car on a public thoroughfare. We pay for the roads, we should at least be able to park on them for an hour or so.


So true. One person's pleasure is another's plague.

And to everyone who responded to this post: very constructive responses and absent from the bullshit that has really encroached on this site lately. Intelligent posts are always welcomed, especially if they're on topic, well versed and make a point worth reading. Keep up the good work and thanks for keeping it clean today.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You say you wouldn't rank parking and traffic among the top 10 problems in Saratoga Springs. What makes you so different from everybody else in the city? In every election, opinion poll, and man-in-the-street interview in the last 20 years, parking has not only been in the top 10, it's usually been in the top 3 on everybody's list of things to bitch about. Are you really so out of touch with other Saratogians, or are you just tosssing in a tongue-in-cheek comment to keep the discussion going?

And if you think the incumbents are "political hacks now usurping the Public Safety office," who do you think they're usurping? Do you really want to go back to Tom Curley as Commissioner and Erin Dryer as Deputy Dog? It's easy to dismiss any politician as a "political hack," but let's not forget that Curley and Dryer were an absolute wrecking crew.

You say the city has a "pair of useless parking garages," but haven't you noticed that the reason the new one on Church Street is useless for most people is that all the spaces are hogged by workers at Adirondack Trust, which, led by Republican stalwarts Charlie Wait and Tim Mabee, conveniently arranged to have the garage connected directly to their new building, and then stuck the city with the bill for the $75,000 sprinkler system that had to be added once the office building was connected to the garage?

2:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed, parking isn't that big of a problem. It's problematic for a couple months, and horrible on a few days like July 4, Travers... Congestion occurs between 11-1pm and 5-7pm everyday but Tuesday during the racing season; if you're a Saratogian you already know this and avoid driving around those times.

But it's not to the level where we need to implement a new recreational tax. We pay a good chunk in taxes already, to keep the streets clean and cops around to be safe, so you can enjoy that walk you mention.

2:08- Parking is in the top 10 not because it's a "real" problem, but instead because it's something easy to complain about. Besides that, the local press loves the issue, and aspiring politicians love talking about it because; 1. It's an easy shot at an incumbent opponent that they haven't done anything, and 2. there is no simple solution, so no one is all that upset when nothing happens.

Good post, the criticism of it is baseless.

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about a trial run of two metered spots just for Eileen Finneran and Ron Kim. They can park at the metered spots until they are kicked out of office in a year and a half. Then they can write up a report and let us know how it worked out for them.

We can put the report in the recycle bin with all the other half-baked downtown transportation plans.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


I'll direct you to 6:57 for most of my response; well said.

I'll add: If there's a group of very vocal people(business owners) who yell at the politicians and media long enough, there becomes a perception that a problem exists. As I said before, I've never had a problem finding a spot within three or four blocks of my destination. Ever. Not during race season, not during the (name your festival), and not during the Fourth fireworks. Maybe I'm just wry at finding spots downtown. Maybe there just isn't a problem.

I'll counter by saying this: If you want to see a parking problem, try living in a downtown Albany apartment without off-street parking for a year. Or working downtown. Then tell me how many times your vehicle was ticketed/booted/towed/vandalized. Now that's a problem. And when I visit New York City, I'll be lucky if I can find a free overnight spot within a mile of my destination. But in both these places, you don't hear that parking is among the top problems facing the city.

And the reason I rag on the parking garages is because neither of them added that many parking spaces. The latest one on Woodlawn added something like 25, if I remember correctly. The project itself cost nearly $6 million and will eventually require hundreds of thousands to maintain: See Putnam Street garage.

Practically, I would have rather seen a mixed use building at the very least. But above all, it would have been nice to see that cash invested into something (and I hate to use this buzz word) "sustainable" instead of a massive concrete structure that will probably be demolished when America's preoccupation with the automobile dwindles, as is likely over the next five decades or so.

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Saratogians and the City Council quit looking for revenue streams and expended their efforts looking for opportunities to cut costs, our city government would have the funds to pay us to live here.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are all foolish lemurs!!

Do you want to know how this all ties into being McTygue's fault?

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the explanation that parking isn't a problem as long as everybody is willing to walk 3 or 4 blocks to shop in a store on Broadway. I won't hold my breath, however, while I wait for the Chamber of Commerce to endorse that brilliant idea.

How come you didn't answer the question about who you want to return to the Public Safety office after "usurpers" Kim and Finneran are overthrown? Not so sure you want Curley and Dryer or some other Republican hacks back in charge?

4:33 PM  
Blogger Ben Arnold said...

Actually, I'll take Curley and Dryer, or some other Republican hacks, or even different Democrat hacks. How about a monkey and fiddle player? There's nowhere to go but up.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I remember the Chamber has done studies over the years that show the parking spaces downtown are occupied by downtown merchants, forcing thier customers to walk. Parking has never been a problem for those among us who don't mind a short stroll. The same people complaining about walking a block or two have no problem parking 100 -200 yards away from the mall and walking. We are lucky to live in a successful City, enjoy it.

5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, maybe they aren't parking 100 - 200 yards away from the mall, sorry about that. Hope you get the point anyway

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:37 - I agree. Cut costs, not try to increase revenue.

How much revenue is expected from the proposed parking meters? $60K 70K or so a year? Hey, that is just about equal to the Public Safety deputy commissioner salary. When not eliminate the deputy commisioner position. We did it in the past.

It's a Win, Win. The taxpayers save some money and the visitors (life blood) continue to park for free.

What is wrong with walking 3 or 4 blocks to get to a store or restaurant?

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh? The Chamber? That figures. Gordon Boyd again! Why must we have to deal with this asshole who just wants to pad his pockets with our money.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Saratoga downtown business owners park in front of their restaurants, then whine about lack of parking there is something wrong in this town. More wrongs when the politicians get the wool pulled over their eyes about lack of parking, then spend taxpayers money to provide more.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parking meters are assinine. What, now we want to be like Lake George? If these people who have been coming here for years don't want to walk that is too bad. When we go on vacation somewhere we have to pay to park . I was in Boston for the day and it cost $32 to park. I would have loved to walk 4 blocks if I could park for free.

4:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bring the parking meters on. Saratoga Springs is already a bigger circus than Lake George.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saratoga Springs is one of the few walkable cities left in America. People are too lazy to walk. I know alot of people who live within walking distance to their downtown saratoga job and they still insist on DRIVING!!

It boggles the intelligent mind. And these are the same people that bitch about needing to lose a few pounds and high price of gas!!

It doesnt make sense. we have all witnessed the morons who will drive around the block for 40 minutes because they just have to park directly in front of the store they are going into.

If everyone I know would just walk on a regular basis, they would be in better shape and leave those downtown parking spaces for the tourists and people visting from nearby albany and glens falls etc. thats who those parking spaces are for anyway not for those who live on upper caroline street.

12:49 PM  

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