Visitors to pay $2 per hour at Saratoga Springs parking garages, city lots under new plan

Saratoga Springs passes paid parking program

Saratoga Springs passes paid parking program that includes $2 per hour in the garage for visitors from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Visitors to Saratoga Springs will have to pay to park in the city-owned garages and parking lots starting Memorial Day.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the plan after a lengthy public comment session.

The fee would be $2 per hour to park in the garages from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Residents and people who work downtown could obtain free parking passes to exempt them from paying.

On-street parking would remain free.

Public Works Commissioner Jason Golub said the impetus for the program was the need for more revenue to clean up the garages, which have been used by the homeless population. City crews have spent a lot of time cleaning up human waste in the garages and have even had rocks thrown at them.

“They’re not presentable to our residents. They’re not presentable to our visitors. They are not safe for our employees,” he said.

A few weeks ago, there was a person arrested for allegedly selling fentanyl at a garage.

Golub said that the plan was scaled down from an earlier version to just operate during the summer tourist season.

“It simply doesn’t make sense to have the expenses associated with running the program in the off season, so there is no intention from any of us to expand this beyond the summer months,” he said.

Public Safety Commissioner Tim Coll said that the revenue would help to hire parking attendants. Among some of the issues are teenagers congregating at the garage, including on the rooftop. Also, people drive recklessly doing “donuts.” Just this past week, there was graffiti including swastikas at the garage.

“If we have an attendant there, it will deter potential bad actors from committing criminal activity or ordinance violations,” he said.

The money could also fund improved lighting and other upgrades, he said.

City officials estimate that the program would bring in about $1.5 million in revenue. In the first year, there would be about $450,000 in expenses getting the program up and running including the pay stations.

Registration for the program would take place online and at City Hall. They would have to provide residency or proof of employment.

The program would use license plate readers to track the parking.

And there would be ticket forgiveness for anyone who is eligible for a permit but perhaps has not picked up one.

Public comment on the proposal was mixed with some people saying it is long overdue to have paid parking and others worried that it could have a negative effect on visitors to the city.

Resident Chris Mathiesen said he believes the idea is big mistake. He has his dental practice downtown and it brings in clients from outside the city.

“You’re turning people away from downtown. You’re going to hurt businesses,” he said.

Kristen Dart said she personally hates to pay for parking, but supports the program.

“I think it puts the burden where it should be – not on residents.”

The council supported the proposal.

Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi said she spoke with some people this past weekend during an Easter egg hunt about the parking program.

“When I told them it was free for residents, everybody was on board,” she said.

Sanghvi pointed out that every city around them that is a tourist destination has a paid parking program. A lot of residents and visitors do not feel safe in the garages.

“We know that some of these monies can help alleviate some of those problems,” she said.  

Mayor John Safford agreed that some the revenue can help address the homeless problem.