Frequently Asked Questions

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What are we doing?

Following the 2015 Downtown and University Corner Comprehensive Parking Study, the City of Charlottesville decided to pursue a pricing-based parking management strategy, via a priced-parking Pilot. The metered parking Pilot program will be operated from September 5, 2017 through March 5, 2018.  The initial metered area includes those spaces most proximate to retail destinations, which are expected to benefit from improved parking availability. The value of the Pilot is to assess the impact of metering parking in the downtown and to make adjustments before deploying the strategy in a wider area. We know many will have questions, and have tried to anticipate many of them, and answer them below. Further information is available on this website at Parking Information.

How will this work?

1. What areas are covered in the meter Pilot, and what are the alternatives to parking there?

  •  The proposed Pilot area encompasses 12 square blocks and is bounded by Old Preston (West), Market Street (North), 7th Street (East), and Water Street (South)
  • Alternatives include the Market and Water Street Garages as well as a large amount of unrestricted on-street parking in the Southeast portion of the City center
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    2. How many parking spaces are there Downtown?

    • There are over 4,000 parking spaces accessible to the public in the downtown study area. This number includes 1,000 on-street spaces.
    • The proposed Pilot area contains 157 on-street parking spaces. Of these, 105 are currently regulated as 2-Hour spaces for at least part of the day and will be metered.

     3. What is the maximum time limit one is allowed in a space?

    • Currently you may not park in any space in the metered area longer than two hours.  None of the current time restrictions will be changed for the period of the Pilot.

    4. Why not allow people to stay as long as they want? Why can’t I park on street all day if I am willing to feed the meter?

    • We want to make clear that these spaces are primarily for those who have short-term parking needs and maintaining time limits helps get that message across.
    • We will collect space utilization and turnover data during the Pilot and use this data to determine if changing the parking duration restrictions can improve parking availability and use.

    5. What are the meter rates and when are you required to make payment?

    • $1.80 per hour, from 8:00 AM until 8:00 PM, Monday through Saturday.

    6. How can I pay the meter fee?

    • We are using a mixture of more traditional single space meters and multi-space pay stations.  All will accept credit cards, debit cards and nickels, dimes and quarters.  Videos showing how to operate the meters are available on our Parking Information page. 

    7. Can I still park at a meter that says Out Of Order?

    • You will not be ticketed for failure to pay the meter if you are parked at a meter reading Out of Order.  You must, however,  still abide by all signed parking restrictions such as: No parking in any Loading Zone during the hours indicated.  No parking more than two hours per day on any block.

    8. What will happen to spaces currently marked loading zone and handicapped in the Pilot area?

    • Spaces designated for use by those with a displayed disability placard will remain, unchanged during the Pilot.
    • The objective of the Pilot, increased and consistent availability among on-street spaces will also directly benefit those with disabilities, by making it more likely that they will find a space close to their primary destination.
    • Loading zones will also remain unchanged.

    9. Where will people who work Downtown park?

    • A complete discussion of changes to the rate structure of the Market Street Garage and other parking options is at Parking Information on this website.

    10. How do you determine meter rates?

    • The rate was selected to be slightly higher than the rate at the Market Street Garage to correct the current economic imbalance in parking rates.  Before the Pilot, the on-street parking was free and the garage rate was $2.50 per hour.  This makes little economic sense when most people prefer to park on the street.  The $1.80 rate for the meters and the $1.50 rate for the garage with the first hour free corrects this balance in price versus demand. 

    11. Where will the meter fees go? Is metered parking a way for the City to raise revenue?

    • The primary purpose of requiring payment for on-street parking is to create more consistent availability, and thus make downtown easier and more convenient to visit. 
    • Pricing is the best, most-effective way to achieve this aim; the fact that it will generate revenue is a co-benefit that we intend to put to use to further improve the downtown experience.  The meter revenue will not simply be added to the General Fund of the City.  It will instead be placed in a separate Parking Enterprise Fund.

    12.  Why are we doing this? What are the benefits of metered parking?

    • Metered parking will increase turnover and deter parkers from staying longer than 2 hours in an on-street space.  This will in turn provide more parking availability.
    • Metered parking benefits local businesses by ensuring that more customers have more and better parking options for their downtown visit.
    • Metered parking will benefit the Mall businesses by providing additional revenue for Mall promotions and improvements.

    13. What is wrong with free parking?

    • Free parking results in overwhelming demand for the most convenient parking spaces, with area commuters and other long-term parking users tending to arrive first, leaving few spaces available when customers begin to arrive. 

    14. Most businesses outside of downtown provide free parking.  Why can’t downtown do the same?

    • Parking is never free. The cost to build and maintain parking facilities is significant. If these costs are not recouped by user fees, such as meters, they are passed on, first to the businesses that are served by the spaces, and then to the customers of those businesses. So, at a typical shopping mall, the cost of parking is passed onto the shops and then onto their customers, even those who walk or bike or arrive by bus.

    15. Won’t this plan negatively impact downtown businesses?

    • The supply of on-street parking is not something that can usually be expanded significantly.  In a thriving downtown, this supply is usually not nearly sufficient to accommodate demand. In such a context, parking can be free, or it can be consistently accessible, but it usually cannot be both. Parking meters represent a management decision to emphasize consistent availability, while the price at the meters will be set as low as possible in order to achieve that. 

    16. Will metered parking drive people and business away from the city?

    • Based on the experience of similar efforts in comparable city centers, we believe the convenience created by increased and consistent availability will attract more people than are discouraged by the modest cost increase. We expect to keep existing customers by offering the first hour free in the Market Street Garage and lowering the rate to $1.50 per hour thereafter.

    17. Can we build additional off-street capacity instead of metering?

    • Structured parking is very costly, easily $50,000 per space below a building, to construct.  In Charlottesville this is further complicated by the limited availability and cost of land.   The City has taken the step to purchase a parcel across from City Hall on Market Street between 8th and 9th Streets.  We intend to combine this property with the existing surface parking lot on the north side of East Market between 7th and 8th Streets.  The assembled property will provide an opportunity for a public private partnership with a developer to activate the street with; street front retail, above grade office or residential or a combination of both, and below grade public parking.  This is an excellent opportunity but it will require an additional City investment and can be a lengthy process.
    • Independent of this opportunity, metered parking immediately addresses the need for improved availability and predictability of short term parking using existing resources.

    18. I pay taxes as a resident, why do I also have to pay to park when I go downtown?

    • Taxpayers do help to fund the City’s parking system, which is significant budget item, but a necessary one for the downtown economy. 
    • The system of paid on-street parking addresses the need for parkers to value parking for all the reasons noted above and will provide a future dedicated revenue stream for Mall promotions and improvements.

    19. If I have a disabled placard, do I have to pay the meter?

    • Any vehicle displaying a valid disabled placard or license plate does not have to pay for parking on any metered space.   You also may park up to four hours on any space with a 2 hour restriction.