Through the ups and downs of the always jittery Rhode Island economy, one Providence industry remains remarkably strong: parking.
From private surface lots to on-street city meters, demand for downtown parking is growing, managers say, pointing to continued resurgence in Providence’s retail, entertainment and restaurant businesses.
“People may think I am crazy, but demand is up,” said Charlie Meyers, president of Metropark Ltd., which just opened a new surface lot at 43 Weybosset St. behind the old National Bank façade. “Restaurants are doing better than last year and, yes, there are more people working downtown. I keep good statistics and demand is up.”
Meyers said Metropark’s citywide revenue is up 10 percent this year.
Since 2009, revenue from city parking meters has risen 55 percent, according to Providence Parking Administrator Leo Perrotta.
Based on revenue from the first half of the year, the city is on pace to collect $1.7 million for the year from its 1,520 parking meters, up from $1.4 million last year and $1.1 million in 2009, Perrotta said. The totals do not include any revenue from parking tickets.
Part of the increase is due to a rise in the number of meters – which had dipped to about 1,200 a few years ago due to the I-Way and other projects and has been reversed with the city making a conscious effort to add more on-street parking.
But Perrotta, who started in his position a year and a half ago, said those changes most likely don’t account for such a large increase in the number of quarters dumped into city meters.
“It is more meters, better enforcement, pricing, but it is also increased traffic and an increased number of people coming into downtown for events,” Perrotta said.
In addition to adding to the number of metered parking spaces, the city has also replaced old meters on Westminster Street with computerized units that allow drivers to pay with credit cards.
Despite the increase in metered spots in the last two years, the vast majority of the roughly 15,000 parking spots in Providence are in private lots, a total that has not remained static either.
The demolition last year of the six-story, 360-space Outlet Garage on Friendship Street, which was replaced by a 110-space surface parking lot, has placed greater demand on existing spaces.
Thus, in addition to the new Weybosset Street Metropark lot, there are plans to add even more off-street spaces to try to meet the added demand in the near future.