Free parking on side streets off Kansas Ave. reinstated by Topeka City Council

13 NEWS at 10 p.m.
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 5:32 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Parking is once again free in downtown Topeka.

The Topeka City Council voted 8-2 Tuesday night to put bags back on the parking meters along the 100 blocks of Kansas Ave. between 6th and 10th streets on the east and west sides.

Council members said the decision to reinstate parking fees was made when it looked as if the effects of the pandemic would ease back, and more people would visit the district.

“COVID recovery has not hit as fast as we hoped and we have the omicron hitting us, so the consensus after speaking with the business was ‘okay sometimes not every decision we make is on par right away,’ so if we can correct that lets at least get it corrected for the foreseeable future,” said Councilman Spenser Duncan.

The decision to remove the bags from meters will be brought before the City Council again in May.

The parking meters that just returned to downtown Topeka’s side streets a few months ago could go away again.

There’s mixed reaction to the idea of bringing free parking back.

The city believed reactivating the parking meters last October raise revenue for the 2022 budget, but local businesses, like Trust Co. Salon on 8th Ave., said they’d love to see the bags go back on.

Chavez: “I know that the revenue is important for downtown like I don’t deny that and I’m happy to have both but yeah, it’s going to be great to have - if the bags came back that would be awesome.”

Trust Co. Salon owner Shanna Chavez said she didn’t notice a vast difference when the city took the hoods off parking meters last fall.

Chavez said, “It helps limit the hours and the time people are parked there, but it does make it challenging when you’re trying to run out and plug meters, make sure you have time. Especially for us when we have customers that are here for longer services.”

The City’s Public Infrastructure Committee said people were parking two hours for free on Kansas Avenue, then moving to side streets from 6th to 10th to gain two more free hours. They felt bringing back paid parking would address the problem. Plus, the city estimated it would bring in about $100,000 in revenue each year to help cover a $1.3 million deficit in the 2022 budget.

But the decision met backlash. Downtown side street parking had been free from 2017 till last October.

Topeka resident Jack Hitsman is one that has mixed reactions to the possibility of bringing back free parking.

“You might draw a little more crowd but Topeka has had parking meters for as long as I can remember and I’m 55 years old. So, I believe basically that it will make a lot of a difference as far as the volume of people coming through but for some of the people, it’s kind of a good little promotion I think,” he said.

Chavez said other business owners struggled with customers turning away when they saw the meters.

“I think our challenge was trying to remind people because we haven’t had to do it for so long I just making sure we have change to help accommodate them if they weren’t ready for it,” she said. “I think another thing is not everybody understood how to pay online so we never even figured that structure out things I can make it better but I mean I think it was it was a learning curve again for not having it that long trying to figure out how to set that back up in your system.”

It would need six votes to come back again.

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