Increased parking prices could hurt local businesses
Hundreds of students flock to Main Street every day to grab a bite at one of its many restaurants. Behind the scenes, employees work hard to ensure a stress-free and enjoyable experience. The changes in parking rates, however, may change this, making it more difficult and costly for them to commute to Main Street.
Metered parking is currently $1.25 per hour on Main Street. The off-street hourly parking rate is currently $1 per hour. The proposal, Bill 17-54, which is currently being discussed in Newark City Council, would increase the parking rate to $2 per hour in city lots Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The $1 per hour parking rate would continue on weekends, nights and during the summer.
Anna Shields, a sophomore, currently works at Honeygrow, which does not provide employees with extra payments to compensate for parking costs. Shields started working at Honeygrow knowing that parking rates were $1 an hour. Shields said this rate was tolerable but believes she will no longer be able to work and pay the $2 an hour to park.
“If they’re charging $2 an hour for parking, that’s putting anyone who’s making minimum wage on Main Street under federal minimum wage,” Shields said. “No one can work on Main Street for $6.25 an hour.”
Sarah Campbell, a junior who currently works at Newark Deli and Bagels (NDB), another restaurant that does not compensate employees parking. Campbell only drives to work on Sundays because the parking is free in city lots.
Many students who work on Main Street choose to walk to their jobs, since most dorms and off-campus apartments are located within a 15-minute walk of Main Street. However, many of the employees are not students and must commute to work and are forced to park in city-owned lots.
If the parking prices were increased to $2 per hour, Main Street businesses would have a hard time finding employees other than people who are within walking distance, Shields said. Businesses cannot afford to compensate for parking for employees, so raised parking prices would create larger financial burdens for the businesses on Main Street.
Campbell said that, after the parking rates recently changed, customers were getting angry at employees for not having the food ready before their parking meters expired. She said that another change would worsen the negative impact on restaurants, employees and customers alike.
Most restaurants on Main Street currently validate for customer parking only. The City of Newark currently uses validation subsidies to compensate businesses half of the what they spend on customer parking validations. It is estimated that the City of Newark loses $60,000 to $80,000 each year due to validation subsidies. Due to this experience, Deputy City Manager Andrew Haines proposed eliminating Newark’s subsidies for parking validation.
“I understand that the city needs money … but I don’t think [raising parking rates is] the best way to [raise funds for the city] because it’s going to be a burden on the businesses who employ people that aren’t students,” Shields said. “You can’t run the entirety of Main Street just on student labor.”