Peg Luciano adjusts a box of peaches as she works at Pat Montoya’s Family Orchard stand. Pretty soon, she’ll have to stop by the meter and drop in a few more coins. Like the other workers at the Railyard Farmers Market, Luciano now has to pay as much as $12 for a day for parking. It makes a considerable difference to what’s left from her paychecks.
"I'm only making a small amount an hour working for the farmers," Luciano says.
The city's new parking rates went into effect at the beginning of the month. On-street metered parking rose from $1 to $2 an hour for the first two hours, and $3 for each additional hour. For shorter time periods, as are often needed at the city's main post office, the rate jumped to 5 cents a minute, meaning visitors better hope there's not a long line. Off-street parking, however, like at the Railyard Municipal Garage, dropped from $2 to $1 for the first hour, with a rate of $2 for each additional hour and a maximum daily rate of $12, an increase from the previous rate of $10 per day.
The rate change comes with the implementation of Santa Fe's new fiscal year budget and renewed efforts to minimize debts like those incurred for parking garage construction.
The city also discontinued the discounted rate of $1 parking before noon in the Railyard Municipal Garage for the Saturday Farmers Market. For market vendors, who typically arrive at the Railyard as early as 5 am and don't leave until after 2 pm, the full day rate of $12 now applies.
City spokesman Matt Ross tells SFR, "This giveaway to the Farmers Market folks, as much as we love to do that sort of thing and support the Farmers Market, got eliminated in order to balance the budget."
Ross says there was "a lot of effort around notifying the general public. The New Mexican ran articles, the Journal ran articles and we did our own social media work."
Yet, Brian DeSpain, the president of the Farmers Market board, says there was no notice from the city.
"The Railyard Corporation, who we work with, basically told us the day before," DeSpain says. "It wasn't enough time to notify our customers or our membership."
Sandra Brice, the events and marketing director for the Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation, says they learned of the change, ironically, from Farmers Market Institute Executive Director Kierstan Pickens, two days before the rates took effect.
DeSpain noticed an immediate change in his interaction with customers. "It's made shopping very uncomfortable because people are worried about getting a ticket. … They're rushing in, stuffing stuff in their bags and getting out."
Peaches Malmaud has been selling garlic oil at the Farmers Market for 20 years. "This is our sixth location since I've been here," she says of the market's home in the Railyard. "This is the hardest one for parking and it discourages locals from coming."
Market Manager Devon Kaiser says while it's only been three weeks since the parking rates increased, "the effect has been immense and immediate." Money that previously could have been spent on groceries now goes toward parking. "It just sucks, because the city's making up their budget shortfall on the backs of the Santa Fe Farmers Market."
Ross suggests the Southside Farmers Market as a more affordable alternative, "where parking is completely free. It extends access to people who may be of a lower income throughout Santa Fe."
DeSpain says Ross has "obviously never attended the Southside market. Farmers Market Southside is much smaller. To suggest that is a bit disingenuous."
While the Saturday Farmers Market at the Rail-yard offers produce from about 130 vendors, the Southside market is still in its infancy. "The optimistic way of looking at it is we might get people to some of these other markets that we work really hard on but aren't as popular," says Southside market manager Lani Ersfeld. However, as the Southside market exists to service Santa Feans who can't make it to the Railyard, those who live downtown may have the same problem getting to the Southside. "It's really difficult for some folks to get across town, especially in the afternoon around rush hour," Ersfeld says.
DeSpain hopes to work with the city to find better solutions. The Railyard market has also recently opened on Wednesday nights from 4 to 8 pm. Parking is free after 6 pm. As for the Tuesday market, customers can take advantage of free parking next to Warehouse 21 before 10 am.