In 2016, tempers flared as Santa Fe doubled parking meter prices from $1 per hour to $2 for the first two hours and $3 for every additional hour.
Starting on Saturday July 7, however, officials are halving the cost of parking in the Railyard and downtown Santa Fe. Parking will cost $1 per hour through Sept. 8.
"Santa Fe residents and merchants share a strong feeling: Downtown parking isn't working for them," Mayor Alan Webber said in a press release Thursday. "Our half-price summer sale is just a first step. It's our way of saying, 'We hear you and we're working on it.'"
Officials at the time argued that raising meter prices would encourage people to park in less-expensive garages rather than on streets. Those goals have not changed. According to city spokesman Matt Ross, the strategy opens up more parking spaces and encourages people who are downtown all day to park in garages. In addition, it allows for a higher meter turnover rate.
"The meters are really there as a convenience for people to get in and out quickly," he tells SFR, adding that the "summer sale" won't ding the city's revenue much. "We'll be covering the cost out of parking's existing budget," says Ross. The city earns about $20 per day from each of its 1,140 meters with the current fee structure, so for the nine weeks during the event, it is likely to collect only earn $10 per day per meter, he says.
For many residents and locals alike, the news is welcome.
"I think that $2.50 is very high, I do," says Linda Warp, who hails from Kansas and was visiting Santa Fe on Friday with her husband and three daughters. "We have to go back and put in more money right now."
Bill Arrighi, 68, who drives a pedicab, doesn't have to feed the meter because of his job, but still holds strong opinions on the price. "I think they're high," he says, as his friend Paul Hillman, also a pedicab driver, agrees.
"I think [the rates] are very high and cause a lot of problems for tourists," says Hillman, 72. "Also, this year I've noticed the crackdown on people. … Someone can pull up over there in the loading zone; five seconds later, a parking enforcement guy is there writing a ticket. They are on them like a cat catching a mouse. I'm shocked at how aggressive they are."
For businesses, the results of higher prices have been mixed. Scott Malouf, owner of rug and jewelry store Malouf on the Plaza, seems fairly content about the situation.
"For us, we haven't seen [the business] really affected. Initially there was some concern because the rates were increased dramatically without really any warning or the proper kind of campaign to get people ready for it, but once it's gone into effect, most people seem fine with it. … You know, nobody really talks about it anymore."
Conversely, Karoline Sophie, who works at clothing boutique Chocolate and Cashmere, says several customers have complained about meter prices. "They have to keep refilling the meter, if it doesn't have a credit card. Yeah, a lot of people are unhappy about it. It's just outrageously expensive for some people. Especially the locals … they definitely voice their opinion about it."
This means that meters have shortened the length of time people spend in the store. "They want to rush out, make sure they go to their meter. … It does impact their shopping habits."
Some tourists, such as Kelly Peters, are happy with the situation.
"I'm from Los Angeles, so we pay way too much for parking," says Peters. "Two dollars seems … I really don't know, it's hard to say. Two dollars an hour seems reasonable."
City officials could decide later whether to lower meter prices permanently.
"I think we're looking at a whole range of improvements to the parking experience for people in Santa Fe," says Ross. "We want to find a way to make sure that it's working for both the revenue requirements that the Parking Division has and also for merchants downtown, for businesses downtown and in the Railyard, for the Farmers Market in the Railyard and for the people of Santa Fe who come downtown or come to the Railyard to participate in community events."
For the summer promotion, the meters will automatically show the adjusted price during enforcement hours (8 am-6 pm). Sunday parking is still free.
"Stay tuned," Webber said. "We're going to keep looking at other changes to make parking work for everyone in Santa Fe."