According to Jeff Padgett, Burlington Public Works assistant director for parking and traffic, the Queen City has wanted for two or three years now to solve the problem of frequent traffic jams from cars waiting to enter the Marketplace Garage. Those traffic jams could frequently be found on Bank Street and South Winooski Avenue. The need for a solution became more urgent this month, with a lane re-painting project reducing much of South Winooski from four travel lanes to three in order to add bike lanes.
City staff found that the most cost-effective option was to leave the Marketplace Garage gates up at all times and to have drivers use the city’s ParkMobile app or a self-serve kiosk before leaving the garage. Padgett said they also found a coronavirus-related benefit.
“We also get a touchless environment, which is great,” he said. “That’s part of what we’re really trying to sell people on, this idea that we’re not just making change for change’s sake.”
As Local 22 & Local 44 News reported a week ago, nearby merchants will likely be able to provide free parking at the Marketplace Garage once the long-standing two free hours of parking are discontinued there at the end of the year.
“We haven’t fully vetted all of the mechanics of that yet, but fundamentally, it will be a no-purchase-necessary validation program,” Padgett said. “We will be using the merchants as the point of contact, so the idea is that we want to drive that traffic.”
Alex Bunten, special projects manager for the Burlington Business Association, isn’t sure the change at the Marketplace Garage on New Year’s Day will play out that way. He wonders if this is the best way to generate parking revenue and relieve overcrowding.
“We’re concerned that this will impact how people come downtown and when they come downtown, especially since businesses right now are hurting,” he said.
The BBA hopes, though, that a chance to win prizes and gift certificates just by parking will help alleviate that pain.
“If you come downtown and you park in Marketplace Garage, anywhere on-street, or if you sign up for the first time for ParkMobile, then you’re entered to win a prize of up to $200 from local merchants,” Bunten said.
The raffle is part of ParkMobile’s sponsorship of the #SaveLocalVT online auction, where items are donated by Queen City businesses. Raffle entries and auction bids both close this coming Thursday, October 29.