Burlington businesses supportive of parking garage fee

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 8:27 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Parking at Burlington’s Marketplace Garage now comes with an extra fee. What was two hours of free parking is now $1 for the first hour and $2 for the second hour. Local businesses we spoke with say they expect it to be OK.

“I don’t think parking is that big of an issue for people that want to come downtown,” said Tod Gross, the manager of Phoenix Books, one of the most visible storefronts from the Marketplace Garage.

Gross doesn’t expect the new fees will drive them out of business.

“I don’t think it’s going to impact our business materially,” he said. “There is still a lot of parking downtown and free parking.”

And those behind the change, agree.

“It’s a balanced approach to provide a more efficient parking system for everyone,” said Jeff Padgett, the division director for parking traffic in Burlington. “The important part to understand is it’s not about raising rates, it’s about a balanced multilayer management plan for parking in Burlington. It’s not intended to increase parking, it’s not intended to decrease parking. It’s intended to create an optimized managed approach so that our resources, our limited resources downtown are used effectively.”

Padgett says the removal of free parking at the garage is a net positive. Before the change, 80% of the transactions in the garage were free. Now, he says the goal is to spread customers out and make money.

“It’ll create a system, not too expensive, but it’s expensive enough. It puts a little bit on so that we get turnover in the downtown to create that vitality and vibrancy,” he said.

Those who want free parking for two hours can still find it at the Lakeview and College Street garages.

Employees of downtown businesses are encouraged to park there as well, and the earnings from the Marketplace will cover their parking.

“The increase in revenue due to the rate change should, we believe, more than offset the cost of free parking for employees downtown,” said Padgett.

“This is a huge plus in my estimation,” said Mark Bouchett, the co-owner of Homeport.

Bouchett says while he can understand unrest stemming from the removal of free parking, it helps him help his employees.

“Our staff need places to park. And to be able to pay for their parking, that’s a big thing, that’s a big plus to their income,” he said.

And despite concern from some customers, he doesn’t expect this will affect his business because he says Burlington has always pulled through.

“This community just wildly supports our local businesses and every single one of us, up and down the street, is grateful,” said Bouchett.

Padgett says they are rolling out a validation system for businesses in the downtown area to use for their customers if they want to, giving more flexibility to store owners to assist the city in spreading out parking.

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