Grand Rapids may end free parking in some areas

Grand Rapids, parking
Grand Rapids may start charging for on-street parking along stretches of Ionia Avenue, Scribner Avenue and Grandville Avenue. (Nov. 1, 2016)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Free no more? Grand Rapids parking officials want to start charging for on-street parking in three areas that are currently free.

The affected stretches include Ionia Avenue NW north of I-196, Scribner Avenue NW north of Bridge Street, and Century and Grandville avenues SW south of Founders Brewing.

City officials claim the proposal is not a money maker, but rather a way to better control parking in growing areas.

Either way, it’s going to cost people like Steven Dowhan. He works on the north side of downtown and parks on Scribner. He said the city created parking problems in the first place.

“They have no consideration for the people downtown who need to park,” Dowhan said. “They’re just approving project upon project and not allotting for any parking.”

Others may see it as a city hall money grab.

“We hear that from a lot of people. But I think the biggest piece is that the public right of way, like an on-street parking space, it needs to be there for everybody. And if it’s free, people can park there and leave their car for days at a time.” Grand Rapids Parking Manager Josh Naramore said.

If approved by the city commission, the plan would turn currently free on-street parking spots in the designated areas into paid spots. It will cost you a dollar an hour, with a 10-hour parking limit.

“These are essentially to help us better manage the public right of way in which we would probably be looking to install meters already. There are areas where there already are meters and then they abruptly stop,” Naramore said.

Here’s how it works: When motorists pull into a spot, a sign will tell them what zone they are in. They can then either input the number into the Parkmobile app — which is already in use around the city — or call a toll free number to pay with a credit or debit card.

Why not just put meters up?

“Meters are extremely expensive upfront cost as well as the additional operational costs,” Naramore said.

Not everyone’s a critic. Century Antiques owner Jim Murray says the plan is both good and bad news for his business: While it may turn off customers who park in front of shop along Century, it may also cure another problem.

“During the week, it can be a big problem with all the people who work in different areas of the city and they come down here and park and they take up all the parking,” Murray said.

Grand Rapids, parking
A map showing where Grand Rapids may start charging for currently free parking.