Changes to downtown parking aim to better utilize available spaces

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Big changes to parking in downtown Rapid City are one step closer to becoming a reality. With new meters and two-hour free parking scheduled to go into effect this June, City officials are working out the details, but some business owners have concerns.

One issue city officials see with parking downtown is something they call "employee shuffle."

"In principle, there is agreement amongst downtown business owners that the prime parking spaces should be reserved for the customers however in practice that is not a reality," says Rapid City Chief of Police Karl Jegeris.

Making changes to parking in the core downtown area with smart meters, and free two-hour parking on other streets, they hope to keep traffic flowing through downtown. This also includes parking permits for people living or working downtown.

Not everyone thinks this change will be beneficial though. Curt Small, owner of the Elks theater expressed concern that two-hour parking limits could discourage people who want to spend time downtown and see a movie.

"You know, it's hard whenever you have a business and you have a regulation that you feel is working for you and there's a proposal to change it I think it's understandable that there's going to be some anxiety or fear about how that's going to affect your business," says City Attourney Joel Landeen.

The metered parking, however, doesn't have a time limit and with the option to use an app, drivers can add more time to their meter, without having to go back to their car. Another option for anyone visiting downtown and willing to get some additional steps in is free all day parking on Columbus Street.

"Most trips to downtown are from people who are driving their vehicles so we want to make sure we have the right kind of parking experience for a variety of different types of users," says Sarah Hanzel, Rapid City long-range planner.

Anyone who would need a parking permit for downtown can do so online with a new website that is currently in development. It's expected to go live next month.

The ordinance includes the creation of a Parking Advisory Board to get citizen and user input on parking management downtown.