Pottstown to vote on reducing free parking, hiking rates as much as 143%

Some borough lots have much older, simpler kiosks for payment, like this one at the Trinity Lot off King Street.
Some borough lots have much older, simpler kiosks for payment, like this one at the Trinity Lot off King Street. Evan Brandt — Digital First Media

POTTSTOWN >> Pottstown Borough Council is set to vote Monday on changes to downtown parking rules that could, in some cases, result in a 143 percent hike in parking rates and allow drivers to pay for their parking using a mobile device.

Currently, parking on High Street is free for the first three hours, said Interim Borough Manager Justin Keller.

And currently, the rate charged in any of the borough-owned parking lots is 35 cents per hour.

Under the changes subject to council vote Monday, that rate will increase to 50 cents per hour. That’s a 43 percent increase in the parking rate.

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However, those paying for parking using their smart phone through the new ParkMobile app with which council is poised to sign a contract, may also find a processing fee from their credit card company ranging between 5 and 35 cents, Keller told council Wednesday night.

Keller said the borough is “currently negotiating to lower the (processing) fee,” but until that happens, some drivers may find themselves paying as much as 85 cents per hour to park downtown.

He noted that signing a contract with ParkMobile, which will also allow people to reserve parking as well as pay for it, “costs the borough nothing. There is no cost to the borough.”

The reason the nine-member parking committee decided to reduce the three-free hours of street parking to one, said Keller, is to encourage turnover.

“Frankly, one of the biggest problems is the merchants themselves taking up their customer parking in front of their stores,” said Keller.

The parking kiosks and drop boxes in the borough lots will remain in place, although they may be phased out in later years of the new method of paying for parking takes hold, Keller said.

In addition to eliminating three free hours of paid parking on High Street, the paid parking times between Manatawny and Madison streets will be adjusted to seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The time limit for parking on High Street downtown will remain three hours, with the first hour free, and no processing fee.

The changes do not apply to those who hold parking permits from the borough.

Similarly, the new rules and fees will apply in the borough’s parking lots seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The changes were first proposed in January, but were put off while staff negotiated a contract with ParkMobile.

The last time a comprehensive look was taken at downtown parking rules was 2002. Rates were last changed in 2013.