City to slowly add parking pay stations to downtown Dells

Originally appeared in Wisconsin Dells Events by Ed Legge

City to slowly add parking pay stations to downtown Dells

June 21, 2016-

The Wisconsin Dells Parking Board swung for the fences last week in an attempt to double the number of pay stations serving the downtown area, but by Monday evening’s Finance Committee simply getting on base constituted a victory for the downtown parking improvement effort.

So said Wisconsin Dells Police Chief and Parking Board member Jody Ward, following the Finance Committee’s vote against the $145,000 proposal to add 11 pay stations covering 418 stalls to the city’s existing nine stations that cover 331 stalls.

“At least the conversation has been started, and the goal of the Parking Board is to go to pay stations,” said Ward, who researched and developed the proposal and brought it to the Parking Board at its June meeting last week and was on hand at the Finance Committee meeting Monday evening at the Dells Municipal Building.

Ordering an already-budgeted, single pay station will take place immediately, Ward told the Finance Committee, and the Parking Board will go back to the drawing board to develop a plan to add as many pay stations as financially feasible in each of the next few years, replacing out-dated and ineffective meters that serve the downtown area in the process, he said.

The city’s nine existing pay stations have become a popular option for visitors parking in the Dells, Ward said.

The stations, he said, “provide a credit card option for people, they give the city more options as far as regulating price and times of enforcement and they’re also a great tool for specific (parking) space (analytical) reports.”

Replacing hundreds of outdated meters that continue to serve parts of downtown, even though some can’t take quarters and many cannot be reconfigured any further, also would be a huge advantage for parking enforcement, he said.
“If you eliminate 500 mechanical meters that jam and have to be emptied, it’s also going to be a significant reduction in time spent on maintenance,” he said. “We’re maintaining 11 more machines versus more than 400 meters.”

Ward was asked by his fellow members on the Parking Board to research the possibility and cost of adding enough pay stations to downtown to cover most of the area.

“The Parking Board wanted me to figure out how many pay stations it would take to convert most of the parking in the Dells,” Ward told the Dells Events on Monday. “I thought 11 pay stations would get the job done, and the (Parking Board) voted to move to the next step and try to get financing.”

Even when the Parking Board reaches its goal of 11 additional pay stations, the traditional (albeit more modern) parking meter will still have a place in some areas, Ward said.

“There are still some meters in locations that will be too far away from pay stations, and it wouldn’t be money well spent in those areas,” he said. “You want to have the pay stations in fairly close proximity to people because you want them to see it, and for enforcement.”

Ward also continues to extol the convenience and efficiency of the “Passport” parking app, which can be added to any smart phone and is being used in increasing frequency by those parking in downtown.

The city’s parking season runs from April 1 to Oct 1. Parking downtown costs $1 an hour during that period, the time frame that coincides with the warm weather months when tourists stream into town and parking is at a premium.