Parking costs set to increase across Lexington


Cars drive down S Broadway on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Kendall Staton, Asst. News Editor

Lexington & Fayette County Parking Authority (LFCPA) announced an hourly parking meter rate increase and extension of enforcement hours across the city to begin Jan. 3, 2023.

LFCPA will increase rates to the following amounts:

  • $0.50 per hour will rise to $0.75 per hour
  • $1 per hour will rise to $1.50 per hour
  • $1.50 per hour will rise to $2 per hour

Parking meters are currently only enforced on Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. but, beginning Jan. 3, these hours will change to Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

According to WKYT, on Dec. 22, Lexington Vice Mayor Dan Wu asked LexPark to postpone the implementation of these changes to allow more time for public input.

The rate and hour enforcement increase comes after House Bill 8 mandates a 6% sales tax on parking services across the state, specifically including parking lots and structures.

House Bill 8 outlines an exclusion of this tax increase at educational institutions, meaning parking on UK’s campus does not have to abide by these tax standards.

The parking authority is not a department of the city. It does not receive money from the city’s general fund or taxpayer funds and must remain financially self-sufficient.

Gary Means, executive director of LFCPA, said the authority cannot take on the extra expense imposed by the new sales tax, which is estimated to cost an additional $225,000 – $250,000 annually.

Means said the rise of parking costs will cover the tax increase and help steady the flow of customers to downtown Lexington businesses.

“This rate and hours adjustment will benefit downtown businesses by creating a turnover of spaces and provide much-needed revenue to make ongoing safety improvements and technology upgrades,” Means said in an article on the City of Lexington website.

Means said the decision to make the parking costs increase comes after the completion of two consultant analyses, one by Walker Parking Consultants (WPC) in 2015 and another by Kimley-Horn in 2018.

Original recommendations to increase the parking rate and hours came in 2015 from WPC’s 10-year analysis of LFCPA’s operations, which explored different options for the management of parking services in Lexington.

The report said Lexington sees the highest rates of on street parking from 4-8 p.m. WPC contributed part of this increase to the businesses located in downtown Lexington, but maintained the importance of free parking rates in this traffic spike.

“Although the restaurant and bar concentration does drive visitors to this small area in downtown Lexington, free parking that starts after 5:00 PM is the main parking demand driver towards on-street spaces,” the report said.

The executive summary of the report said LFCPA retained WPC to evaluate “potential management and operational improvements” across LEXPark’s offered services.

An increase to enforcement hours would see push back from Lexington citizens, specifically local business owners, according to the report.

Despite the threat of public dissatisfaction, WPC recommended an increase to the hours of enforcement of paid on street meter parking from nine hours to at least 12 hours, but did not see a need to increase the hourly meter rate.

LFCPA could expect to see a 27% increase in revenue based on this course of action, according to the report.

The Kimley-Horn best practices report echoed the suggestion to increase enforcement hours, but did not provide specific parameters of when the meters should be enforced.

WPC also offered an alternative to keep some free parking available in downtown Lexington, while still increasing overall revenue for LFCPA.

“One option to help continue promote free parking downtown after 5:00 PM, while also better managing on-street availability during this time, would be to offer 2 hours free in the LFCPA garages after 5:00 PM,” the report said. “At the same time, on-street hours of operations could increase to the recommended 8:00 PM in order to promote turnover, reduce downtown employee’s parking on-street, and increase overall space availability.”

With the new standards, there will be no free downtown parking in LFCPA facilities but rates in the parking garages are affordable, Means said.

Funds from the meters are cycled back into the parking program and will be used to maintain safe off street parking garages and lots, a process Means said will ultimately help local business traffic.

“Even though businesses are thinking this is gonna put a hurt on them, it would be worse if a garage became unsafe or we had to close one down and there weren’t all those parking spaces that we’ve been providing,” Means said. “Even though it’s a challenge to have a rate increase, it’s going back into creating a lot of safe parking for downtown shoppers.”

Citizen reaction to the increase has not been positive, especially among those with relationships to downtown businesses.

Chris Lucero, UK fifth year senior math major, expressed displeasure with the increase in rates on Instagram. He authored and shared a research paper assessing the increase in profit LEXPark will see with the new standards.

“As someone who has multiple family members that work in local businesses, and who rely on the citizens of Lexington to generate profit, it angers me to see (LFCPA) increasing their parking rates and hours,” Lucero said in an Instagram caption. “It angers me so much I decided to type a mathematical paper explaining just how greedy of a decision that is.”

In the paper, Lucero specifically calls the addition of Saturday enforcement a deterrent from downtown businesses. He said charging for weekend parking will harm business traffic, not increase consumer rates.

Using mathematical proof with real world application, Lucero showed the potential for LEXPark, the subdivision responsible for enforcing LFCPA parking meters, to see a 127% increase in annual revenue when they extend enforcement hours and meter rates increase simultaneously.

“I am not an accountant, and this math involves a lot of assumptions and estimations, however, the main point of this argument still stands: LEXPark’s revenue will be increasing by much more than what is necessary to cover the 6% tax that they claim is the cause of the increases,” Lucero said.

Lucero said the increase in rates will harm Lexington businesses that are still trying to “recover their losses” in a post-pandemic world, while increasing LexPark’s annual profit.

Means said the parking authority planned to raise parking rates and enforcement hours right before the pandemic began, but LFCPA postponed the increase due to COVID.

“We were getting ready to get serious about increasing the hours at the meters right before the pandemic, and of course the pandemic kind of shut that down and stopped everything,” Means said. “We’ve been sitting on that for almost three years now.”

Since the pandemic, LexPark has seen an increase in use of on street parking at night but not during the day, Means said.

As the pandemic slowly subsided, LFCPA board of directors and advisory committee resumed discussions of a rate increase, and took action once the state legislature implemented a sales tax on parking services.

The LFCPA advisory committee hosts representatives of downtown merchants, but Means said LFCPA did not engage in extensive conversation with downtown merchants before making the increases.

“We do have some folks on our advisory committee that are in the sort of merchant world, and work along with downtown merchants, that were involved with some of the conversations going forward and as we made the decision and they had opportunity to give comments,” Means said. “But there wasn’t really like a wide spread survey or anything like that to the merchants.”

When asked about the potential for the increase in parking costs to negatively affect businesses downtown, Susan Straub, director of communication for Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton, said this thinking is “way ahead” of itself.

Straub did not answer further questions about the impact parking costs could have on local downtown businesses. She also would not hear questions about the conversation Kernel staff had with Means regarding the increase in rates.