La Crosse officials determined to make parking ramps more efficient

Parking Utility Board to look at fees, signage and parking gates

It has been a bumpy transition but the city of La Crosse is confident they can find a solution to their ongoing parking ramp problems.

When the city of La Crosse decided to charge people for parking in the ramps about a year ago, they knew it was going to be a learning process for everyone.

“Like anything that is new, it’s not going to be perfect from day one and you need to tweak and make those updates,” said La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat.

Users had to learn a new ticket and fee system, while the city had to make some technology upgrades.              

Although it’s been in use for a year, the city is still looking for ways to make it easier for everyone.

“The overall operation and management of the ramps and the gates and ticketing system, it’s not quite where we want it to be,” said Kabat.

When you drive up to a parking ramp in downtown La Cross, it’s hard not to notice all of the signs.

“If you are new to La Crosse, it’s a lot to digest,” said Kabat.

“There are too many notices on them which help to confuse people,” said Audrey Kader, chair of the Parking Utility Board.

Parking signs are just one of the items on the city’s parking check list to improve.

“There are ways to simplify that and make it easier,” said Kabat.

Another area the city will focus on is the gates themselves.

“I think the biggest frustrations are those situations where a machine is down and people don’t realize until they are trying to get out,” said Kabat.

Plus, Kader said there have been vandalism problems where people purposefully try to jam the machines.

“I think that very likely just having an attendant in each ramp, which of course would cost money, but I think it would help reduce vandalism as well as making it more efficient for people.”

Speaking of efficiency, when it comes to major events, Kabat wants to make sure the parking ramps don’t take away from someone’s experience in La Crosse.

“Some visitors sent me a nice email about La Crosse saying they came and went to a show, ate downtown and experienced what La Crosse has to offer but when it came time to leave the ramp we were stuck there for an hour,” said Kabat

To avoid that in the future, the parking ramps will collect money upfront and then on the way out the gates will remain open so people can leave when they want.

Both Kabat and Kader said it’s been a year of learning but they are determined to make it easier and more efficient in the future.

Mayor Kabat also says he is going to make it his priority this year to hire a dedicated parking manager. Right now, the parking ramp duties are split between public works, city maintenance and the police.

Kabat said to have someone’s job dedicated to the parking ramps will make a big difference.

The first three hours in the parking ramp are free. After that, depending on what time of day it is, the cost varies between 50 and 75 cents an hour.