Proposed parking benefit district proposal could provide extra funding for La Crosse neighborhoods

La Crosse neighborhoods might be eligible for extra money from the city if a proposed ordinance passes City Council next week. It’s called a parking benefit district, and it would allow neighborhoods to ask for money the city makes from on-street parking.

The benefit program would be available to neighborhoods in areas where parking is an issue every day.

“Because they have to put up with that, they should get a benefit from that,” said Jim Flottmeyer, La Crosse parking utilities coordinator.

He said the city is testing two paid on-street parking areas near the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Western Technical College.

“That process is working its way through,” Flottmeyer said.

The idea is to charge people $1 per hour for up to four hours on specific streets near each campus that are often crowded with parked cars.

“Now you have a decision to make. ‘I want to park there, but do I want to pay for it?’ Maybe I should ride my bike tomorrow,'” Flottmeyer said.

If the paid parking pilot program is successful, the proposed ordinance would allow neighborhoods to request the extra money to help improve their neighborhood.

“Down the road, if the paid on-street parking works and it begins to generate revenue above and beyond our cost to operate parking in the city of La Crosse, what we are looking at is to be able to take some of that money and give it back to some of those neighborhoods,” Flottmeyer said.

If the paid parking pilot program works, they would like to expand paid parking to other crowded areas, like Viterbo University, Mayo Clinic Health System, Gundersen Health System and downtown.

“Things that are considered to be free, they get overused,” said Jennifer Trost, a member of La Crosse’s Neighborhood Revitalization Commision.

She said free parking creates problems for neighborhoods that have a lot of traffic.

“There are costs to storing cars on public roads,” Trost said.

Those costs for wear and tear are left to the people who live in those neighborhoods who pay taxes in the city. Trost said paid parking opens up spots for those who actually need to drive their car and park.

“If that’s 10 fewer trips and five fewer vehicles because somebody didn’t want to pay that parking, that served its purpose,” Trost said.

If the ordinance is passed, neighborhoods that are near paid on-street parking would have to submit a request to become a parking benefit district to the board of public works. Then it would have to be approved by the Common Council.

City parking officials said they don’t expect to have any parking benefit districts for at least a year until they know how the pilot program does.

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