Raising downtown Great Falls parking meter costs

(UPDATE 5/22/19): The Great Falls City Commission has voted to raise parking meter prices.

This is after a public hearing occurred on Tuesday night, May 21st. According to city officials, the Great Falls City Commission has raised the parking meter rates from 50 cents to $1.00.

However, officials tell us they did eliminate the $15.00 citation and the annual courtesy ticket in favor of one-lifetime courtesy ticket.

"A couple of people (Parking Advisory Commission members) spoke in favor of the increase and several business owners spoke against. The truth of the matter is NOBODY really wants to raise the rates any more than necessary. To some degree, it feels like a no-win situation because after really looking at the list of repairs and improvements we know that something needs to be done in order to accomplish those goals. But, we all know that raising meter rates is not a popular decision. It's a tough situation." said Craig Raymond, the City of Great Falls Planning and Development Director.

These adjustments will be effective on July 1st, 2019.

(UPDATE 5/8/2019): RIGHT NOW: Parking meter prices are set for a public hearing at the Great Falls City Commission meeting on May 21st at 7:00 p.m. The City of Great Falls says, they'll be talking about the potential rise in pricing.

GREAT FALLS - It may cost you a couple of extra coins to park in downtown Great Falls. Right now, parking meters in downtown Great Falls cost 50 cents an hour. But after the city took a second look at their budget, they’re looking at raising it to one dollar an hour.

About six months ago, the city’s Parking Advisory Commission was proposing people pay two dollars an hour. Once the community caught wind of this, people weren’t too happy and started talking about it amongst the city, resulting in the price lowering.

The city says 50 cents isn’t enough because they need to afford parking upkeep including equipment, garages, and improving the city’s lighting system. Some places like Bozeman may not “charge” for parking, but what people may not realize is their taxes are paying for it.

“All cities are bound by the same statutes governing what we can do with those taxes. There are limitations on taxing authority as well. Meaning, the state limits how much and what type of taxes any city can levy on its citizens,” said Craig Raymond, the City of Great Falls Planning and Development Director.

"That being said, it's likely that each city has slightly different priorities. Not all cities are not equal in how much they receive due to property valuations," said Raymond. 

Free parking also causes behavioral issues. Businesses tend to lose shoppers if non-customers are utilizing parking in front of their store. By raising parking prices, it decreases vandalism problems Great Falls faces, according to city officials. 

Nothing is set in stone though; the city is still working out proposals. All money going into the meters goes right back into the program.

The city says meter rates haven’t been increased for many years. However, parking garage prices increased 10 dollars a month in Sept. 2017.

“The city historically for years kept rates low and had deferred critical maintenance for years and that is the biggest reason why the price tag is so high on the list of improvements that we are doing right now,” said Raymond.

As of 2019, the 800,000 dollar parking budget includes:

  • LED lighting replacement.
  • New surveillance system.
  • Normal garage repair and renovation, like joint and crack sealants, broken roof drains, concrete repair and preservation, expansion joints, window art box window water damage, entrance gate and revenue control equipment.

This budget may vary depending on what bids are received.

The Parking Advisory Commission is a body of community members who have a background with business or are invested into downtown Great Falls. They’re appointed from the city commission. They can recommend policies, but can’t make them.

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