By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Metro is usually known for moving people around in buses and trying to get them out of their cars. But now, it's in the business of giving those cars a place to stand still for a price lower than one-way bus fare.
Hamilton County's public bus service has begun offering daily parking at its transit center under Second Street as a way to offset the expense of operating the facility.
"There is an irony there, but we saw this as a good way to stretch tax dollars from the resource that we have," said Metro spokeswoman Sallie Hilvers.
The initial rate is $1 a day, although those rates will probably go up soon, said officials with the parking company that will operate the lot. That makes it the lowest priced daily parking downtown, according to John Schneider, who used to advise Downtown Cincinnati Inc. on parking issues.
And Metro's "Parking Meeter" route will make a stop at either end of the center, along with other lots along the riverfront, with a one-way fare of 25 cents.
Metro operates the $18 million facility on behalf of the city, which built it as part of the $328 million Fort Washington Way reconstruction. The transit center has been operational since last fall, but will be officially dedicated on May 19.
When the transit center is not in use, 300 spaces will be available on an honor-box system seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Because special events might prevent parking on certain days, monthly rates will not be available. One entrance is off Central Avenue and the other off Broadway, both between Pete Rose Way and Third Street.
The contract with downtown-based System Parking guarantees that Metro will receive $110,000 for the next year, or 70 percent of gross revenues, whichever is greater. Hilvers said that an initial estimate of annual operating costs for the center to be between $120,000 and $140,000 annually.
"This is almost a break-even operation," Hilvers said.
System Parking division manager Michael Hastings said that the prices will probably go up to $1.50 by May 15 and then to $2 a day if demand warrants.
The lot will also charge $10 a day for Reds games, although it will not be available for Bengals games, Riverfest, Tall Stacks and other major events when the transit center is in use.
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