At the Oneonta Common Council meeting that took place on September 26th, 2023, Mayor Mark Drnek stated:
So, looking holistically at our budget concerns, we know that we have a lot of things that are in play, we know that there’s going to wind up being some discussion of funding for some of that, we know that that is going to wind up being something that we’re going to be looking at, the identification of different revenue streams, more specifically, we’ve talked about paid parking. For folks to want to park in Oneonta and potentially, you know, pay for that privilege, we’re going to need to make certain that the city of Oneonta is a place that people want to come to.
Which Came First, the Meter or the Car?
Opponents to free parking can see those that expect it as seemingly entitled. We've been a society dependent on automobiles for well over a hundred years at this point. Parking meters didn't show up until 1935, when the first one was installed in Oklahoma City. As cars had been around for a good stretch at that point, the public was used to parking their cars for free where they pleased. Here in Oneonta, parking has been perpetually free.
The city of Ithaca, New York, with a population of around 31,00 is larger than Oneonta's 12,508, but both are similar in scope as small New York cities that are college towns. In Ithaca, per the city's website: "On-street parking is $1.50/hour and is enforced from 9AM - 6PM, Monday through Friday. Parking is free on the street during weekends. Parking in the Downtown and Collegetown garages is $1/hour. The garages each have varying hours where no charge is offered." Long term permits for the garages are also available. Over the years Ithaca has received accolades for having a high overall quality of life. Oneonta is not quite there yet.
Will The Timing Be Right for Paid Parking?
While there's no argument that Oneonta needs to explore various revenue streams to make things happen in town, is this really the best time to be implementing such a thing when there's already a parking crisis? Per Mayor Drnek's remarks during the aforementioned council meeting, paid parking would run from Lettis Highway to the intersection of Market and Main Streets. My previous article outlined the impact that business owners have seen due to the issue.
Heather Sharpe, owner of Luxx Whitening Studio located on Main Street in Oneonta had this reaction:
If the mayor wants to ensure that the City of Oneonta is a place that people want to come to, he needs to take care of those who are in it, first and foremost.. We as businesses, let alone small businesses, are struggling tremendously. If paid parking is a discussion, then the businesses should have a “season or a yearly” discounted pass, at first claim. We can not show up if we can not make it. Not every business owner lives local or down the street. If the City of Oneonta, more specifically Mayor Drnek, is that worried about revenue and the lack there of, imagine how we feel when we can’t pay our bills and have to close the doors on our dreams!