ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – City Manager Michael Collins says changes are coming to Elmira’s parking meters. Currently, more than half of the city’s meters are out of order.

“It has come to the point where so many meters are down. There’s a lot of damage to the inside of the meters when coins get jammed in there. So what the city will be implementing, and I don’t know specifically when this will take place but we are going to go to credit card and app only parking meters. So the current meters do take coins and they do take credit cards, but we will be eliminating the coins. Our goal and hope is that will be installed sometime this summer.” said Collins.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by 18 news reporter Nicolas Dubina shows the City of Elmira has 559 meters. 309 are not working. That’s 55.2% of meters out of service. According to IPS Group Inc, a parking meter company, 157 meters are “non reporting.” Among the 152 meters that are “currently reporting” but considered faulty, 114 have coin blockages and “critical battery” issues. 38 meters have a “critical battery issue only”.

I think what happens with the meters you get coins that get jammed spiders have gotten in that have created jams within the parking meters themselves.” said Collins. He says the refurbished meters that were installed six years ago will stay in place. ” We will have blockage to the coins. We will have a decal on there as well indicating that their credit card as well as app only machines.” Collins says blocking the coin slots, adding decals, and switching to a parking app will cost the city roughly $3,400.

Some people who run businesses in downtown Elmira say they would prefer to see free parking to attract more customers.  

“It makes things difficult when you have people coming down here, they just need to drop something off and then it’s just adding surcharge on our business because people don’t want to do that.” said Andrew Roosa-Decicco, co-owner of Copy Express. “We have deliveries coming in and out. We have people that are just dropping off packages. There’s a lot of free services that we offer just prepackaged drop offs come in, drop it off, forget about it. But adding a cost to that is going to make us a lot less accessible as opposed to people just going to any big store outside of the town.”

“There’s a lot of cars that stay parked on the street overnight and they do not move throughout the day.” said Iris Fannin, manager of Downtown Grind. “A lot of people that work in the local businesses on the street, whether it’s like you know, the certain offices, they park out here all day so I have a lot of customer complaints, unfortunately, that they can’t find parking which does hurt our business. One of my biggest complaints is that there’s no parking.” said Fannin.

“Yeah, I haven’t seen a ticket on a car and many, many months. I walk out here and there’s some cars that I’ll watch that stay here for weeks at a time, and it’ll take like two or three weeks for a car to have a ticket on it.” Fannin added.

According to numbers obtained from the City, the Elmira Police Department issued 114 parking meter tickets in 2022.

“I certainly understand” said City Manager Collins. “I think you do have tenants that are parking there that should not be parking there. Do I believe that those parking spots are for people coming and going into businesses? Absolutely. I think that it will be extremely beneficial because the machines will work. We will prevent, you know tenants from parking down there and we also encourage anybody that has a business downtown that their employees don’t park there.”

“I think what everyone has to remember the first 15 minutes is free parking.” City Manager Collins added. “So you go to any meter and you push a button and it gives you 15 minutes of free parking. So I think that we need to remember that. I think business owners would certainly encourage free parking for 15 minutes if someone wanted to run in, grab a coffee, run in you know, very quick into a restaurant for a pickup, if they wanted to go into you know, Copy Express for some reason. So I think people need to remember there is a 15 minutes of free parking.”

According to City Manager Collins, this is the breakdown for revenue generated by parking meters in Elmira over the last four years:

2019: $62,383

2020: $18,748

2021: $26,864

2022: $21,600

“I think any revenue that the city can generate is extremely beneficial. I think we’re very limited on how we do generate revenue. The major source of revenue within the city of Elmira is tax increases, and I think homeowners, businesses don’t always want to see a tax increase.” said Collins. “I think that any type of revenue that the city can generate, you have someone from out of the area coming in using the meter which would feed revenue for the city. You have tenants that rent within the city or outside of the city that come in and park at a meter. So we’re getting monies from other individuals other than city taxpayers. So I do believe it’s beneficial to have another source of revenue within the city.”

“I think that the one thing if we did not have parking meters within the city, I think that it would be more difficult for people that wanted to frequent businesses to find a spot in downtown. I really do.” Collins added. “I think that you would have employees parking in front of businesses. I think that you would have tenants that reside in downtown parking at the meters. So I think that having a timed meter for especially the downtown district would be extremely beneficial for the business owner.”