A city committee wants to free hundreds of downtown parking spaces by hiking rates for the employees of downtown businesses and the city of Bend who use them.

Bend’s downtown parking advisory committee heard a pitch earlier this month to double monthly employee parking permit fees for on-street spaces while reducing costs in the parking garage and off-street lots. City Manager Eric King said addressing parking permits is a priority when the city next negotiates contracts with its unions. The city has 1,800 on-street parking spaces.

Raising costs for on-street parking spaces is intended to drive employees to off-street lots, not raise revenue for the city, said Drew Dietrich, the city’s parking demand manager.

“If you raise rates on-street and you don’t change rates anywhere else, there’s no incentive to park off-street,” he said. “We need to shift the demand.”

There are five designated areas where employees with permits can park, all with different prices. On-street parking along Louisiana Avenue, Lava Road and sections of Wall and Bond streets southwest of Louisiana Avenue costs $30 a month. Street parking on Hill Street and Hawthorne, Greeley and Irving avenues costs $20 a month.

Monthly permits for the parking garage cost $50, monthly permits for a lot on the old Hospital Hill are $25 and permits for the Newport lot are $45.

The city is considering doubling the on-street permit costs to $60 a month for the streets in the southwestern area of downtown and $40 a month for streets on the east side of downtown. The suggestion would increase costs on Hospital Hill to $30a month.

Monthly costs in the garage and the Newport lot would decrease, from $50 to $40 for the garage and from $45 to $20 for the Newport lot.

A parking study completed in 2017 showed that on-street spaces to the southwest were more than 85 percent full during downtown’s busiest hours. The Newport lot, meanwhile, was 41 percent full.

The southwestern area, where most city employees park, has fewer than 300 parking stalls, and about 350 downtown employees have permits to park there. Slightly more than 200 of those permits belong to city employees, whose permits allow them to park on the roof of the parking garage.

That’s in addition to roughly 50 spots near City Hall designated for city vehicles, including those used by building inspectors.

City employees, though, don’t have the most parking permits. That distinction belongs to the marketing firm G5, which has about 225 parking permits for its employees, Dietrich said. The next highest user of permits is the Oxford Hotel, which has about 50, he said.

Deschutes County, which is one of the largest employers downtown, has its own parking lots and is too far east to be included in the city’s downtown parking district.

Changes to parking rates would come with discounts for workers whose income qualifies them for discounts. Right now, those employees can pay $15a month for the Newport lot or $30a month for the rooftop of the parking garage.

Instead, the city plans to discount rates by 50 percent in every area for workers whose incomes qualify them for reduced parking rates. The median hourly wage for downtown employees was $18 in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Changes could be coming to daily rates for the parking garage. Downtown visitors can now park for free for three hours in the garage, and pay $1an hour for subsequent hours, capping at $5a day. A new rate proposal calls for raising the daily maximum to $10 and removing the three free hours.

In addition to looking at changes to permit parking costs, the city plans to start a pilot program Dec. 1 testing paid parking along a block of Irving Avenue and in a parking lot at Greenwood Avenue and Wall Street.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com