ROANOKE, Va. – Those taking advantage of free parking in some downtown Roanoke parking garages will not be happy to read this story.
Changes happening at the garages mean you'll now have to pay to park no matter what time it is.
Bradley Thomas, who lives in the area, is used to seeing signs for free garage parking in downtown and was surprised when we told him that some garages now will require drivers to pay 24/7.
"This, I feel like overall, will take away from the downtown economy rather than adding to it," said Thomas.
In the last three weeks, the Campbell, Gainsboro and Church Avenue garages had new equipment install, which no longer requires a manned booth.
The three garages aren't the first to be updated. The Market Garage received the new technology three years ago.
With the updates, gone are the signs that provided time-based stipulations for free parking.
"The old equipment had to be manned, but the new automated technology allows for 24/7 operations. Again, since the old equipment is no longer serviceable, we will be upgrading the remaining garages over the next couple of years," explained Park Roanoke General Manager Jaime Brooks in an email.
Thomas doesn't think it'll go over well. "Parking is already been an issue so this will make it worse. When you have to come and pay $5 for dinner there's a lot of people who go elsewhere."
Penny Wood-Wiener regularly visits friends in Roanoke and was shocked when she heard of the changes.
"You know people are on a budget nowadays so what are you going to do if you're going to have to pay all that money starting at 9 o'clock? You're not going to come down."
For businesses like Macado's in downtown, the changes are more than just a concern.
"We all thought it was ridiculous because it affects our employees, as well as our customers. And we've seen a drop-off because people don't want to have to come out and pay to park," explained the restaurant's general manager, Tyler Morrison.
Park Roanoke said the money it makes will go back to operating expenses and ongoing repairs of its parking facilities.
The remaining three downtown parking garages, Center in the Square, Tower and Elmwood Park, will be updated within the next few years.