UNDATED -- The temporary changes to the parking rules in downtown St. Cloud have been in place for six months now, and those changes are getting extended for another six months -- with a few tweaks.

City Public Services Director Tracy Hodel says they have evaluated 'a ton of data' on when people are parking downtown, and they sent out 200 surveys to business owners in that area.

The new Parking Pilot Plus program will roll out on Saturday and will be in effect through June 30th.

One of the changes is the parking time limits at the meters.

I would say over 80 percent of the people downtown said can we get an extension, so we are going to start on January 1st where all on-street is going to be a three-hour limit, and then the parking lots will be a five-hour time limit.  That was one of the biggest things we heard.

Other changes being made are more downtown employee parking spaces, as well as five surface lots that will have free weeknight and weekend parking.

The city plans to continue offering free parking in the five ramps after 5:00 p.m. and all weekend long. You will also have to continue to pay to park on the street all night and all weekend.

Hodel says the free parking in the ramps that have been in place for the past six months is staying, and they have seen an increase in ramp usage.

With Park Mobile and the pay stations, we can see how many people are using that, and we can see how many people are using the ramps throughout the day.  Also, just doing visual checks, our staff goes out and does car counts to see where we're at.  We are definitely seeing an increase in people using the ramps.

Hodel says they do get a lot of questions about why we even have parking meters downtown. She says our five large parking ramps are costly to maintain but are needed to accommodate visitors going to the convention center, the paramount, and staying at the hotels. She says the parking meters pay for the maintenance on the ramps, instead of raising property taxes to pay for them.

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