CEDAR RAPIDS — Drivers of hybrid, alternative-fuel or zero-emission vehicles will get the best parking spots in the city’s Fourth Avenue and Third Avenue parking ramps.
The preferential treatment to encourage the use of energy-efficient vehicles likely will be adopted for other downtown parking ramps as well, said Sandy Pumphrey, a civil engineer in the city’s Public Works Department.
Pumphrey said the special parking designation might be just the thing to persuade a family to drive the hybrid car downtown for dinner and leave the sport-utility vehicle at home.
Pumphrey said other places across the nation that use a similar parking strategy depend on social pressure from the public to enforce parking ramp rules that set aside certain spots for fuel-saving vehicles.
“Obviously, if somebody sees you get into a Hummer and you are driving away from a space like that, it may be somebody who will give you a look that says you shouldn’t be doing that,” he said.
The city also intends to install electrical lines for charging stations in the parking ramps, as the city prepares for the time when those driving electric cars will need a place to plug in and recharge their batteries.
“Government is just trying to provide an incentive to going the direction that we should all be going anyway,” said City Council member Tom Podzimek.
The Third and Fourth Avenue parking ramps were damaged in the June 2008 flood, and renovations have begun on the Third Avenue ramp and are set to begin on the Fourth Avenue one. Both have been open for parkers.
The City Council discussed the Fourth Avenue ramp this week, noting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has concluded that the facility sustained $1.19 million in flood damage. The City Council expressed support for spending $305,645 on sustainable additions to the renovation project that FEMA will not cover.
Upgrades related to heating, cooling and lighting will earn the city a $54,000 utility-company incentive and will bring $22,121 in energy savings a year to the city, according to the city’s estimates.
Pumphrey notes that the approach at the Fourth Avenue parking ramp is being driven by the City Council’s directive to rebuild flood-damaged facilities better than they had been before the flood. Pumphrey said the Public Works Department has a mechanism to monitor if the city is getting the expected return on its extra investments.