Parking in Downtown Rochester

Free, no limit Main Street parking is Full - photo by Michael Dwyer

Free, no limit Main Street parking is Full

Downtown Rochester Parking

By Michael Dwyer

Main Street Makeover

Shoppers, employees and other downtown visitors to Rochester may have noticed the parking meters on Main Street have disappeared thanks to the Main Street Makeover. While anyone coming to town appreciates free parking near their destination, it has caused a major problem for almost everyone.

Arriving at the start of the day, local employees take many of the prime spots on Main Street and in the parking lots behind the Main Street. This leaves shoppers hunting for spaces or using metered parking on side streets.

No parking meters on Main Street - photo by Michael Dwyer

No parking meters on Main Street


Rochester Media asked City Manager Jaymes Vettraino what happed to the main street meters. Vettraino said the meters “had to be removed” for the makeover and were not replaced because they were “outdated.” Installation of new meters was not part of the makeover plan.

There are many options to the parking dilemma. Vettraino said the city is forming a parking committee and has bids out now. Some of the options include:

  • Removing all the remaining meters
  • Posting and enforcing time limits
  • New smart parking meters could be installed
  • Raising the meter price to park
  • Pay lots could be established
  • A parking structure could be built
Metered parking on side streets have spaces available - photo by Michael Dwyer

Metered parking on side streets have spaces available

Robert Lytle of Lytle’s Pharmacy (located on the corner of Main and Fourth) said, “Fishing around in one’s pocket for a coin is nobody’s idea of how to begin a shopping trip, so I am not as interested in reestablishing parking meters on Main Street as I am in posting and enforcing time limits. Unlimited parking only invites those who will park as close to their employment as possible and remain throughout their shift. Although this is fine for our Downtown employees, it is devastating for the nearby businesses whose lifeblood is convenient parking for their clientele.” Another option might be new technology to help enforce time limits. “Besides parking meters there are other methods for monitoring time limits such as the License Plate Recognition (LPR) technology. A single LPR unit would enable an ordinance officer to quickly and efficiently monitor all of the parking areas and warn and/or ticket those who persist in over-extending the posted limits. The parking lots behind the Main Street businesses would also benefit from the LPR program. Presently those lots are posted for three hours in the white-lined areas and ten hours in the green lines, but very often the same cars can be seen in the three-hour areas all day long. This limits the parking availability for customers who wish to patronize the Main Street businesses, which is the intended usage. The City owns several outlying lots built for employee parking. These areas are often underutilized, but would be at full capacity should the other areas be monitored and enforced,” said Lytle.

Full lot, 3 hour parking behind Mr. B's - photo by Michael Dwyer

Full lot, 3 hour parking behind Mr. B’s

Parking Strategy and Survey

Area residents may recall being asked to answer questions in a recent survey. McKenna Associates, community planning and design consultants, used the survey to offer a complete parking strategy for the city. The strategy cost the city $27,500 and it was delivered to the city in April of this year. Over 900 online surveys were submitted. Some key results include:

  • 82% of respondents listed “Restaurants/Bars” as the primary reason for visiting downtown
  • 56% of respondents indicated they typically park in lots; 25% indicated on-street
  • 50% of respondents typically park 1 to 2 hours; 30% indicated 2 to 4 hours; 11% less than 1 hour
  • 61.5% of respondents listed parking as “Easy” to “Somewhat Easy”; 33.5% as “Somewhat Difficult”; 5% listed parking as “Difficult”
  • 62% of respondents indicated they are willing to pay to park close to their destination
  • 78% of respondents indicated they would park in a parking structure if one were available
Many parking spaces available in the 10 hour parking lots - photo by Michael Dwyer

Many parking spaces available in the 10 hour parking lots

The Solution

With 3,129 parking spaces available, downtown Rochester has enough parking for everyone. Both a short-term and a long-term plan need to be implemented. Enforcement will be crucial for any plan to be successful.

From the McKenna strategy summary: “The ultimate goal of the final pricing and parking system funding strategy should be the creation of a break even parking program that generates sufficient revenues to cover operational costs, but that also generates sufficient reserves to cover the cost of future capital improvements.”

All photos by Michael Dwyer. Photos were taken on Tuesday evening between 8-9:00 p.m.


About Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer is a freelance content provider. Michael writes about happenings in the Rochester area, travels across Michigan and destinations around the world. Contact him at

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