Smart Park

This month, the City of Riverside rolls out a new parking plan for downtown. In short, parking within most areas of the downtown core during weekday business hours now requires payment and/or validation.

Smart Park
City of Riverside

2-Hour parking

4-Hour parking

Pay here

Payment kiosk

In essence, the city has divided up the downtown business core into 3 parking zones: 2-hour, 4-hour and city-owned parking garages. Parking within each zone will now cost $1/hr* during weekday business hours (7 a.m. – 6 p.m.*), with the first 90-minutes of parking free — w/ validation — if parked within any of the 4 city garages.

Although we admit we’re not excited about having to now pay/validate for parking, we also realize that such is a necessary evil as downtown Riverside continues its resurgence. In fact, we even anticipated the coming of such a program as activity increased downtown and parking became more of a premium, particularly in the area around the Mission Inn. (Fortunately, the Mission Inn recently expanded its own parking garage and is thereby better able to accommodate many of the patrons currently using the main library lot.)

With that said, we see both good and bad aspects of the plan:

The good:

  • first 90 minutes free in parking garages (w/ validation)
  • free parking after 6 p.m. weekdays (including garages)*
  • free parking on weekends/holidays (including garages)*
  • relative low cost ($1/hr at most lots/spots)*
  • ease of use/payment (cash/credit/debit)
  • uniform parking guidelines, signage and lot identification
  • discourages workers from taking street/public spaces
  • encourages garage parking (necessary for long-term success)
  • will likely free up library parking for actual library patrons

The bad:

  • may discourage some visitors/patrons (this could be a biggie)
  • in general, the need to validate can be a hassle of sorts
  • 90-minute validation may prove a bit short for some activities
  • 2-hr and 4-hr max time limits for non-garage parking may confuse some
  • some areas west of Market Street include a mixture of homes/businesses

To help residents and visitors ease into the new plan, the city is offering a grace period of sorts:

The City Council has decreed parking free in September in the four city-owned garages downtown to soften SmartPark’s sting and to get people accustomed to using the garages.

After September, customers of downtown businesses will be able to park free in the garages for 90 minutes with validation from eligible ground-floor businesses, which include restaurants, stores, barbershops and beauty salons.

Riverside Press-Enterprise – September 1, 2006

Bottom line, if you want to validate or plan on being downtown longer than 2 or 4 hours (depending upon parking location) during weekday business hours, it’s best to now familiarize yourself with the 4 city-owned parking garages (Orange Square, Orange Street north/south, California Tower).

It’ll be interesting to see how the need to now pay/validate for parking will affect downtown businesses, particularly in light of the fact that downtown has made a significant comeback the past decade (though, this partly explains the need for such a parking plan).

Our hope is that in the long run the program will balance out by getting folks comfortable with using the parking garages. Moreover, we also hope the funds collected help pay for future garages, which will likely be needed as the new UCR/Culver Arts Center and a renovated Fox Theater open.

The new parking regime comes as city officials strive to convert the Fox Theater into a regional performing arts center and developers work on plans that would add about 1,000 residential units and several hundred thousand square feet of office space downtown.

Riverside Press-Enterprise – September 1, 2006

* Lot 1 – Main Public Library: $2/hr (9 a.m. – 8 p.m. everyday); free after 8 p.m./holidays


Find a spot
Spot markers
Orange Square
parking garage
Orange Street
(south garage)
Orange Street
(north garage)

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