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Free holiday parking returning to downtown

Traditional goodwill gesture will cost the city $150,000

The holiday shopping season is approaching, and that means downtown Salt Lake parking meters soon will be covered with festive bags.

The Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to keep the city's holiday two-hour, free-parking tradition alive, waiving meter fees in the city between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

The goal is to provide another incentive for shoppers to come downtown. The holiday gift has been granted each year since 2003 and has been well-received by the public, retailers, the Downtown Alliance, the Downtown Merchants Association and the Salt Lake Chamber, city officials said.

The free holiday parking will cost the city an estimated $150,000 in revenue — $100,000 from meters and $50,000 from parking fines.

Councilwoman Nancy Saxton questioned whether bagging the parking meters is the best way to attract shoppers into the city. Saxton suggested providing businesses with parking tokens to disperse to their customers — like a parking validation — rather than bagging all the meters. That would make sure the free parking is going to shoppers as intended, she said, and prevent others from piggy-backing on the benefit.

"I just want to remind us of that $150,000 in revenue," Saxton said. "That's a lot of goodwill."