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Starting today, downtown dwellers should prepare to dig a little deeper in their pockets to feed meters in what the City of Champaign dubs the “downtown core” parking spaces.

City Council’s decision to triple parking rates in downtown Champaign from $.25 an hour to $.75 an hour was made on Dec. 18. In theory, the hiked rates will move long-term visitors to outlying areas where parking prices are lower to make way for short-term guests.

Be prepared to fork out more quarters when parking on Randolph Street, Hill Street, Main Street, University Street, and most corridors in between in the downtown district. The 50-cent meters are predominately located on streets running east-west between Randolph and State Streets. Rates will remain the same along State Street and beyond, coupled with two blocks around the corner of Randolph and White Streets.

Failing to pay the meter has become more expensive as well. Since January, ticket prices have jumped to $20 for a violation. The fine increased to $30 after failing to pay after three days.

Finally, beginning in July 2009, downtown visitors will have to pay the meters until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, a change from the current hours of operation which end at 5 p.m. [Edit. After 5 p.m. drivers will still have to feed meters, but the 2-hour time limit on the majority of downtown meters will not be enforced.]

According to the City of Champaign, revenue from the parking rate hike will increase funds to build a 600-space parking structure to be built on the corner of Hill and Randolph Street. The parking garage is slated for completion in early 2009.