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TxDOT Officials Back Up Parking
After a public forum Monday afternoon, El Paso Department of Transportation officials said it is likely they will recommend parking meters in the Cincinnati Street entertainment district.
Parking meters will increase car turnover and free up more parking spaces, according to Daryl W. Cole, director of the El Paso Department of Transportation. Meters in the area could also extend well into the evening hours, possibly as late as midnight. Cole said no determinations have been made yet.
According to transportation officials, some parts of the proposed plan could force Cincinnati Street businesses to have their employees park elsewhere, instead of directly in front of the business. Transit officials said they believe there is adequate space in the area where the employees can park.
"If we can create an atmosphere where we can create car turnover, I think it makes sense," said Cole.
KFOX-14 asked if it was fair to have employees and employers pay for parking that they first got for free in front of the business.
"I would think as a business owner, I want someone who is a patron of mine to park right out front, have them come in, and get that turnover, rather than an employee who is going to park there for their shift," said Cole.
But one local business owner said there is a very underused resource just steps away: the Glory Rd. Parking Garage.
"I don't think the city did a very good job of explaining what the fees are in that parking garage," said Carl Myers, owner of Ardovino's Pizza, a Cincinnati St. business. "The first articles about the garage showed that the fees would be outrageous but they actually are not."
Cole agrees the Glory Road parking garage is under-used, but said customers should pay for the convenience of parking out in front of the business and employees should park in places further off, such as the garage.
"Is there a cost to it? Yes," said Cole. "We're going to take a hard look at that."
Several other elements of the entire parking plan spanning five parts of the city of El Paso, not just the Cincinnati area include allowing parking in loading zones, getting rid of reserved parking and creating several angled parking spaces.
Currently, there is only one metered parking space in the Cincinnati Street area.
Transit officials said no meters will be placed in front of residential single family homes.
All revenue generated by the proposed meters would be invested in downtown development. There have been no figures on how much the proposed meters could generate.
The Department of Transportation will present a recommendation about the proposed meters to a subcommittee of El Paso City Council this Thursday, and still invite resident feedback.
Parking just got easier in downtown Long Beach.
Eight solar-powered, multi- space parking meters, covering 36 parking spaces on Third Street and on Broadway between Pacific Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard, were unveiled Monday.
With the meters, motorists will use the pay-by-space method by entering their parking stall number into the machine when paying the parking fee.
"It's a great opportunity for us to improve the parking experience for downtown visitors and residents," said Suja Lowenthal, vice mayor of Long Beach.
According to Lowenthal, who demonstrated making a payment at the meter, there are many pluses with the new technology.
"It allows us several advantages, not just for the users, but for the city as well," she said. "You're able to make payments through many forms, so if you find yourself without any change that's not a problem; we will accept credit cards, debit cards, coins, smart cards, as well as making payments through your mobile phone."
Through pilot programs, city officials were able to choose which meters worked best for the city, Lowenthal said.
"This one you see has the solar panel. That's an option we certainly wanted, but in terms of the ease of use, we kind of figure this one was it," she said. "We've been working on this for quite a while and it really was easy to use."
One of the big advantages: the ability to make payments via a smartphone app.
"This pilot program shows that Long Beach is taking advantage of the latest technology to assist our residents and visitors," said Mayor Bob Foster. "Not only will it conveniently allow people to pay by cell phone, but the system will e-mail or text reminders when time is about to expire, providing customers the option of adding more time without having to return to the meter - all through their mobile phone."
The meters use less space than the older models and have a modern appearance, Lowenthal said.
"This will allow us to remove some of those very unattractive single-space meters off of our sidewalk, allowing for a much better pedestrian experience for residents and visitors," she said.
The two-hour parking spaces cost $1 an hour, but city officials believe the convenience will cause users to pay for the full time more often than not.
"Your chances of getting a citation are much less because you'll be notified by your phone when your meter is about to expire, and that is a huge advantage," said Lowenthal. "Chances are, you're probably going to pay the maximum time limit because you can pay easily through credit card, so that reduces the amount of citations you might get."
The multiple pay options will also benefit the city financially, she said.
"I think it will generate more revenue," she said. "Our goal is to improve the parking experience for the user. But in terms of revenue, I might opt to pay for the full two hours because I can do that. If I only have 50 cents, I can't do that; I have to go get change somewhere."
"Industrywide it's been proven that when these type of machines are put in place, revenues are increased, depending on the location, anywhere between 3 and 15 percent," said City Parking Administrator Luis Maldonado. "The big reason for that is the credit card acceptance. It allows people to pay the max instead of `you only have 50 cents in your pocket.' That way you don't have to worry about tickets and you can spend as much time as you need to inside whatever vendor you're in."
Vehicle sensors in each parking stall will provide real-time occupancy reports, which will help increase the efficiency of the city's parking operations and provide information on parking usage, officials said.
The municipal parking garage in downtown Gettysburg is finally getting new equipment.
In a unanimous vote Monday night, the nine-member Gettysburg Borough Council awarded a contract to Whitaker Parking Systems as the "lowest, responsible and responsive bidder," for automated equipment at the Race Horse Alley Parking Plaza.
The bid came in at $139,260, below budget, which was $175,000, per Borough Manager Florence Ford. Four bids were received altogether, and the equipment is underwritten with a $3.8 million capital projects bond floated last year by the borough.
There was a bid below $139,000, from Precision Technology Solutions, but the bid did not meet the requirements, according to borough administrators.
Ford described the company as a "non-responsive bidder," pointing out that the borough had "very select criteria," and cited "item and unit pricing" as examples. "They failed to do that," Ford said regarding Precision Technology Solutions, leading the borough to select the next lowest bidder, in Whitaker. The borough was seeking individual prices for equipment units, such as a fee computer, and toll collection machine.
"The items that they failed to bid on were mandated," explained Borough Solicitor Harold A. Eastman Jr., making the bidder "invalid."
Ford noted that the borough has had a "working relationship" with Whitaker in the past.
Councilman Michael J. Birkner made the motion to approve the Whitaker bid, and was seconded by Councilwoman Alice Estrada.
Asked by a board member when the equipment will be installed, Ford replied "six weeks after" the contract is awarded. "You can look for work down there by the end of May," said Ford.
The new equipment will be automated and accept both cash and credit, enabling the borough to recover fees for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now, a borough staffer mans a toll collection booth, and no credit cards are accepted at the 75 cent per-hour garage.
Once the equipment is installed, a borough staffer will remain on site during the "interim transition period," explained Ford, to help motorists that have questions.
The borough owns and operates the Race Horse Alley Plaza, with its 370 parking spaces just north of Lincoln Square, between Carlisle and North Stratton streets.
Built in 1989, the multi-level garage opened one year later, and is now 21-years-old, and its equipment has never been replaced.
Two years ago, officials described the outdated equipment as being on "life support," as parts are often times unavailable when the machinery breaks down.
The new modernized equipment will allow the borough to recoup parking revenues that it has been unable to collect in the past, as a staffer will no longer be required to work on-site to collect tolls.
Intent on stopping vandals who shatter vehicle windows in Vallejo commuter parking lots, city officials now have security guards working later at night.
After testing the changes for the past three weeks, city officials this week alerted commuters to the new night security hours in Internet postings, Interim Transportation Department Superintendent Jeanine Wooley said.
Guards now remain until 9:30 p.m. to patrol the Vallejo Ferry parking lots along Mare Island Way, Wooley said.
"So far, it's been fantastic," Wooley said of the new hours.
The city has not had "one reported incident (of vandalism) since the guard hours changed," Wooley said.
However, the hours have not changed at the Curtola Parkway / Lemon Street parking lot, where numerous commuter vehicles have been vandalized.
Once the downtown Vallejo Transit bus station opens, the city will make other adjustments which would allow security guards to remain longer at the Curtola / Lemon parking lot, Wooley said.
The Black Talon firm provides security services for the Vallejo ferry terminal and its adjacent parking lots, and the Curtola / Lemon parking lot.
New Parking Meters Boost
Revenue in Syracuse
Alex Dunbar / CNY Central
April 8, 2011
View Video News Story
Finding a parking spot can be hard enough, but when the coin operated meters are broken, it's even worse. On Salina Street Friday, all the coin operated meters in this block were out of service.
There aren't many of them left and pretty soon they'll be gone. To help balance the cities budget, the mayor predicted the city would gain $400,000 in revenue from parking meters, specifically by replacing the coin meters with the pay stations that print out a parking receipt.
The mayor says parking rates won't go up but the more reliable pay station machines will still help the city's bottom line.
Much of the city, including Armory Square, changed over to the pay stations years ago. They can accept credit cards and that's a lot more convenient for many drivers.
Many store owners say free parking would help the cities bottom line more than new meters.
$400,000 may be just a drop in the bucket for the city of Syracuse's budget, but the mayor says in times like these, every little bit helps.
Karen Fisher thinks a trolley could add some charm to Puyallup's downtown.
It could zip people between shops and restaurants, perhaps even becoming an attraction itself, she said - and it could help with the parking congestion that's become a concern for merchants and city leaders.
"There really isn't a lot of parking," said Fisher, who owns The Savory and Sweet Café and Catering Co. on South Meridian. "I think people are looking for creative (solutions)."
She was one of several downtown business owners who met with city staff Thursday night to share their thoughts on parking before the City Council considers making changes aimed at easing the crunch.
City staffers still are forming recommendations, but they could include adding more short-term parking and adjusting time restrictions on some spaces - either up or down, depending on the location, said Tom Utterback, development services director.
The council also likely will discuss use of some of the eight city-owned parking lots downtown. The lots have a total of 647 spaces, with varied time and use restrictions. One of them, called the Cornforth Campbell lot, is leased by Sound Transit for use by commuters Monday to Friday.
More than 1,000 people use the West Main Street station each weekday, Sound Transit has said. The agency has 364 parking spots there and leases another lot nearby in addition to Cornforth.
Commuters also park along the street.
The influx during the week helps make for a crowded downtown, the Puyallup Main Street Association wrote in a letter to the city last fall. Customers can usually find spots, but employees have a harder time and are turning to "chain parking" in which they move from one timed spot to another, the group said.
Teresa Suprak and Janice Carter, who own Charlie's Restaurant on East Main, said their 32 workers either get dropped off to avoid parking headaches or resign themselves to taking a long walk from their cars.
The restaurant has a 15-space lot reserved for customers, but it fills quickly, they said. "We really want downtown to be a destination," Carter said.
But "people aren't going to (come) if they can't find parking," Suprak said.
The restaurant owners said they'd like to see the Cornforth lot opened to noncommuters.
That was an idea raised by City Councilman Rick Hansen last year. He said it might encourage commuters to use the new satellite parking lot near the Puyallup fairgrounds that's been slow to catch on.
The lot, known as the Red Lot, has more than 200 spaces for Sounder riders. It opened to them last fall after a $2.8 million upgrade, but usually has only 20 to 30 spots filled.
Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said no extra promotions of the lot are planned right now. The agency is focused an access study of several stations, including Puyallup's, to gauge commuter habits and what improvements are needed, she said. It'll be done this summer, she said.
Sound Transit officials were at Thursday's meeting, along with representatives from Pierce Transit, which has a new campaign to encourage downtown Puyallup workers to ride-share.
The City Council is expected to discuss parking April 19.
Learning Parking-Sign Language
Angela Carella / The Stamford Advocate
April 9, 2011
Nobody wants a $15 ticket for failing to put money into a parking meter by the curb, in a city lot or garage.
But if you'd like to avoid a ticket -- and not pay for parking when you don't have to -- you must be on your toes.
Parking rates and hours of enforcement differ in Stamford, and you may have to hunt for signs that explain the rules.
At the city lot on lower Summer Street, where many people park during visits to the Majestic movie theater and surrounding restaurants, you don't have to pay on Sundays or holidays. But no sign tells you that.
Joan Burnett wants the city to return the $3 she spent there on a recent Sunday. When she didn't see a sign, Burnett asked other motorists gathered at the pay station if they knew whether Sundays are free. They didn't, so, like them, she forked over the $3, Burnett said.
Inside the Majestic, she asked theater employees.
"They told us parking is free on Sundays and holidays," Burnett said. "I was mad. It was only $3, but it felt deceptive."
A few Sundays after that she and her husband parked in the lot again on their way to Riviera Maya, a Summer Street restaurant, and saw people in line at the pay station.
"I told them, `I know there are no signs, but you don't have to pay on Sunday,'" Burnett said. "They were reluctant to believe me. Most stayed in line to pay. I don't blame them. Stamford has a reputation for being quick to ticket."
She learned that on a rainy weekday when she was picking up lunch from Remo's Brick Oven Pizza Co. on Bedford Street, Burnett said.
"I was in the lot behind the restaurant and found a spot very close by. It was pouring and I didn't want to run across the lot to the pay station, so I just ran into Remo's," Burnett said. "When I came out five minutes later, I had a ticket."
That's fair, she said.
"I should have paid and I didn't," she said.
But it's unfair for the city to allow people to think they have to pay when they don't, Burnett said.
"It feels a little dirty without signs," Burnett said. "How many people pay unnecessarily every Sunday?"
The city's traffic authority, Ernie Orgera, director of the Office of Operations, said he ordered that signs explaining the hours of enforcement be posted inside all parking lot pay stations.
"All of them should have signage on the glass partitions of the kiosks," Orgera said. "All of them did have it. Sometimes the signs are ripped off or vandalized. If any are missing, we'll replace them."
A tour of some city lots and garages shows how motorists can be confused.
Though the lower Summer Street lot has no signs, the nearby lot behind Curley's Diner on West Park Place has a red and white one inside the pay station that reads, "Hours of operation, 8 a.m. to 1 a.m., Monday to Saturday."
Inside the pay station in the lot behind St. John's church, a sign reads, "Meter enforcement hours, 8 a.m. to 12 a.m." But it doesn't say which days.
The lot behind the stores on Bedford Street, which you can enter from Forest Street or Broad Street, has several signs. Only one, though, is inside either of the two pay stations, and it says meters are enforced 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., but does not say which days. Other signs posted near the pay stations or in the parking lot, though, include the days -- Monday to Saturday.
All three entrances to the Bell Street garage are posted with large signs explaining many things, and you have to stop as you pull in to read it all.
It costs $1 an hour, $9 a day or $75 a month to park in the garage, which is open Monday to Sunday, 24 hours, according to the signs. But then it says evening rates are $3 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and $5 from 10 p.m. to close.
So is the Bell Street garage open 24 hours, seven days a week, or does it close?
Though there are multiple signs inside the garage telling you how to pay, none of the pay stations is posted with a sign explaining what it costs at which times, and when it's free.
"The signs should be at the spot where you pay, so there's no doubt," Burnett said.
Things are fuzzy, too, at the city lot beside Springdale train station, which offers permit and meter parking. No signs explain when the meters are enforced, but they include a number to call for information, 977-5209. A recording at that number directs you to another number, 977-4979, where a woman who answered the phone said parking in meter spaces is free on weekends.
On-street meters on Summer, Bedford, Atlantic and elsewhere have little white stickers that tell you trafic enforcement officers ticket from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and not on Sundays or holidays. But the sticker is on the back of the meter, not on the front where you drop in your coins.
Still, if you want to appeal a ticket, the burden of proof is on you, said Frank Fedeli, supervisor of the Citizens Service Center. Burnett, for example, would have to have her receipt showing that she paid $3 on a Sunday at the lower Summer Street lot, and she would have to appeal within 15 days, as the ordinance requires.
Traffic enforcement officers issue roughly 100,000 parking tickets a year, Fedeli said, and he voids about 5,300, some 5 percent. Stamford collects $2.3 million a year in parking ticket fines, he said.
The city seems to get things right in the garage it runs at the Stamford Town Center mall, where each meter has a good-sized sign that reads, "Meters enforced Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m."
That's the way to do it, Burnett said.
"As it is, I would be curious to know how much ill-gotten gains Stamford is reaping from inadequate signage," she said.
Vendors hawking paid parking for the Masters Tournament say sales have been tepid this week.
The Augusta National Golf Club in recent years has added free parking to the west of the course in the form of five Walmart-sized lots. That has siphoned parking customers away from nearby storefronts and lawns, which used to be able to charge up to $25 a space.
By Friday, parking vendors were reading tea leaves to explain how they maintained sales despite the competition.
Bryan Mundy, who manages parking in six lawns for the 1018 Club on Azalea Drive, said the venture used to make $600 to $700 a day. Now, sales are down to $150 a day or less.
Convenience is one reason people might still choose a paid lot, he said.
"A lot of my customers don't want to be stuck in traffic or have to wait in line," Mundy said.
Michael Jones, who worked a Washington Road lot across from the course, said his parking sales are off from last year. His lot didn't fill Friday.
"The Augusta National has been buying up (property for parking)," he said. "It's fair, but it makes things harder for self-employed people."
Customer service, restrooms and an air conditioned building to relax in, draws repeat customers, Jones said.
Regenia Redd and Dusty Black believe hospitality can give a paid lot the edge.
The two station themselves like campground hosts on a lawn that belongs to Redd's sister. Cold drinks and conversation come with the parking space.
"We used to lease all this property around here," Redd said. "It used to be all houses until the Masters bought it up."
Since the lot is just across from the course's main gate on Berckmans Road, they still sell space for $20, even though they're surrounded by free parking.
"It's been OK. They fill up then we fill up. It goes back and forth," Black said.
Most paid lots within a block from the course charge $20 per space. But 9-year-old Elias Sale, waved customers onto his Azalea Drive yard with a $10-a-space offer.
"The gate foot traffic is not what we thought it would to be," he said. "We've had a lot of business. And $10 is $10."
A plan to add parking meters along a stretch of East Coast Highway in Corona del Mar, along with a residential parking pass program, is among topics on a Study Session agenda for the City Council's Tuesday meeting.
The parking meter plan would add meters along Coast Highway between Heliotrope and Avocado avenues, according to a staff report. The plan also would grant residents two parking passes per home to allow them to park on streets without limitations while enforcing two-hour parking limitations on the first two residential blocks perpendicular to East Coast Highway.
The City Council will discuss the proposal at the Study Session meeting to decide whether members want to pursue the plan, which was requested by the Corona del Mar Business Improvement District.
That group has actively studied parking issues in Corona del Mar for many years, including at one point considering the addition of a robotic garage. The City Council also has studied the issue before, and in October 2009, Council members asked for an action plan with specifics, including costs; read our story here.
The B.I.D. group hoped the parking plan would encourage turnover of parking spaces for customers while limiting employee parking to lots, according to the city's staff report.
"If the City were to pursue this further, it would work with the CdM Residents' Association, the BID, Central Parking and the PD to examine the neighborhood and business impacts as well as anticipated costs and revenues," the staff report states.
The discussion of Corona del Mar parking issues is part of City Manager Dave Kiff's new quarterly plan to ask for Council direction on "policy approaches or issues that have been brought to the City by individuals, committees, or other groups," the staff report states. "This allows the City staff to better understand what's important to the Council (and community) and can better target expenditures of time and resources."
If you're not a resident or don't have an out-of-towner parking permit, chances are you will have to pay for streetside parking in Cocoa Beach.
Parking meters dot beachside parking spots and part of the downtown commercial area. The city commission decided Thursday night to add about 70 new parking meters to the hundreds it already has. The fees at the new meters will be effective weekends and holidays only. The meters likely won't be installed before next year.
Parking meter fees are $1.50 per hour. Some in the downtown area will be $2 per hour. Commissioner Kevin Pruett said the fees will help to offset the cost of beach cleanup. "The meters also become a means for us to manage crowds," he said.
The city recently installed a parking fee box at city hall. Motorists parking in the lot during the weekends will be required to pay $10. City Manager Chuck Billias said he has noticed a difference in the condition of the lot. "It's a different crowd," he said. "I haven't seen the trash we had prior to putting in the collection box."
City residents can pay $5 for an annual sticker that allows parking in most metered spaces. Nonresidents can pay $25 a year. Billias said the visitors using the services and leaving behind trash should help to pay for the cleanup and other expenses they incur.
"We spend $13,000 during the summer cleaning up the end of
Minutemen (Causeway)," he said.
The city pays $12,700 for beach cleanup through Keep Brevard Beautiful. In addition it supplies three all-terrain vehicles and must pay to haul away trash collected from cans on the beach.
The city also partners with Cape Canaveral in a mechanical beach rake that picks up small items, such as cigarette butts. The city must pay for police to control the crowd at Minutemen and other beach areas. It also must use its public works department. "It costs the city approximately $80,000 a year, Billias said.
The City of Concord has prevailed in a lawsuit filed by resident James Disney challenging the constitutionality of an ordinance adopted by the City Council to regulate the parking and storage of recreational vehicles in residential neighborhoods. The City initially prevailed at the trial court level, and the California Court of Appeal has affirmed the decision upholding the validity of the ordinance as a valid exercise of the City's police power authority to establish land use regulations promoting traffic safety and the attractive appearance of residential neighborhoods within the Concord community.
The City's recreational vehicle parking ordinance was adopted in 2008 after residents expressed concern about the potential blighting influence which could result from the number and location of recreational vehicles parked at private residences within Concord. The specific regulations were the product of an extensive community outreach effort and numerous public meetings involving a Citizens Task Force, the Planning Commission and the City Council.
Among other things, the ordinance prohibits storage of recreational vehicles (including motor homes, travel trailers and boats) on front yards and driveways. However, it includes a grandfather provision which allowed existing RV owners to apply for a permit to continue to store one vehicle on a driveway or parking pad for as long as the owner still owns or occupies the property. The ordinance contains other detailed provisions restricting RV parking, designed to protect traffic safety and neighborhood aesthetics.
"The Court of Appeal correctly recognized that the City Council has the authority under its police power to adopt reasonable regulations to protect public safety and preserve the attractive appearance of Concord's residential neighborhoods," said City Attorney Craig Labadie.
The Elk River City Council has voted unanimously to pay $225,000 for 68 parking spaces in two downtown lots. The spaces are located directly behind the businesses on the south side of Main Street between Jackson and King avenues and next to Rivers Edge Commons Park. Houlton Investment Co. currently owns the parking spaces. The parking includes the upper and the lower lots.
City Administrator Lori Johnson said the lots currently are private parking, although they function as public parking. Houlton Investment Co. was looking to sell the lots. The city is buying them to ensure that they remain as public parking. "It is our intent to preserve those parking spaces for the vitality of the downtown businesses," Johnson said during the April 4 council meeting. "We feel it's crucial that those parking spots remain." She said the spaces also will be available to be used as parking for the park. Mayor John Dietz said the city can't afford to sit idly by while someone else may purchase the lots, potentially resulting in the loss of public parking downtown.
Under the terms of the deal, the city is paying $1,000 at the time of signing the purchase agreement, with the balance at closing. Johnson said they intend to close on the sale prior to the end of April. The purchase is contingent upon getting some easements.
The city has reviewed the condition of the parking lots and the
pavement is in good shape.
Money for the purchase will come from an annual payment made by the Great River Energy peaking plant to the city.
The peaking plant, located along Highway 169 on the GRE campus, began commercial operation in 2009. The plant is paying the city $375,000 for five years. The first payment was made in 2010. The cost of the parking stalls comes out to $3,300 each. By comparison, the cost of building a parking ramp or deck spaces is estimated to be between $10,000 to $15,000 per stall, according to Johnson.
University of Southern Mississippi graduate student Eve Blakney usually doesn't come to campus on her off days. The tight parking situation often outweighs the benefits of studying in the library.
She made Thursday an exception, however, and cruised right into an open space near the entrance of the school's brand-new 1,200-space parking garage on West Fourth Street.
Welcome to the new world of Southern Miss parking, where no less than 1,150 open spaces could be found on the north side of campus Thursday afternoon. Attribute it to the fact that the word had yet to spread about the availability of the just-opened facility.
"People have a notion that it's just for faculty," said Blakney, who is studying student affairs. "That will change as people check their emails, but right now there's a bit of a misconception."
Junior John Forstall, a commuter parking in the Payne Center lot, was one of those who didn't get the memo. "I thought it was just for Century Park residents," he said, referring to the new residential community across the street.
Au contraire, of course. The new $15.5 million structure is an open zone for all students, faculty and staff with university parking permits. They paid for it, financing the garage's lease payments with permit costs that shot up from $50 to $135 over the past two years.
Earlier in the day, Southern Miss officials celebrated the garage's opening as if they were off to the races. President Martha Saunders waved a checkered flag and then settled into her seat in a vintage Model T car provided by contractor Charlie Finnegan. Saunders and Vice President of Student Affairs Joe Paul led a procession of cars up the five levels of the parking garage. One of the cars trailing her included the mascot Seymour and cheerleaders.
They then basked in the glory of finishing first. "For all nine presidents we had, we finally found one that could get us a parking garage," said Paul, introducing Saunders from the garage's top level. "'Southern Miss To The Top' took on a whole new meaning as we made our way to the top of another first," said Saunders. "The first layered parking structure in the state on a major college campus."
The structure is also unique in the way it is being financed - through a public-private funding model. Southern Miss' parking garage and a $16.5 million Delta State University residence hall were the first two public university structures to be funded this way in 2009.
Southern Miss will pay parking permit-funded lease payments to a third party consortium called Eagle Parking LLC consisting of five local companies. The school will finally own the structure after 30 years of annual $1,005,000 payments.
During the ribbon cutting, Saunders outlined the green benefits of the new structure, which would have required a single level surface area equivalent to the size of eight football fields. She said its design protects the campus's green space, while reducing its "heat island" effect ( a statistic that measures the warmth of an urban area relative to nearby areas) by 400 percent.
But the question is whether it will cure the school's parking crunch, which went from bad to worse when Century Park and parking garage construction wiped out 900 spots combined.
Saunders said it provided a "much-needed" solution to a problem made more pressing as enrollment increases. Students interviewed Thursday were likewise optimistic.
"Parking sucks right now, so this garage is awesome," said senior biology major Victoria Scott, 25, a commuter who parks in the Payne Center lot.
Public health graduate student Meghan Finley, 27, said she will probably never use the structure because her classes are on the southwest area of the campus.
What she thinks will happen is the end of the Payne Center parking overflow, which has crept into student lots near the Department of Theater and Dance.
"I'm hoping that it helps," said Finley, who explained the painful daily ritual of combing a 30-space lot behind the Junior Food Mart.
Her one concern? "I would be a little worried driving around
that space with 18-year-olds," she said. "Here (pointing to the
theater and dance parking lot) it's pretty open, so we can see each
But she said she is reconciled to the fact that it was financed through two years of increased parking permit costs, even as she graduates next month. The garage was originally slated to open in summer 2010.
"As long as it's not a waste of money; as long as it works in addressing the parking problem, it (the rate increase) comes with the territory," said Finley.
Blakney meanwhile has four years left. "To be able to actually park - as opposed to driving around wasting gas trying to find a place to park - makes it money well spent," said Blakney. "So yes, I would say it's a worthwhile investment."
The ghosts of a plan to sell off the city's parking meter revenue for a short-term budget fix were stirring in the Board of Aldermen chamber Wednesday night.
At a meeting of the Finance Committee, two executives from Cleveland-based Gates Capital Partners spoke to aldermen about a proposed contract under which the company pays the city $50 million in return for the rights to parking meter revenue over the next 25 years. The so-called "parking meter monetization" plan met stiff resistance by aldermen who thought it was fiscally unwise, and even its original proponent, Mayor John DeStefano Jr., has backed off from it since he proposed it last spring.
"The more we looked at it, the more we didn't feel it was the right solution," said City Hall spokesman Adam Joseph. "We're smarter now than we were a year ago."
But despite a fall resolution by 18 aldermen to strike the proposal from budget discussions, monetization is not dead.
Managing directors of Gates Capital James Redd and Graham White sold the monetization plan to alderman as similar to a state bond. Contrary to some rumors, the city would retain "full operational control" of its parking meters, Redd said, and the city would be able to exit the agreement after 10 years for a fee.
The city could use the $50 million cash infusion as a budgetary stopgap against layoffs and service cuts, said Ward 24 Alderman Marcus Paca. While the deal, which is expected to cost the city up over $100 million over 25 years, is not an ideal arrangement, the city has few attractive options, he said.
"Who wants to lay off cops, who wants to layoff teachers, who wants to lay off custodians?" Paca asked.
Also to the deal's merit, parking meter revenue largely comes from people who drive into New Haven from other towns, added Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson. Out-of-towners would be paying the city's bills, Goldson said.
But there is a reason the state and federal law discourages bond financing to cover operating expenses, said Ward 29 Alderman and Board President Carl Goldfield.
"We would be doing something we couldn't do directly and skirting a well-reasoned law," Goldfield said.
One of monetization's most strident critics, Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES '10 SOM '10, likened the deal to a $500,000 mortgage on someone else's house.
"Would you do that with someone else's money?" Elicker asked Redd and White.
That question is a matter of policymaking for Elicker and his colleagues to decide, Redd responded.
The Finance Committee meeting, intended to examine the city's revenue options, ended without consensus on monetization. Whether the plan will be seriously considered in the city's budgeting remains still unclear.
After nearly an hour of often contentious debate, a proposal to ban parking garages from most of the island - including the downtown area - was shot down during the second night of Town Meeting Tuesday.
Dennis Drive resident Grant Sanders' citizen's petition to limit multi-level parking structures to a small portion of the mid-island area and the commercial-industrial zone near Nantucket Memorial Airport was approved by a majority of the voters present 193-165, but fell 46 votes shy of the two-thirds threshold required for the passage of zoning changes.
Sanders has said since he first proposed the article that it was not intended as an outright prohibition on downtown parking garages - including the one currently being discussed as part of the proposed redevelopment of the Wilkes Square waterfront near the Nantucket Boat Basin - but rather as a means to "raise the bar" for approval by requiring that it receive the two-thirds majority of votes required by Town Meeting for zoning changes instead of through the public-hearing process at the regulatory-board level.
He reiterated those comments Tuesday night.
"The whole purpose of this is that if someone wants to come downtown and build a parking garage, we get to get all the information in this room, we get to discuss it, and most importantly, we get to vote on it," Sanders said.
"It's a big deal. It should be a community-wide decision. It's too big for a three-person majority of the Board of Selectmen, or the Planning Board. It would be the single-largest structure ever built in our downtown. The current largest is the whaling museum. I think Town Meeting should get to decide whether the single-largest building in our downtown is a monument to our whaling history, or the automobile."
A change in parking meter fees and a push to increase usage of municipal lots are some of the items on the table under a new parking plan, presented Wednesday night.
Tom Daniel, the city's Economic and Development Manager presented the Comprehensive Parking Study Plan to the City Council Committee of the Whole last night in the council chambers.
The study began when the city decided to look at building a new parking garage above the municipal lot on Church Street. That study determined that a new garage was not the solution since it is seldom filled to capacity.
A working task force was formed comprised of planning board members, business representatives, the police department and the parking board. The new plan is a result of the work of that group and consulting company Nelson/Nygard.
Dave McKillop who worked with the study group asked the council to " look at the plan as a whole and not as individual components."
He expressed concern that the proposal would not be effective if the plan was broken down and changed to accommodate individual issues.
Daniel informed the council that a survey sent out by the city to 650 residents revealed that 76% of residents are concerned with the ease of finding an available spot while only 10% were concerned with the cost of the meters. He also identified the 13 different categories of parking found downtown to be "overly complicated and a source of confusion."
The proposed plan looks to revise pricing as dictated by demand with the more popular spots rising in cost while those spots less in demand are reduced.
The overall goal is to increase the usage of the parking garages and municipal lots through cheaper pricing while creating availability in the immediate downtown area. Consistency in signage and enforcement is also an objective.
Questions and objections were raised about the planned expansion of parking enforcement hours to 12 hours a day seven days a week and concerning the suggested increase of the parking fine to $30. The proposed $850,000 cost of the changes also raised concerns. Daniel explained that these costs would be covered by expected increase revenues.
The council asked that revisions be made concerning reduced and expanded passes for downtown residents, the designation of Washington Street as a medium demand parking area, the proposed pricing of the Sewall Street lot and changing some of the proposed four hour areas to all day parking at a higher hourly rate.
The issue will be visited by the Committee of the Whole again after the revisions are submitted at the April 27 meeting. It is expected that the committee will vote on that date to submit the plan to the full council.
It may look and act like a 1940s penny parking meter, but inside, it's totally 2011.
Silverton Mayor Stu Rasmussen has created a modernized version of one of the town's most cherished tourist attractions: an "electromechanical" penny meter.
"I am told over and over again by visitors that it's almost a magical experience when they come to town," he said. "They feel like they've stepped back in time with the classic storefronts, the penny parking meters and the friendly people."
At select meters throughout Silverton, a penny will get you 12 minutes, a nickel 60 minutes and a dime two hours.
The meters were installed in the downtown business district in the late 1940s and were updated in the '60s and '70s. But today, the mechanical penny meters are expiring and digital versions are taking their place.
Of the 250 or so meters in downtown Silverton, there are fewer than 25 penny meters left, and they've been disappearing at a rate of about 25 per year, said Silverton Police Chief Rick Lewis.
"If there were any left by the end of the year, I'd be surprised," he said.
Parking management strategies for the downtown core have been a discussion item in Silverton in recent months, with one option being to remove all of the downtown meters.
Rasmussen, who said he's been in town long enough to be "romantically attached to penny parking meters," took to his workshop to develop another option.
Tinkering with a 1949 mechanical meter, the 62-year-old firmware engineer converted it into a modern digital meter, without sacrificing vintage flair.
He presented his re-created version of the penny parking meter Monday to the Silverton City Council.
Rasmussen popped a penny into the slot of his prototype and turned the old-fashioned meter knob. As the dial window gave a digital indication that 12 minutes were on the clock, the audience erupted in cheers and applause.
And for people who need to "run into a store to get change for the meter," Rasmussen has a friendly solution.
"If you turn the meter without putting a penny in, you get five minutes to go get change and come back," he said.
But the meter will tell you that itself.
The mayor has programmed the digital dial to read, "First five minutes free, just turn the handle," and, "Welcome to downtown historic Silverton."
He is proposing replacing Silverton's old penny meters as well as the existing digital ones with his new creation. Working with a partner, Rasmussen said he could do the design, manufacture and installation.
Cost: about $150 per meter. The city could recoup some of those costs by selling the newer digital meters, he said.
After the mayor's council presentation, lifelong Silverton resident Sam Linn said he has witnessed firsthand the penny meters' charm.
"We have to bring the penny meters back," he said excitedly. "I've seen many, many people take photos of our meters."
Current parking rates for the digital meters in Silverton are a quarter for 60 minutes, a dime for 24 minutes and a nickel for 12 minutes.
According to Kathleen Zaragoza, finance director for the city of Silverton, an average of $2,600 per month is collected from meter coins.
Rasmussen said there are ways to design the new meters to help maintain the current revenue stream, such as offering less time for a penny or adding a quarter slot.
While the future of the penny meter in Silverton is uncertain, parking tickets remain reminiscent of an era gone by.
Forget to feed the meter, and it could cost you $5.
Oregon City commissioners tinkered with the city code Wednesday night so money can be collected from parking pay stations that will be installed downtown.
The change is part of a long-term plan to free up downtown parking spaces for shoppers and short-term visitors. The city will gradually replace parking meters with pay stations similar to those in downtown Portland.
Commissioners approved higher fees earlier this year. On Wednesday, they revised the city code to allow the city to charge and collect fees at the new parking pay stations. The city code had specified the use of parking meters to collect revenue but not pay stations.
The commission voted 5-0 to make the change. City rules require a second vote on new or revised ordinances so commissioners are expected to officially pass the measure at their April 20 meeting.
The city plans to install new machines throughout the downtown area. The first ones should arrive this summer.
The cost of parking will double later this year, from 50 cents an hour to $1. The new rate will go into effect when the pay stations are in place.
Several city residents have declared their intent to take an initiative to remove downtown-area parking meters a step further.
Chris Buck, David Scott, Michael Weeden, Alfred Catalfo and Jen Etlinger have formed the Dover Committee for Fair Parking Policy in an attempt to repeal the use of the city's Pay and Display metering system.
Residents and merchants have contested the paid parking since the January installation of the metering program and its continual expansion throughout the past few months. Many, including members of the newly formed group, have addressed city officials, saying the meters have created a ghost town in the heart of the city, deterring patronage and ultimately hurting downtown area businesses financially.
"It's our mission to support Dover businesses in order to preserve the vitality of Dover throughout the future," said Buck. "The real problem is that the meters create incentives for customers to leave businesses earlier, to check their watches, buy one less cup of coffee and go to Somersworth where they can park for free for as long as they want. It is clear that the parking meters hurt business."
According to Buck, chairman of the newly formed committee, city officials have time and again turned a deaf ear to the merchants' request to remove the meters altogether.
The city has taken some steps to address complaints. They have staggered the installation of the meters throughout three phases to help motorists settle in to using the devices, offered incentive tokens at a discounted rate and most recently agreed to offer the first 15 minutes of visits downtown at no charge.
Buck said the committee will file an affidavit with the city clerk that seeks to amend the city's charter by including the following article on the city's November ballot: "The City of Dover shall not maintain, install, construct, contract for or purchase any parking meters within the city limits that charge a fee for parking in city owned parking spaces on any street."
Aside from seeking to ban the use of paid parking devices in the city, the article, titled Article XII - Parking, includes a section that would require all of the fees accumulated from the meters to be placed into a trust account solely for the use of parking improvements.
Once the group turns in an affidavit, City Attorney Allan Krans said the proposed charter amendment has to go through a lengthy process before it can be placed on the city's ballot.
Krans said the city clerk will prepare a petition for signing after receiving the official affidavit. The group must then obtain a certain percentage of signatures before the proposal eventually makes its way to the City Council, which is charged with approving or denying the request to put the article on the ballot.
Bailiffs are used to collect unpaid council taxes and parking fines in more than two million cases a year, a civil liberties campaign group has said.
Survey figures released to Big Brother Watch suggest nearly 5,500 cases a day are sent to debt agencies by councils in England, Scotland and Wales.
Campaigners fear bailiffs harass those with debts and charge excessive fees.
But the Local Government Association says councils have a duty to people who pay taxes to pursue the few who do not.
The government said it would "rein in the aggressive use of bailiffs".
Local government and housing minister Grant Shapps said ministers would "defend people's rights and liberties against home invasion".
"In addition, we will not be introducing the last government's plans to allow bailiffs to force entry into homes to collect civil debts," he said.
It comes after Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, urged the coalition government to act immediately "to end the culture of bully-boy debt collection which has taken hold in town halls across the country".
"Sending in bailiffs to recover debts should always be the absolute last resort," he said.
It emerged that between 2007/08 and 2009/10, the 320 local authorities who responded to the survey passed 4,527,917 cases to third-party debt recovery agencies for the non-payment of council tax.
And some 1,411,086 cases were passed on for the non-payment of fines for parking infringements.
Two Scottish councils - City of Edinburgh and Glasgow City Council - topped the list of those that used bailiffs most frequently.
Both called in debt recovery agents more than 280,000 times between 2007/08 and 2009/10 - more than 250 cases every day.
David Sparks, vice-chairman of the Local Government Association, said about £530m of council tax went unpaid each year, adding that councils "have a duty to the vast majority of residents who pay their taxes to pursue the small number of individuals who don't".
Stressing that calling on bailiffs is "very much a last resort", he said: "There is nothing trivial about collecting money which funds the vital front line services residents need and want."
Mr Sparks said people struggling to pay bills are given as much leeway as possible and councils make contact with them a number of times before starting legal proceedings.
The Civil Enforcement Association, which represents bailiff companies, said it had been campaigning alongside the Citizens Advice Bureau to persuade the government to implement a "reformed, transparent, capped" fee structure.
Director general Steve Everson added: "Unless Big Brother Watch is suggesting that nobody should need to pay tax or fines, there needs to be a system of enforcement.
"Without one, how can that be fair on those who pay for and depend upon public services, and how could society function?"
City Council President Michael Hart said he and his colleagues have plenty of questions about Mayor James Fiorentini's proposal to start charging people to park downtown by late fall, but that he is pleased there's finally a plan for them to review and vote on.
"It needs to be tweaked, but I want something to be passed," Hart said. "It's going to be almost impossible to get all nine of us to agree on something that has so many parts and is so complicated, but we need to get the ball rolling on this and we'll fix it along the way if we need to."
The mayor's proposal calls for charging 50 cents an hour to park on the streets surrounding the new, $11 million parking garage that is being built in Railroad Square, primarily along and around Washington and Wingate streets.
The new garage, which will be operated and maintained by the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, is expected to open by Thanksgiving. The concern is that people won't pay to park in the 350-space facility if there's free parking all around it.
Kiosks would be installed in several public lots around the garage with the fee for parking in those lots capped at $6 or $8 per day, depending on the lot, the mayor said. They include, among others, the Wingate Street lot, the one next to Maria's Restaurant on Essex Street and the one behind the Tap restaurant on Washington Street. The proposed rules provide free parking in those lots for the first 15 or 30 minutes, depending on the lot.
Councilors received the plan Friday. Last night they scheduled a meeting for April 25 to review the plan with the mayor and the consultant that helped him formulate it. The council will consider voting on the proposal at its meeting the following night April 26.
"Overall I'm pleased we have an ordinance before us," Hart said. "The last time we had something before us was seven years ago."
The plan, including charging people to park downtown, cannot go into effect until and unless the council approves a series of ordinances establishing the new rules.
The MVRTA has not set its parking fee for the garage yet, but the mayor said it will likely be capped at $5 per day. The maximum fee for the MBTA's train station lot on Washington Street is $4 per day.
Revenue from meters on Washington and Wingate streets will be reserved for improvements to the downtown area, including cleaning streets and sidewalks, buying and maintaining lights, flowers and trees, and hiring officers to enforce the new parking rules, the mayor said.
On the opposite end of downtown, Fiorentini also supports charging up to $2 per day to park on the first floor of the old city garage on Merrimack Street. Parking on Merrimack Street would continue to be free, but limited to two hours at a time. There is much less of a parking crunch on the Merrimack Street end of downtown.
Revenue from the Merrimack Street garage would be used to clean and maintain that facility, which is the subject of regular complaints about its condition.
Fiorentini said downtown residents will be eligible for discounted parking at "various locations downtown" but that the exact locations have not been determined yet.
"The people who live downtown want residency stickers and I support that," Fiorentini said, adding that those details have yet to be worked out.
The western end of downtown is packed with cars, particularly at night and on weekends, because of the popular restaurant district and old shoe factories that have been converted to more than 500 apartments and condominiums.
The city's parking consultant, Nelson-Nygaard Associates, has been hosting public meetings for several months. Specific meetings of restaurant owners, merchants, customers, downtown residents and the general public have been held.
Parking downtown has been a problem for years. At least four previous pay-to-park proposals have been rejected by either the mayor or council. There is general agreement that a major reason for the lack of spaces for people visiting downtown is that those who pick up the train at the downtown station on Washington Street park in prime spots and leave their vehicles there all day.
Another problem is that the area is a maze of different parking rules, with streets and lots offering various time limits that are rarely enforced.
Ten hand-cranked parking meters surrounding Somerville's post office offer a deal so rare that no others like them can be found in New Jersey: 12 minutes of curbside parking for just a penny.
"You can't even get a piece of Bazooka gum with that," said borough Mayor Brian Gallagher.
For decades, the Somerset County borough was part of a small fraternity of towns nationwide that still offered the meters. Now, the machines have run out of time.
Somerville plans to replace the penny meters, in town for at least 50 years, because they have become too costly and too troublesome to maintain.
Almost a half-dozen penny meters across from the Division Street post office were replaced last month with electronic meters that do not accept pennies - just nickels, dimes and quarters. The remaining 10 meters, which accept both pennies and nickels, will go next.
Gallagher said Somerville could set up modern machines, or the current meters could be decommissioned and left standing.
Regardless, Somerville will become the latest town to give up on the old-fashioned, hand-cranked meters.
Moorestown in Burlington County was one of the few communities in New Jersey that still had them in the 1980s, but it was dropped from that list when it removed 162 penny meters in 1988. At the time, there was speculation that three other New Jersey towns still had them, but meter vending companies and parking organizations now believe the only one remaining is Somerville.
Over the past 15 years, penny meters have also disappeared from places such as Union Bridge, Md., Hinsdale, Ill., and Tionesta, Pa. The machines went out of fashion in larger cities decades ago in response to inflation and an increasingly auto-centric society, said Dale Denda, research director for the McLean, Va.-based Parking Market Research Company.
Some small towns were hesitant to give them up, largely out of nostalgia. But even that's changing, with parts for the obsolete machines becoming more difficult to find.
As for how many towns continue to accept pennies, no one knows for sure. Several national parking organizations said they were shocked the meters still existed.
Though scarce, the machines can still be found in small burgs like Silverton, Ore., and Sycamore, Ill., which have populations of nearly 10,000 and 18,000, respectively. Silverton has 27 of them up and running, city officials said, but that number is quickly dwindling, as digital machines replace ones that break down.
"It's almost impossible to find spare parts for them," Silverton city manager Bryan Cosgrove said.
In Somerville, with almost 13,000 people, the meters have also become too problematic. They frequently become overloaded and jammed, Gallagher said.
Almost half of the them were jammed last week, and some motorists stacked pennies on top of the meters to pay for their time.
The borough has so much trouble with the meters that it's talked about scrapping them for nearly a decade, the mayor said. Each brings in about $2.50 a day, he said, and repairing one could cost a few hundred dollars.
The reason they survived for so long is because of their historical significance and local tradition, Gallagher said.
While Somerville's meters may soon be extinct, penny meters everywhere aren't necessarily destined to be wiped out in the near future. There likely will be some town in the nation that insists on keeping them, Denda said. It all depends on what the local residents want and what the town can afford.
What Bridgewater resident Bill Nelson wants is convenience.
"They're cute, but they don't always work," said Nelson, 40, as he left a penny on a Division Street meter. "I just don't want any hassle."