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Cities are installing charging stations in public parking lots
and garages, hoping to encourage use of the cars as communities
work on becoming more "green."
"We believe over next few years we will see a lot more electric vehicles on the road," said Jeremy Earle, Dania Beach Community Redevelopment Agency executive director. "We want to encourage other municipalities to do the same thing. If they can put car charging stations around their city halls and their parking lots, I believe we can have one of the largest car-charging infrastructures in Florida."
Dania Beach has four electric car charging stations in an environmentally friendly parking garage opened last fall.
Delray Beach plans to put in six charging stations in downtown
parking lots. West Palm Beach will install two charging stations in
June in a downtown parking garage.
This comes as car manufacturers introduce electric vehicles to the U.S. market, most recently the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf.
More are coming. Ford is coming out with an electric Focus later this year, and Toyota plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid next year. Tesla Motors, which sells an electric sports car, plans to sell an electric sedan starting next year.
"All the major automakers have got electric cars in development and getting ready to go into production," said Charles Whalen, executive director of Plug In Florida, an electric car advocacy group.
In this year's State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama set a goal of having 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015.
But whether Americans embrace the new cars, which cost $8,000-$10,000 more than similar gas-powered cars, depends on gas prices and the infrastructure to support their easy use.
"If gas prices continue with an upward spiral and don't fall back significantly, that's a big driver to buy these vehicles," said John O'Dell, a senior editor and green-car adviser for Edmunds.com.
Easy availability of charging stations could be a deciding factor for potential electric car owners. The cars are powered by batteries that are charged in an electrical outlet. Plug-in hybrids run on batteries, too, but have a back-up gas engine that kicks in when the batteries are drained.
Depending on the vehicle, electric cars have a range of 25 to 240 miles. "If there's no infrastructure, you may never sell these cars," O'Dell said. So cities are putting in the charging stations as an enticement.
"It's more important to get people thinking about it," said Rich
Reade, Delray Beach sustainability officer. "It educates. This is
what helps change our environment."
"They're very important psychologically," said Whalen, a Delray Beach resident who is donating the charging stations their installation to the city. "They reduce range anxiety. People are going to be willing to drive pure-electric cars if they know they won't get stranded anywhere."
Charles Mellone, a Boynton Beach resident who converted his
Nissan 240 FX from gas-powered to electric, said public charging
would allow him to go more places. His car has a range of about 30
miles, which allows him to commute to his job in West Palm
While a special cable charges car from a household outlet, 240-volt systems have their own connections into the car's charging system.
"If you get stuck, it's not like you can get a gallon of gas," he said.
You can't yet buy a Volt or Leaf in Florida, so Whalen got his new Volt from California. Its list price is $32,780.
"People in Florida [with the new electric cars] are the eager, early adopters," he said. "Some have gone to Texas, New Jersey, Virginia."
The new charging stations also help local cities show off their
The city used part of a $1 million federal grant to buy five Nissan Leafs for its fleet and seven charging stations. Two of those charging stations will be installed for the public in the Clematis Street parking garage.
Miami Beach wants to make electric cars a part of daily life, improving air quality, making streets quieter and decreasing dependency on fossil fuels.
For now, West Palm Beach and Delray Beach will offer recharging for free. Other cities charge enough to cover the cost of electricity and make some money, too.
"They're not losing any money, and actually making a little money off it," said Andy Kinard, president of Car Charging Group of Miami, which provides charging stations for cities and commercial properties.
The company provides and installs the stations and shares their
revenue with the cities.
"We don't need charging stations everywhere," he said. "We just need them strategically placed. If we have stations 20 miles apart, we got the whole region covered."
West Chester Borough Council approved installation of solar panels on the roof of the Chestnut Street Garage last week.
Supporters of the measure said it will save money on energy. Dissidents, including council's finance committee, believe savings are not as much as advertised.
The $500,000 project will be partially funded by a $124,000 grant from the state. The borough will take out a 30-year bond for $368,000 to fund the balance.
"We're not taking any of the money out of taxpayer dollars," Council President Holly Brown said. "It's one of the safest investments we can make."
Borough Manager Ernie McNeely said the solar panels would save $9,000 on its electrical bill. In addition, the borough would own the system, allowing it to sell Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) to energy providers.
The measure was supported by Borough Leaders United for Emission Reduction (BLUER) member Courtney Finneran and MainLine Solar's Sean Diamond, who said SREC values are expected to increase in the coming years.
"BLUER wants you to do this," Finneran said. "We want you to continue your leadership. The benefits of this project outweigh the risks going forward. You're getting a very good price for these solar panels. You're locking in electricity for the long-term future, and there is guaranteed savings here. You'll be generating savings even after the project pays itself off. BLUER is an ad hoc committee providing technical expertise and information on climate change issues.
"The borough could save over $348,000 over the life of the project," Diamond said. "I don't think you'll get a better deal. You'll get 25 years of guaranteed savings."
Several council members were concerned with the amount of unknown variables associated with the project, including the likely increasing price of steel for the panel's canopy, the value of SRECs, and the changing landscape of solar technology.
"Technology is changing a lot right now," said Councilman Jim Jones, who joined Councilman John Manion as a dissenting vote. "There's a discussion that in the next two to three years the whole technology on this is going to change, so spending the money right now might not be the best time to invest in this. We didn't feel the technology is where we wanted to go. Finance Committee had a huge concern about the amount of money that was going to be borrowed."
The finance committee voted to recommend against the proposal. According to several council members, a "worst-case scenario" for the borough would entail a cost of about $4,000 per year.
Advocates said the project likely will pay for itself around the 16th year of the 30-year period.
Councilwoman Cassandra Jones, Councilman Tom Paxson, Councilman Chuck Christy and Brown voted for the project, while Councilwoman Sue Bayne was absent. "For the investment in the future, for our children, the environment and the world, I think it's a very safe investment to make," Brown said.
"I just think we are leaders," Christy said. "We have to be the leaders here, and I haven't heard anything that makes me think this is a high-risk idea. I just think it's a win-win situation."
The council members who voted to reject the proposal said that they did so not because they are against solar energy or thought the project was a bad idea, but because they thought it wasn't an ideal time to spend money on a large-scale project, whether the money came in a bond or otherwise.
"Let's be fiscally conservative here," Manion said Wednesday. "Take a minute to let that number ($368,000) sink in."
More than 400 Southern Moreton Bay Islands residents recently attended meetings on Macleay and Russell islands to protest Redland City Council's plans for metered parking at Weinam Creek.
The meetings followed council's announcement of its intention to introduce metered parking as part of a $1.5 million interim upgrade of the ferry terminal precinct.
In addition to the installation of pay-and-display parking meters, the changes would include the removal of a wire mesh fence around a 438-space car park, to which only paying permit holders currently have access, allowing anybody to park there.
Further improvements would include the installation of CCTV cameras, improved lighting, a staffed security booth plus bicycle and scooter facilties.
Overall, the improvements would create 871 paid parking spaces close to the terminal and 295 free spaces within walking distance - an overall interim increase of 72 spaces.
Macleay Island resident Lindsay Hackett, from the Our Parking Spot group, told the meetings if the council charged even 25 cents per hour for parking, it could potentially cost island residents $2190 per year to park a car at the facility.
(The council currently charges $231.90 per quarter per car and $58.05 per quarter per motorcycle for a spot in its fenced car park.)
Mr Hackett said the council's plans demonstrated "a complete lack of understanding" of island residents' mainland parking needs.
Mr Hackett also told the meetings the council was installing parking meters to make the area "more attractive to private investors".
Redland City chief executive officer Gary Stevenson later told the Bayside Bulletin the council didn't yet know the rate at which parking would be charged, as it would be determined by the outcomes of the social and economic impact assessment and SMBI Integrated Local Transport Plan.
"However, we can confirm that a number of payment/permit options will be available to allow users to park from one hour and less, to up to a number of weeks if required," he said.
Mr Stevenson also said that utimately, any public/ private partnership project at Weinam Creek would include car parking and would replace the interim measures council was putting in place at the site.
"Such a public/private partnership would involve substantial investment by the participating private enterprise, and case studies indicate such an investment (into facilities to include car parking) might be considered too high risk if there is not already a user-pays culture for parking at such a site," he said.
He said paid parking would, in the interim, help fund the planned upgrades.
Mr Stevenson also said the council currently had no plans to introduce paid parking at other locations but said: "As identified in the Redland Bay Centre and Foreshore Submission Review Report, user- pay principles will ultimately be investigated at other sites around the city in the future."
Division 9 (Capalaba) councillor and mayoral candidate Karen Williams attended both meetings and told residents she did not support paid parking at Weinam Creek and, although she could offer no immediate solutions, would endeavour to have the council's endorsement of the project removed at a forthcoming general meeting of council.
"The interim car parking plan represents a gross waste of $1.5 million in difficult financial times for Redland City Council for an extremely unpopular three-year fix," Cr Williams said.
To Cincinnati parkers who keep forgetting the eight quarters necessary to get an hour at a downtown meter: You should be able to use plastic next month.
It has been almost nine months since the city hiked meter rates to $2 an hour to help buy new solar-powered meters that take credit cards. Now, City Council is expected to finalize on Wednesday the $1.78 million purchase of 1,400 individual meters as well as 50 pay station kiosks that print a receipt that goes on the dashboard. The first meters should start arriving in as soon as three weeks.
That's great news for people like Adam Clark, a Xavier University student who says he often forgets enough change, so he avoids meters and heads for the Ninth Street garage instead. He'd pay more to park at a meter if it was closer - as long as he can pay without coins.
The Budget Committee passed the item Monday onto Wednesday's agenda with no vote and little discussion.
The rate increase and new parking technology were suggested in a 2009 study by Chicago firm Walker Parking Consultants, which said Cincinnati's meter and garage prices fell below market rates. It also found that garage prices didn't add up to enough to make the facilities break even. The city generated more than $2.5 million a year from meter coins before the rate increase. An updated figure since the rate increase was not available Monday.
Councilman Chris Bortz, who proposed the increase to $2 an hour effective in August after his Strategic Growth Committee studied Walker's recommendations, said he was glad the meters would be arriving soon. He tried unsuccessfully to get the $2 rate dropped after the meters were delayed.
"For us to be so slow on it was just mind-numbing," he said.
The money to buy the meters will come from a surplus in a parking facilities account.
Cincinnati last raised its parking-meter rates in 2007, when the 1,400 downtown meters were standardized to 15 minutes per quarter. Before that, prices last changed in 1999. The city has about 5,600 meters.
The kiosks, or pay stations, mostly will go in neighborhoods where parking is more concentrated, Bortz said. Community councils will be consulted on their placement. He requested that because, he said, the kiosks can be inconvenient if placed too far from parking spaces.
The administration originally wanted to use more pay stations, citing their ability to give receipts, have their prices changed remotely for special events and to be modified to generate tickets for a streetcar.
Cincinnati will be ahead of some Ohio cities in terms of parking technology. Columbus is upgrading its meters and installing some that take credit cards, as is the city of Akron. Dayton, Canton and Youngstown still have only coin-operated ones.
Rockwall County commissioners are hopeful a "nice letter" that will be sent to downtown Rockwall business owners will solve an issue involving parking spaces around the historic courthouse.
Commissioners expressed concern during their regular meeting April 12 that some business owners and their employees park all day in county-owned spaces around the courthouse. That's a problem, they said, because residents who come to the courthouse to conduct business or attend meetings often cannot find parking spaces.
Commissioners would like for the business owners and their employees to use the public parking lot just north of the courthouse. The county pays $10,000 annually for the parking lot.
County Judge Jerry Hogan said motorists can park in spaces around the courthouse for unlimited time. He said parking spaces around the square, in front of businesses, have a two-hour limit.
The Downtown Merchants Association wants that space available for their customers. "That's good, except the people who work in a lot of those buildings are moving across the street and parking in county spaces," Hogan said. Hogan said he discussed the parking space issue recently with officials from the City of Rockwall and Downtown Merchants Association.
During the meeting, Hogan said, the city agreed to pay half of the $10,000 annual fee for the parking lot. He said the representatives also proposed taking 20 parking spaces on the west and north sides of the courthouse for county use. All other spaces would have a two-hour limit.
"I suggest we try it for a while and if it doesn't work, then we can change back," Hogan said.
Commissioners commended Hogan for establishing the parking lot partnership with the city, but they didn't support the other part of his recommendation.
Hogan later asked for a motion. Commissioners didn't respond. "I don't have a motion judge," said Commissioner David Magness. "I just wish the business owners would go on the honor system and quit parking in our spaces. Maybe they think it's OK that they park here. Maybe there's another way to do it. Maybe we should notify businesses around the square. If they continue to park there, then we will do something different in the future and they will have to park somewhere else. Maybe that's what we should do."
In the middle of the discussion, Commissioner Jerry Wimpee suggested that commissioners "quickly capture officially what the judge has done." He then made a motion that the county accept the city's offer to share in the $10,000 annual cost for the parking lot. The motion was approved unanimously. "So, we take the $5,000," Hogan said. "Now, the next question. Do you want to wait? Do you want to send a notification."
Commissioners finally agreed to send a "nice letter" to the business owners, asking them to not park in the county spaces around the courthouse.
City leaders are still weighing how to spend a $20 million upfront payment from a trio of vendors that leased Indianapolis' parking meters for 50 years.
But that sum won't all go for road, infrastructure and parking-related projects -- nearly $3 million will pay the bill for financial, legal and communication advisers who helped craft and win approval for the deal.
The cost for outside fees appears in line with similar privatization deals, based on projected proceeds for the city. Indianapolis' share of meter revenue over 50 years is estimated at from $363 million to $620 million.
A public management expert and critics of the deal say such comparisons are difficult with the payoff deferred for decades instead of in a lump sum up front.
Still, Craig Hartzer, a clinical professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said the fee total "does not shock me."
Mayor Greg Ballard's office is asking the City-County Council to approve payments totaling $2.9 million, split three ways:
Hartzer said Morgan Stanley and Ice Miller do quality work.
"Proportionately speaking, (the amounts) sound competitive," said Hartzer, who is a former deputy mayor of South Bend and has worked in state government. "I think it's pretty darn reasonable and proportionate."
The council approved the parking meter lease by a 15-14 vote in November.
Under the deal, Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services, a Xerox company, is the lead vendor in the ParkIndy team. Its local partners are Denison Global Parking and Evens Time.
Last month, ParkIndy began upgrading 3,700 parking meters Downtown and in Broad Ripple to units that accept credit cards; rates rose by 25 cents, to $1 an hour in many places; and evening and Saturday hours were added.
Each of the adviser contracts was awarded without public bids, which Hartzer says makes it more difficult for outside observers to evaluate the value.
Deputy Mayor Michael Huber said officials met informally with several financial and law firms before awarding contracts, as they have done in similar deals.
Their talks included price quotes, Huber said. Ice Miller's lawyers worked at rates ranging from $225 to $525 an hour.
Unlike the law firm, Morgan Stanley would not have been paid for most of its work unless the lease deal became a reality.
Huber said Morgan Stanley was "uniquely qualified, because they know the market better than anybody." Ice Miller had experience in public-private partnerships that other firms couldn't match, he said. And Hirons performed communication-related work and organized meetings.
Last fall, critics pointed to multiple potential conflicts of interest in the deal: ACS and the mayor's office have shared a lobbyist in the past, although both insisted he wasn't involved in the negotiations. One of the Ice Miller attorneys taking part was Tom John, at the time the Marion County Republican Party's chairman; Ballard is a Republican.
And Morgan Stanley has played different roles in several cities. It advised Indianapolis and Pittsburgh (which opted not to sign a parking meter lease), but the firm's infrastructure investment arm submitted the winning bid with a partner for Chicago's $1.2 billion parking meter lease.
Huber disputes that those ties and associations led to conflicts.
Adviser fees are a given in complex privatization deals. Chicago paid $7.3 million in outside fees while negotiating its lease. In another recent Indiana deal, the state paid $21 million in outside fees for its $3.8 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road.
But Joanne Sanders, the council's Democratic minority leader, says Indianapolis' $2.9 million in consulting fees is too high for a deal she sees as an unnecessary way to upgrade parking meters.
The fees equal about 0.5 percent of the city's projected $620 million share of revenue, on the range's upper end. But Sanders noted that it's 15 percent of the $20 million upfront payment.
"To me, it's almost like a shot in the dark," Sanders said.
"It's hard to figure it based on future revenues that may never
materialize. I think 15 percent is a considerable number."
Phineas Baxandall, a senior analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group -- another critic of the Indianapolis lease -- said the adviser fees "make a bad deal look worse."
The city will receive further payments from ParkIndy each quarter, based on a tiered share of revenue from meters and parking violations.
Seventy-nine solar-powered parking meters that let motorists pay with both coins and credit cards have been installed on Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe.
The association that runs most of downtown Tempe's parking is testing the meters for 90 days to determine if it wants to purchase them and eventually install them on the 540 metered spaces it manages.
After the trial period, the Downtown Tempe Association will compare revenue with the same period of last year to see if they bring in more money.
Adam Jones, the association's vice president of parking and operations, told the East Valley Tribune that meters that take credit cards in other cities have attracted more customers.
In just the first week, 26 percent of revenue from those meters came through credit cards.
San Francisco Launches iPhone
The Associated Press
April 22, 2011
View Video New Story
San Francisco transit officials are touting their new iPhone parking app as a way to cut down on pollution by curbing the amount of time drivers spend circling the block.
The SFPark app and companion website rely on pavement-embedded sensors installed in 7,000 parking spaces for real-time wireless data on when spaces are occupied. The app also tracks open spaces in city-owned parking garages.
The city will use the data to establish "congestion pricing" for parking spots, adjusting meter prices up or down depending on demand.
The app's success will hinge in part on overcoming San Francisco's notoriously spotty wireless signal for iPhones. It also raises a tricky question in light of California's statewide ban on texting while driving: Where to park while checking the phone for a parking spot.
Montclair Township Mayor Jerry Fried's ordinance mandating that newly constructed buildings include parking and lockers for bicycles, supposedly the first such law of its kind in New Jersey, has hit a bump in the road.
At its busy meeting Thursday the entire Township Council tabled the bike-parking ordinance that Fried has introduced because the municipal Traffic/Parking Advisory Committee had expressed some concerns about portions of it, and wanted to closely review them.
The ordinance requires that any new structure, excluding one-family and two-family homes, must provide bicycle-parking facilities. Those facilities include bike lockers and parking racks. There is a list different types of buildings, such as offices and retail, and what combination of lockers and racks they are mandated to install.
"The number of bicycle parking and storage spaces required herein varies according to the type, location and intensity of development in the different zoning district," according to the ordinance. Its aim is to reduce traffic congestion and pollution by encouraging bike use.
"This is exactly the kind of thing we should be doing to encourage people to think about ways to create a community more friendly to bikes and pedestrians going forward," 3rd Ward Councilman Nick Lewis said.
But both he and 4th Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville the
night before had been at a meeting of the parking advisory
committee, which had expressed concern about some of the
ordinance's requirements. For example, Baskerville said that under
the new law the Crescent Parking Deck would have had to provide 135
spaces for bikes. She said the committee wants an opportunity to
review the numbers of bike parking spaces required.
The committee wasn't the only one concerned about the ordinance.
Second Ward Councilman Cary Africk has been a vocal opponent of the bike-parking ordinance. He said that he had been lead to believe that Haddonfield and West Windsor already has such bike ordinances in place, which turned out not to be true.
"This would be the first bicycle-parking ordinance in the state of New Jersey, and quite frankly, I just don't think we need to be setting that kind of precedent," Africk said. "I just don't think it's necessary."
At the meeting prominent Montclair developer Dick Grabowsky addressed the council and said he was there to support the ordinance.
"I think it's a great step forward," he said, adding that Montclair has been debating this kind of requirement for about 10 years now.
"And I'm just shocked that it has taken this long for it to finally work its way into a piece of paper, that you actually get an opportunity to vote on, where we can place places for people who use bicycles downtown," Grabowsky said. "Now any new construction that we do is going to include bicycle racks, and we are so far behind so many other towns."
He pointed out that even crowded Manhattan has bicycle racks all over town, and said that one section of the ordinance gives builders flexibility about the bike lockers and spaces. For example, a builder can provide bike-parking facilities in an adjacent building rather than on-site, according to Grabowsky.
But Africk said he had spoken to other builders who weren't so happy about the bike-parking requirement.
"I just don't see putting this as a requirement on building and development in Montclair," he said.
Commissioners were scheduled to vote May 3 on a proposal to raise deck parking rates from $1.50 per hour to $2 and meter rates from 50 cents to $2 to pay off bonds for the $17 million parking deck under construction on the corner of Lumpkin and Washington streets.
Several said at an agenda-setting meeting Thursday that they want to delay that vote until June to reconsider the hikes.
"We want to make sure that whatever we do that affects downtown, downtown businesses, that we get input from those who are most affected," Commissioner Mike Hamby said.
The Athens Downtown Development Authority, a board of business owners and county officials that manages metered spots and many lots and decks, has not signed off on the hikes, Hamby said.
County officials have said that on-street and deck rates should be equalized so drivers do not have an incentive to park on the street. But Commissioner Kelly Girtz raised concerns about such a large on-street increase.
The commission may also look at the hours when the county
charges for parking downtown, Girtz said. Those hours are now 8
a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The commission last approved a parking rate hike in 2009, raising on-street rates from 25 cents to 50 cents and deck rates from 75 cents or $1 to $1.50. At the time, the rates had not risen in 25 years, and commissioners said they wanted to raise them more frequently and in smaller amounts.
They also approved plans for the new downtown deck in 2009 knowing that county officials would recommend boosting hourly parking rates to $2 this year, $2.25 next year and $2.50 in 2013.
The rate increase plus the opening of the new 475-space deck would bring in an estimated $1.2 million annually.
The hikes are needed to pay off $6 million in bonds the ADDA sold to pay for part of the deck. The bonds are backed by parking fees, a revenue source that is also paying to run the new deck.
About $6 million in sales tax revenue and $6 million from Batson-Cook, the Atlanta developer that is building the deck and will own its retail and office space, will cover the rest of the cost.
A 2007 county audit found that Athens' downtown parking rates were among the lowest in the Southeast. For example, Decatur, another city with a thriving downtown, charged 25 cents to park for 10 minutes, three times what Athens-Clarke County charges now.
Calgary city council will be asked to increase the price of most parking tickets by $15 in an effort to offset a new fee from Service Alberta.
The contentious fee was introduced April 1 by the province and applies when the parking authority or police look up information in the province's registry before issuing parking, red-light or photo radar tickets.
Municipalities around Alberta had been exempt from the fee until April and are all scrambling to find the money to pay the unexpected amount. Most municipalities had their budgets completed when they learned of the fee.
The cost of the fee for Calgary police could be $3.7 million, and the parking authority estimated it will add $3.2 million to its costs.
On Wednesday the land-use, planning and transportation committee
approved a $15 parking ticket increase, which must be approved by
city council in May to take effect.
Committee chairman Ald. Andre Chabot said the city had to act.
"To change (the fee) now, midstream, without notice, without at least providing us an opportunity to do cost recovery, we have to be reactionary to it because, unlike the province, we can't run a deficit," he said.
"We don't have a choice, we have to find a mechanism to replace that lost revenue," said Chabot. "The simplest solution is to raise the fine to offset the cost."
Calgary police, however, still don't have an answer to how it'll come up with the money. On Wednesday, police Chief Rick Hanson, who is also the president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, met with Service Alberta Minister Heather Klimchuk.
Hanson said he tried to pitch a compromise, where the province reduces or delays the fee, but was told it would not.
"I was hoping that we could show the decision they made affected policing across the province and they would perhaps defer the implementation of the fee, or at least be willing to consult or look at other options," said Hanson.
"There was no willingness to defer and no willingness to consider options to prevent this or put them off," he said.
The fee could cost $21 million for police departments across the
While most parking tickets are written under municipal bylaws, the affected tickets from police fall under provincial legislation.
The city cannot change the province's fines. Hanson said he will work with the police commission to find a solution.
Commission chairman Mike Shaikh said negotiations are ongoing. "I'm still continually talking with the premier's office and quite hopeful that there will be some sort of resolution," said Shaikh.
He said he will "exhaust every possible avenue" for a solution.
"We have got to make sure there is a resolution to this and if we don't, then our avenue is to go to the city and say, Give us the money," said Shaikh.
The parking authority had previously said it would cost about $6 million annually to pay the fee, but has revised that estimate to $3.2 million by reducing the number of searches it will do.
When searches were free, the authority would search two or three times, depending on how long it took for a parking ticket to be paid. By only searching once, it expects to cut the bill by 45 per cent.
The joys of paying a mere $2 overtime parking notice at city garages may be coming to an end. Looking to standardize its ticketing and increase receipts, the city's Parking Department this week unveiled a number of new ideas for the 2011-12 budget that would raise its revenues by about $1 million.
Changing overtime notices to a flat $10 fee - doing away with a gradual fee scale - is expected to bring in an additional $232,000, Parking Commissioner Albert Moroni said at a Wednesday budget session.
Also, raising parking permit fees by 15 percent to 40 percent - the first increase since 2007 - would net the city an additional $719,000.
On the expenditure side, Moroni plans to trim the hours of the TransCenter and city library garage offices, which both see little business, to save $200,000. He suggested closing the offices entirely, which would save an additional $155,000.
"What we're looking to do here, over time, is to reduce the
city's employees and to automate as much as we can and to
standardize as much as we can," he said Thursday.
In that vein, Mayor Thomas Roach said he would push to have more multi-space meters on the streets and more pay-by-cell-phone availability throughout the city.
"We want to see compliance, and not tickets," Roach said. "I think the best thing we can do is make it easier for people to comply."
Between permits, meter receipts and fines, Parking Department revenues would be about $21.4 million in 2011-12, roughly 15 percent of the city's total revenues.
Currently, certain garages allow people to pay $2, $3, $6 or $10 overtime notices (depending on how long ago their meter expired) as long as the garage office is still open that day. If a garage doesn't have an office or the office is closed, the tickets are $20.
Moroni's plan would change the system to automatic $10 overtime notices whether someone is five minutes over at the Hamilton-Main garage or five hours over at the Longview garage. The overtime notices would stay at $10 for 14 days - after that it's $20.
The new system would cut down on the need for garage office workers to process tickets, allowing for the reduced office hours.
To find added savings, the Parking Department will cut an unfilled and unfunded cashier position and a parking supervisor job, with a $105,000 annual salary, after the current supervisor retires this month.
The department offers a variety of permits for residents and commuters, which generally range in price now from $300 a year to $1,200 a year. All of those fees would rise (ranging from $425 to $1,430), except the $180 quarterly permit for low-income senior citizens.
A pilot program to share maintenance services with the Traffic Department is also planned for next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Just about all the changes proposed are already included in the 2011-12 proposed budget before the Common Council, so removing them could cause taxes to increase. The council will approve the budget May 26, following a public hearing May 2.
The ARA has a plan and a plot - but no cash - for a new public works garage, which is the linchpin for the entire downtown revitalization project.
Assistant Public Works Superintendent Ron Dubuc told the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority Thursday that he's ready to advertise for a design-build firm to construct the garage whenever the ARA and city are.
"We're ready to go," Dubuc said.
Plans call for a 30,000-square-foot garage to be built on city-owned property next to the wastewater treatment plant off Pond Street North.
However, the ARA and city officials are still working with the Federal Transit Administration on an effort to get money to pay for the $3.5 million project. Mayor Kevin Dumas said advertising for a builder cannot be done until money is in hand.
Dumas and ARA Chairwoman Judith Robbins are scheduled to meet with the federal agency to discuss the matter next week.
The current DPW garage, which sits on a 6.5-acre parcel off Wall Street, needs to be moved to make room for the construction of roads to a proposed 1,200-car MBTA parking garage, a bus station and temporary parking.
The roads would be built off a connector road between County and Olive streets, which would run right through the current DPW yard.
The connector will add a link between routes 123 and 152, open up land for private development, recreational walking and biking paths and access to the Ten Mile River.
Coin-strapped motorists parking in some parts of the city this summer can choose to pay with plastic, thanks to a three-month trial of new electronic meters, the city said.
The 90-day customer service experiment will begin in early May and usher the installation of 40 high-tech single-space meters in Davis Square and parts of Union Square, where parking demand is highest, the city said in a statement. Once installed, users are encouraged to submit feedback on the Traffic and Parking website.
The new meters will continue to accept coins and parking cards, the city said. If the credit card use proves popular, officials may explore installing them citywide, said Jacklyn Rossetti, city spokeswoman, in an e-mail.
"The new meters are one more way in which we are seeking to ensure that our residents and businesses receive the best possible customer service," said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone in the statement.
"Not only will the new meters provide additional payment options, but they use green technology, and are easier to maintain," said Curtatone.
Other communities nationwide have seen "dramatic" increases in customer satisfaction, while parking tickets and appeals have declined, he added.
Somerville's test follows a similar program in downtown Boston, where 144 of the single-space meters were installed March 7 for a three-month run.
The California-based company that makes the meters will provide them free for the trial period, according to Rossetti.
The meter heads, which affix to the base of the existing equipment, are a sleek gray with a blinking LED light facing the street, according to images on the website of San Diego-based IPS Group Inc., which manufactures them.
By measuring capacity and turnover rates in addition to the upgraded meters' income, Rossetti said parking officials working with the mayor's office and number-crunchers with SomerStat will decide how the program would fare citywide.
"We are always looking for innovative ways to increase customer satisfaction," said Traffic and Parking Acting Director Matthew Dias, in the statement.
An illegal parking lot has operated in the heart of South Miami
for more than 20 years.
When code enforcement officials realized the error they slapped a $4,750 fine on the property, located at 7150 SW 62nd Ave.
On Tuesday, city commissioners decided that the property owner must either shut down the lot or make improvements, such as installing pavement and lighting.
"The point you have in front of you is a code violation," said South Miami Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro. "Are we going to enforce the law?"
Commissioners on Tuesday voted to deny owner Rick Mattaway a permit allowing him to operate the lot on a temporary basis.
The gravel lot is used mostly by students at nearby Ross University and employees who work at the surrounding buildings.
Mayor Philip Stoddard and Commissioner Walter Harris voted in favor of the permit. Vice Mayor Valerie Newman and Commissioner Brian Beasley voted against it. Commissioner Velma Palmer was absent. The vote required a 4-5 margin. "My responsibility is to vote on the code," Beasley said.
A permit has been issued every year to operate the lot commercially. Yet it doesn't meet the city's requirements for a permanent lot: paving, striping, lighting, landscaping and other improvements. While the original fine was nearly $5,000, the city negotiated with Mattaway and agreed to a lesser fee of $2,500.
Mattaway has owned the lot since 2005, according to county records. He applied for a temporary permit - which commissioners on Tuesday denied - to allow him to continue to operate the lot without have to spend money on any improvements. He says he wants to build an office building there soon, so it doesn't make sense to improve the lot.
Mattaway even offered to donate $3,600 worth of landscaping - the amount he would have to spend on planting trees and plants to meet the requirements for a permanent business - so the city could plant trees elsewhere.
Every day, city staff estimate 150 cars use the grass lot. But Mattaway, who bought the land in 2005 for $4.7 million, according to county records, told planning board members probably only 80 vehicles park there. Mattaway must now either improve the lot to meet the code for a permanent parking facility, shut down the lot, or face fines beginning next month.
A new Seattle program will allow people to pay after 10 p.m. for two hours of metered parking from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. the next day. The feature, which is part of Mayor Mike McGinn's nightlife initiative, lets drivers leave their parked cars - if they're worried about getting home safely - then return for it the next morning.
Pay stations on Capitol Hill and the Pike-Pine corridor now offer this feature. The rest of the city will get the payment option over the next several months, said Aaron Pickus, spokesman for McGinn.
The month of May marks the beginning of a new parking meter permit pilot program in the city. The program is designed to assist Lakewood's business community in finding easily accessible parking.
Lakewood Assistant Director of Planning and Development Dru Siley said the issue came to the forefront after some businesses along Madison and Detroit Avenues approached the city regarding parking troubles.
"They were feeding the meters all day long," said Siley, referring to the hassle faced by businesses that do not have access to off-street parking.
Some examples include the Greek Village Grille on Madison and Create-A-Cake on Detroit. As a result, the city has made 100 parking permits available at a cost of $250 each with a maximum of two permits per business. The permits are transferable, meaning they can be used by any employee with a vehicle.
The permit does not guarantee a space at a specific meter and is intended for on-street meters only, but could provide a solution to the problem.
The initial period will last through 2011. According to Siley, 10 companies have already applied.
Businesses across Northern Ireland have launched a campaign against plans for increased on-street parking charges. The Department for Regional Development is planning to raise millions of pounds in revenue by increasing the charges.
Thirty towns could have to start paying for parking for the first time. Fines for parking illegally may go up to as much as £90. The campaign against the plans is being led by the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association.
It has the support of the British Retail Consortium, Pubs of Ulster, Ulster Chemists' Association and Chambers of Commerce in the 30 towns which are being proposed for the car park charges.
Colin Neill, the chief executive of Pubs of Ulster, the plans would hit small retailers which were the life blood of the economy.
"It's more than just an inconvenience, it's a tax on the small independent retailer who doesn't have the advantage of out-of-town sites," he said.
He said introducing similar charges to out-of-town sites would "help to level the playing field".
Mr Neill said the move would change the whole psyche of people shopping in town centres which he said were the "hub of communities".
"It's not just about shopping, there's a whole social element there," he said.
Peter Wright, from the Ulster Chemists Association, also said the move would be a further tax on small businesses.
"We're all threatened by out-of-town shopping centres and we feel this is a way of forcing people out of town centres," he said.
"You've got to look at this in terms of convenience for people and why change something that works."
The Department for Regional Development hopes to raise £37.5m over the next four years from extra car parking charges.
Parking in the District? There's an app for that. Drivers will soon be able to use a cellphone to pay for any of the city's almost 17,000 on-street, metered parking spots.
The system is one of a flurry of high-tech moves to overhaul the District's aging meter network and address two perennial complaints of motorists: Meters are frequently broken, and hauling around fistfuls of quarters is a pain.
"The goal is to give people options," said John Lisle, a District Department of Transportation spokesman.
A pay-by-mobile-phone pilot program is in place in Foggy Bottom, at Georgetown University Hospital and around Nationals ballpark. In June, DDOT will begin rolling it out at additional locations.
Here's how it works: Drivers register their license plate numbers and credit card information online with Parkmobile, the city's contractor for the program. Drivers can then use a mobile app or place a call to start a parking session when pulling into a spot. Drivers key in a zone number, the amount of meter time wanted and then go. Fifteen minutes before the meter expires, drivers will get a text message reminder and can add additional time.
The transaction appears in real-time on hand-held devices used by parking enforcement officers. The mobile app is available for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry, and drivers can register multiple license plates. Parkmobile officials said more than 100 cities, including New York and Boston, are using the system.
Some drivers saw it as a godsend. "I always have my phone, but I don't always have change for the meter," Alexandria resident Stephen Brandon said, adding that he would use the app.
Dee Sampson, a D.C. driver who makes several stops a day for his job, said he wanted to see how well the technology worked before signing on.
"Just today, I was downloading an app that had a glitch - that's often a problem with these things. You're not always sure if something is going through," he said.
Pay-by-phone is one of a handful of parking pilots that the city has given a test drive in the last year. DDOT has tried different iterations of pay-by-space and pay-by-license plate-number systems using coins, credit cards and bills. It's even experimenting with embedding sensors in parking spots so drivers could digitally check to see if one is open, Lisle said.
Lisle said D.C. residents will also be seeing more multi-space meters. He said the city is seeking a vendor to install the machines as coin parking meters get old and are replaced around the city. He also said the city is looking into an in-car metering system.
The Parking Authority on Wednesday agreed to budget $350,000 to modernize downtown parking, but stopped short of approving a proposal that would have given visitors free parking for the first hour.
The modified proposal floated by Chairman Jeff Robinson calls for 15 pay-and-display kiosks in the downtown area to replace traditional parking meters. The kiosks accept forms of payment other than coins, generally raise more revenue than meters do and could eventually accommodate a first-hour-free setup.
The plan also calls for more signage downtown and other marketing efforts to explain parking availability to unfamiliar visitors.
The Parking Authority will ask the City Council to back a $300,000 loan, and would deduct the rest from its reserve fund.
Initially, Robinson had proposed giving away an hour of parking free in an attempt to draw more visitors downtown. That proposal came after discussions with Two Rivers Company representatives who requested two-hour free parking to spur business growth.
The Two Rivers Company is a recent merger of the Downtown District Partnership and River District Commission.
Robinson reversed course from recent weeks and advised against pairing the first-hour-free proposal with the loan request, amid concerns about revenue. Robinson said one-hour free parking would not have been politically feasible.
"What I think the message from (Councilman David Allen) is, no one wants to take that gamble right now," Robinson said. "Is that a fair assessment?"
"Fair assessment," Allen replied.
Robinson said the new plan would give the authority and Two Rivers Company a chance to "build the case" for one-hour free parking - "but we modernize along the way."
Parking Manager David Smith suggested the authority could also ease into the program slowly by purchasing kiosks for the 100 block of Franklin Street to start, a move that might avoid any debt incurrence.
City lawmakers thought they had killed it. Even the mayor gave it up for dead. Now a group of aldermen, working closely with a company lobbyist, has unearthed and galvanized a disgraced parking meter monetization plan.
Five aldermen have signed on to a letter supporting a plan under which Gates Capital Partners, an Ohio-based investment firm, would receive a dedicated portion of the city's parking meter revenue for 25 years, plus interest. The city would be on the hook for over $120 million. In exchange, the company would give pay the city $50 million up front.
The latest effort met resistance from an East Rock alderman and a budget watchdog, who called the plan "deeply irresponsible" and akin to a "payday loan."
The monetization plan was first put forward more than a year ago, during last year's budget season. It met an outpouring of opposition: Critics said the plan was a short-sighted quick-fix that would saddle the city with debt for years to come. The plan was eventually shelved.
Meanwhile, Gates continued to work to convince aldermen it was a good idea. The company hired Steve Mednick, a local attorney and former alderman, as a lobbyist.
In November, Alderman Justin Elicker put forward a resolution calling on the city to not spend any more time or resources considering monetization as an option. Eighteen of his colleagues signed on to the proposal, which has been sitting in front of the Board of Aldermen's Finance Committee ever since.
By March, even the mayor seemed to have given up on monetization.
On April 6, the plan resurfaced. Representatives from Gates appeared before the Finance Committee to re-pitch the plan and rebut some of the arguments against it. They were there at the request of Alderman Yusuf Shah, the chair of the committee, who said the city's dire fiscal outlook is prompting him to put all options back on the table.
On Thursday, Shah-along with Alderman Marcus Paca and Alderwoman Bitsie Clark-emailed a draft of the letter to their colleagues, calling on them to give monetization a second chance. By Monday morning, Aldermen Migdalia Castro and Tom Lehtonen had signed on.
There is conflicting information about the authorship of the letter, but it appears to bear the fingerprints of Gates' lobbyist: The file information of the document emailed to aldermen on Thursday-signed by Paca, Shah, and Clark-lists "Steve Mednick" as the document's author. The document's "title," however, is the first sentence of Elicker's letter opposing monetization.
Mednick said he didn't write the letter. Paca said he did. Mednick's name "just happened to be on the back end of the file," Paca said.
Paca said he wrote the first draft of the letter himself. As part of the process, Paca said, he corresponded with Mednick, who sent him talking points and different options for monetization.
Shah said he expects the Finance Committee to take up monetization at its May 3 meeting.
City parking meters, which cost $1.50 per hour, took in between $3.7 and $4.1 million in Fiscal Years '07-'08, '08-'09, and '09-'10. The mayor's budget for the next fiscal year predicts an intake of $5.2 million, as does the approved budget for the current fiscal year, which ends in June.
Just Like Buying A Microwave
Paca and Shah both acknowledged that the monetization plan is not an ideal solution to budget difficulties. But desperate times call for desperate measures, they argued.
Shah said he was inspired to revisit the idea after the February layoff of 82 city workers, including 16 rookie cops. "This made me, as the chair of the Finance Committee, say OK, stop the presses. Let's review everything that's out there."
The monetization deal is simply a means of borrowing money, Shah said. "People do that everyday." When you go to the store to buy a microwave oven and you don't have the money, you use a credit card, he said. "This is no different than what we would be doing."
If the city locks into a deal where it gives a certain amount of its meter revenue to Gates every year, it can always raise the rate at the meter to take in more money for itself, Shah said.
The city would retain control of its meters, and could even put in more meters to bring in more revenue, Shah said.
Shah said the city has run out of alternatives. "Is there a pot of gold under the skating rink? Can we dig it up? I mean, come on."
Paca said the monetization plan need not be a $50 million deal paid off over 25 years. There are other options, he said, such as $25 million over 10 years.
The money wouldn't go into a "slush fund" for any old purpose, Paca said. It would not go toward new expenses, he said. "The money is going to be specifically used for tax relief, that's it."
"This is all to do with what's in the best interests of the city," he said.
Passing The Buck
Alderman Elicker, who was at the April 6 meeting with Gates, said he didn't hear anything new there, and remains opposed to monetization.
"People have been comparing it to a mortgage," he said. But it's not like a mortgage, he said. "In a mortgage, it's your money. ... But it's not our money." Long after new aldermen and even a new mayor have been elected, the city would still be paying off the money from Gates, Elicker said.
"It's an easy out for us," he said. It's a "deeply irresponsible decision to make. ... passing the buck down to future generations."
"There must be a lot of money for Gates to gain, because they have been persistent," Elicker said.
Elicker said laws prohibit cities from borrowing money to pay for general operating costs. They are allowed to borrow only for capital projects. Monetization is "basically a loophole" to get around the law, he said.
Jeffrey Kerekes, budget watchdog and founder of the New Haven Citizens Action Network, also called the plan a "loophole."
"We're basically borrowing money to pay for expenses," he said. "It's like a payday loan."
There are laws against it because "it's not sound fiscal policy," he said. "How do you ever make any traction when you take a deal that you don't have any money for?"
The way to provide tax relief is to make a list of priorities and "stop when the money runs out," Kerekes said.
If the city is willing to raise parking meter rates to pay debt to Gates, then it should just raise rates to pay for operating expenses, Kerekes said.
While Paca and Shah claim authorship of the letter calling for reconsideration of the parking meter plan, the document's file information paints a more confusing picture. The metadata associated with the file sent to aldermen on Thursday lists "Steve Mednick" as the file's author. The "title" of the document, however, is the first sentence of Elicker's November letter, calling on the city to cease consideration of the parking meter plan.
Elicker said he has no idea why his anti-monetization sentence is the title of the pro-monetization letter. "I'm certainly not involved in drafting the letter, mostly because I hate monetization."
Shah said he worked with Paca to write the letter to aldermen calling for a reconsideration of monetization. He said he did it to share accurate information about monetization.
"In order to get my facts together I did consult with Gates through their attorney," Shah said. "We didn't work in a vacuum."
Asked how Mednick's name came to be recorded as the author of the document, Shah said he doesn't know.
"Me and Marcus composed that letter, and anything else that's out there is a rumor or a lie," Shah said. "Marcus composed the first draft and Marcus ran it by me."
"Steve did send me some information," Paca said. Mednick sent him "bullet points" and "talking points," Paca said. He said he and Mednick shared several types of emails and somehow his name ended up on the file that became the letter.
"I wrote that letter. Steve Mednick did not write that letter. I wrote that letter," Paca said.
Mednick said he had shared information about monetization with aldermen.
"It's possible that stuff we generated is in that letter," Mednick said. "I did not write that letter."
Long-Term Financial Health
On Monday, city spokesman Adam Joseph declined to endorse the monetization plan, instead deflecting attention to the city's labor negotiations.
Monetization "doesn't get us where we need to go in terms of the long term financial health of the city. The best thing we can do for the financial sustainability is to make modest changes to our pension and health care plans. That's what we are working on."
However, Joseph didn't rule out the parking meter plan, either.
"If we can address our long term issues with pension and health care and in some cases work rules the City will be in a better financial position and decision on the need for monetization could be made at that time."
With commuters forced to wait several years for an annual parking pass at the Westport Metro-North station, a study researching the viability of a parking garage in the Saugatuck area will be conducted soon.
"That study has been in the works and is about to begin under the auspices of the Southwest Regional Planning Association (SWRPA)," said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. "The state is going to pick up most of the tab and the [town's] railroad parking fund will pick up the balance of it."
Joseloff announced the plans at Thursday's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
The exact costs could not be ascertained at the moment. SWRPA is a coalition of seven towns that looks at regional issues such as transportation and housing.
According to Larry Bradley, director of Planning and Zoning, the study would take up to 18 months and will research not just a parking garage, but also signage, public transportation in the area and the existing parking lots. Several public hearings are expected pertaining to the study.
Joseloff said that the challenge of doing anything to the improve the parking lots is that the state owns some of the lots, the town owns others, and some are jointly owned. Permission needs to be granted by the state for changes to take place, but Joseloff said the state has been looking to provide more parking to commuters.
"The state has over the years pushed Westport to increase parking and that's something we're looking at. Clearly there is an opportunity to increase the parking," Joseloff said. "The difficulty or the challenge of course is to do it in such a matter that doesn't overly impact the Saugatuck area."
A lack of parking and a years-long waiting list has been a problem for years. This became official in the 2007 Town Plan of Conservation and Development, in which local government mapped out the challenges and possibilities for improving Westport in the years ahead.
In a telephone survey conducted at the time, 70 percent of the people interviewed agreed that more parking is needed at the train stations. According to the survey, 54 agreed that a parking garage was needed at the Saugatuck train station. A "comprehensive study" was recommended by the plan since there is "no clear panacea" for the problem.
"Merely adding capacity may not solve the problem for Westport residents since many of those using the parking facilities are not residents of the town and state law does not allow Westport to restrict the parking to town residents," said the study.
The study said that suggested were made to upgrade public transportation, but the 2011-12 budget pared back spending for the Westport Transit District.
Joseloff opined to the Planning and Zoning Commission that it's conceivable there could be commercial development on top of the parking garage - such as a movie theater.
"Is that in the cards?" asked Joseloff. "I don't know, but I hope they look at all uses and possibilities."
The city's parking pay stations have failed to meet the city's standards and have triggered a range of complaints from residents since they were put into use in July, according to a city staff report.
"People hate those parking stations," Councilwoman Jeannine Roe said. "There are so many complaints about them. I have people complaining to me almost daily."
Roe said she supports replacing the dollar-an-hour pay stations with traditional meters.
"I'm all for yanking them out," she said.
The Olympia City Council's finance committee tackled the issue Tuesday, and the full council could discuss solutions in June.
"I think this issue warrants discussion by the full council," said Councilman Stephen Buxbaum, chairman of the finance committee.
The report says of the meters, "The operation of the equipment has not achieved performance expectations with regards to functionality, convenience, intuitiveness, adaptability and revenues." About the only good news to be found in the report is that there's plenty of parking available.
On average, 39 percent of parking spaces were taken up between August and February. That's down from an occupancy rate that sometimes exceeded 80 percent in the former 90-minute free-parking zone, according to an earlier city study. Downtown employees were tying up spots, preventing customers from using them.
The council took out a $750,000 loan to install about 50 parking pay stations to free up spaces for customers by discouraging parking by employees and to generate revenue in order to build a city parking garage, an idea that later was scrapped.
But fewer people parking means less potential revenue for the city, and the money generated so far is much less than the city's expectation. The city expected an average of 60 percent occupancy, generating revenue between $358,182 and $452,250 a month. At that rate, the loan for the pay stations could be paid off in two to three years.
But revenue from August to February has averaged $18,765 a month. If that monthly total holds, the city will make about $225,180 a year.
A small part, but not all, of that revenue loss is the result of the council's last-minute decision in June to give parkers the first 15 minutes free. The report estimates the city misses out on $7,832 a month as a result.
The city's revenue woes are just the beginning of its problems with the pay stations. Users have offered a host of complaints:
• The electronic display on the pay stations' screens is
difficult to read. The screens are deliberately placed low for
handicapped-accessibility. But they're also difficult to see. The
city has ordered new screens with greater contrast.
• Electronic and printed instructions are complicated. The city has tweaked them twice and could do so further.
• Using the machines is inconvenient. They're placed mid-block, which means people have to walk to a pay station, pay, then return to the vehicle to place a receipt on the dashboard, often in the rain. The report suggests one option is replacing stations in low-use areas with meters and relocating the pay stations to high-use areas.
• Street signs need improvement. Sometimes they're difficult to see because of vegetation.
• A three-hour limit would be better than the current two hours. Some people say they need more time.
Roe said there are other problems.
"There's issues that it will not take your credit card and it will just randomly reject it," she said. She said the devices have cell phones that contact banks to confirm payment cards, and sometimes they don't connect.
Keith Stahley, director of the Community Planning and Development Department, said the city was looking into the terms of the devices' warranty.
Council members had some suggestions.
Councilwoman Rhenda Strub questioned whether the stations needed a time limit.
"With a 60 percent vacancy rate, do you think we really need to drive turnover?" she said.
Councilwoman Karen Rogers suggested moving the free 15-minute period to the end of the time allotted, to prevent people who get to their car just after the expiration of their time from getting tickets. She also suggested relocating the machines, perhaps to the Capitol Campus area.
"I think people … are finding the parking pay stations a negative experience," said Mary Wilkinson, a resident who worked on a parking advisory committee. "The pay stations are new. People are having trouble mastering them."
Connie Lorenz, executive director of the Olympia Downtown Association, said it's not the money people are being charged that bothers them.
Jeff Trinin, another member of the downtown association, said "we certainly have lots of things we can improve." But he has supported the stations.
Dave Platt, owner of The Mailbox, said the city doesn't have enough information to draw conclusions and needs to survey residents.
"We need to ask people to write it down," he said.
The Center City Commission has floated a plan to take over and upgrade Downtown parking meters and spend some of the expanded proceeds on cleaning city streets and public spaces.
The plan calls for outsourced management of cleanup efforts that are currently a $738,000 a year function of the city's beleaguered General Services Division and a meter modernization program.
Paul Morris, president of the Downtown development agency, forwarded the plan to city administration officials and City Council members this week.
It asks the city to give the Downtown Parking Authority, an arm of Center City, jurisdiction over parking meters and revenues, which have ranged from $430,000 to $580,000 a year over the past five years.
Downtown and city officials believe on-street parking has potential to generate more revenue if they're converted to equipment that accepts credit cards and metering is imposed on spaces that are currently meter-free.
The Center City plan is at odds with another proposal under consideration by the Wharton administration to sell the city's future on-street parking revenues to secure a one-time payment of $10 million to $15 million from a private equity firm.
Under the city proposal, an upgraded meter system would essentially repay a loan from the private equity firm over 20 years.
Morris said Center City wanted to get its proposal on the table before the city takes action on the private equity deal.
Morris compared the city proposal to "pawnshop financing. It would provide a one-time, up-front injection of cash at the expense of a future revenue stream. It's basically a bad loan, that would force even tougher decisions in the years ahead ..."
Morris calls the CCC proposal "the Five Birds Plan" because it also incorporates efforts to combat homelessness, promote minority businesses and seek job opportunities for previously incarcerated people.
Chicago's depleted rainy day fund will get $50 million richer thanks to cost cutting and better-than-expected city revenues last year, Mayor Daley said Thursday.
Daley credited the windfall to good management, and he thanked city workers for taking unpaid days off to help save city taxpayers money.
"This is really good news that we have done this. ... This requires a lot of people in the budget office really working, department heads, to do this. ... I want to thank all those for taking the furlough days. It's tough on people, but they realize the taxpayers have it much more tough than we have in government."
Daley has been criticized for using $190 million in reserve cash from the lease of city parking meters to help balance last year's budget. On Thursday, Daley said the city is on the right track.
"It was always my intention to repay the reserves as the economy recovers," Daley said. "Today's announcement of returning $50 million to the reserves is the first step towards that goal."
The city also will carry over a $45 million year-end unreserved balance - about $35 million more than budgeted - into 2011. It's the largest carry over balance in five years.
Still, the city's financial future will remain challenging, the mayor said.
"While these revenue results and expense reductions are encouraging, they are by no means the total answer to our financial difficulties," Daley said. "Even with these results, we remain at 2004 revenue levels while operating a government that has 2011-level expenses."
Those tired of navigating the concrete jungle that is Capitola Village parking are one very small step closer to relief.
Thursday, the City Council reviewed two options for a new parking structure in Pacific Cove above City Hall and directed city staff to explore possible financing mechanisms, such as bonds, increased parking fees and a joint investment with a developer of a long-desired village hotel.
However, in the current uncertain budget climate, including the city's unexpected costs from rebuilding from two flash floods in March, the council expressed skepticism that the project could move forward in the foreseeable future and chose not to authorize any further spending until the 2011-2012 budget is reviewed.
Additionally, the council would like the current General Plan Advisory Committee to review the plans, and wants to spend more time to gauge community support for the project.
"I don't want to put any city money into this right now. We have other more immediate needs," Councilwoman Stephanie Harlan said. "I also want to hear from the community if they really want this."
In January 2010, the city took a $40,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration that funded a study of conceptual plans and cost projections for the project.
A report prepared by the Traffic and Parking Commission found that, on the low end, the current parking shortfall is 176 spaces, and in the long term 325 spots would be needed. The high-end numbers were 390 and 799 respectively.
Redwood City-based Watry Designs developed two options for the parking structure. One would include three levels with 554 spaces and cost an estimated $12.8 million. The second design is four levels with 664 stalls and would cost roughly $18.8 million. Because Pacific Cove is already an open-air lot, the net gain in spots would be 320 for the first option and 430 for the larger plan.
The parking structure project is part of a long-term plan to redevelop the area around Pacific Cove and City Hall, 420 Capitola Ave. The parking plan is the first phase, with a possible City Hall and commercial development as a second phase.
In other business, the City Council approved an extension of the emergency declaration from March 27, which was in response to flash floods that devastated the Pacific Cove Mobile Home Park and village on March 24 and 26. The extension allows the city to move more rapidly in restoring the park to a habitable condition by allowing for no-bid contracts. Residents of the mobile home park have been staying at the Capitola Inn, with funding from the city, since the first flood. The long-term future of the park will not be determined, at the earliest, until an April 28 council meeting.
The Alexandria City Council approved a resolution Tuesday night establishing uniform parking meter enforcement across Old Town. Under the resolution, meters will be enforced Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. with the exception of legal holidays.
"The utility is that it's uniform," Vice Mayor Kerry Donley said.
Meters in the Carlyle District will continue to be enforced from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The resolution was approved 6-1, with Councilwoman Alicia Hughes casting the lone dissenting vote after asking city staff about the "inequity" of having different enforcement times in Old Town and in the Carlyle District.
The passage of the resolution comes at a time when the city continues to roll out multi-space parking meters in Old Town. Nearly all of the single-space meters are expected to be removed and replaced by the end of May.
The rate at the multi-space meters is $1.75 per hour. The meters were chosen after the recommendation of a study work group and were approved by the council in the fall.
According to a city release, the new meters "require less maintenance by City technicians; reduce visual 'clutter' on the streetscape; and reduce the need to retrieve and process large amounts of cash."
The blocks containing the multi-space meters are marked with new blue signage.
The single-space meter rate remains $1.25 per hour.
The City of Toronto has introduced a new parking ticket dispute process that will make it easier for those who have received tickets for pay-and-display or parking meter violations to dispute tickets by using either e-mail or fax.
Motorists who have been issued tickets for parking meter/pay-and-display offences and who meet the cancellation criteria set out in the Parking Ticket Cancellation Guidelines may submit their ticket by fax or e-mail, together with any supporting documentation (such as a valid pay-and-display receipt), to request that their ticket be cancelled.
This process only applies to tickets that have been issued for violations that result from a broken or out of service pay-and-display machine or parking meter, pay-and-display receipts that have not been displayed properly, or pay-and-display receipts that were printed incorrectly. It does not include parking tickets that occur during rush-hour periods.
The new dispute process is a service enhancement that will impact approximately 40,000 ticket holders a year. It will provide a timely and effective way of disputing tickets that can be dealt with by the City of Toronto instead of the provincial courts, as well as providing a greater convenience to motorists.
Currently, the parking ticket dispute process requires individuals to attend one of four First Appearance Facilities (parking ticket payment counters) in person to dispute any type of parking violation. Motorists can now dispute tickets issued for parking meter or pay-and-display violations by either fax or e-mail, or in-person at a First Appearance Facility. For disputes that have been faxed or e-mailed, the vehicle owner will be advised in writing confirming either that the ticket has been cancelled, or that it does not meet the criteria for cancellation.
Those who do not meet the criteria for cancellations can then opt to pay the fine or request a trial in person at one of the City's First Appearance Facilities. As legislated in the Provincial Offences Act, a request for trial must be made in person by the individual who received the ticket, or by their designated agent.