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Cyclists may soon be locking their bikes to racks on the street. New Westminster city council is considering a pilot project for on-street bicycle parking. Iapproved, the proposal suggested by Coun. Jonathan Cote would follow in the footsteps of the City of Victoria.
Victoria successfully implemented on-street bike parking recently, said Cote. On-street bike parking would require a car stall and meter to be removed, with the new bike rack taking its place. You take one parking space that's straight parking, say on Victoria Street, then you'd put in a number of biking spaces," said Cote.
Each spot would contain a rack that holds at least six bikes, according to Cote. Specific locations haven't been proposed yet, but Downtown business areas appear to be the most likely. "We'll try to find ideal locations where there's a higher level of bikers and business that would be happy with bike parking, like in front of some local cafés," said Cote.
A Columbia Street location has also been suggested by the New Westminster Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee.
"Sidewalks on commercial streets get cluttered with signs and bike racks," said Cote. "It might be easier to pull up to one of these locations, and it would also be better for pedestrian traffic."
The geography of New Westminster makes it harder for cyclists to get around, but the city has been working to promote bike use, said Cote. At this point, there's no estimated cost of implementing new bike racks or loss of revenue from taking out a parking meter.
"Removing a parking stall meter may mean some lost revenue but the rack is pretty simple [and low cost]," said Cote. Andrew Feltham, chair of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition for New Westminster, is enthusiastic about the idea. "It's a low cost, creative solution (for providing more bike spaces)," said Feltham. "I think it's a complement to other types of parking and would provide a lot of parking in a small space."
In terms of safety, Feltham said he'd feel completely safe using on-street bike parking. "I think if it was well designed there would be no safety concerns; it's very visible so people can see it," he said. Feltham believes the move could actually increase business for local merchants.
"It wouldn't block storefront views like a large paneled van might," he said. "Car parking spots only use one vehicle. You potentially have a lot more people using it, attracting more business."
Motorists could soon face heftier fines for parking too long at downtown parking meters. The Spokane City Council is scheduled tonight to consider raising parking ticket fines from $15 to $25.
"It's bringing us in line with a lot of metropolitan areas," said Council President Joe Shogan, who supports the change. "These aren't parking rates. These are fines that people get for over-parking."
But some downtown businesses question the increase. Parking fines were last raised in 2004, when they went from $10 to $15.
"There's already this false sense that downtown is overpriced for parking and difficult to navigate, and anything that makes that falseness feel true - people just stop coming," said Melissa Opel, manager of the flagship Auntie's Bookstore at Washington and Main. "If they keep on increasing the fines people will just stop shopping downtown."
The Downtown Spokane Partnership recommends holding off on raising fines at least until after the council is presented with the final results of a downtown parking study next month, said Marla Nunberg, vice president of the organization. That will allow the council to "take a more holistic approach," she said. The downtown business group paid $20,000 toward the $46,000 parking study; the rest was covered by the city.
Some council members say they'd prefer to wait to consider fine increases until the study is complete.
San Francisco's municipal transit board will vote this week on whether to allow special parking permits for nannies so that they don't have to run out every two hours to move their car to a new spot.
KGO-TV quotes one nanny as saying she has to leave a 10-month-old child and his 2-year-old sister for as long as 15 minutes at a time during the parking-place shuffle every 120 minutes.
The nanny parking proposal would allow one special nanny parking placard if a family provides a birth certificate for their child and signs an affidavit swearing it is for the nanny, KGO says.
The Associated Press notes that other major cities offer special-use permits, for visitors, for example, but that San Francisco's proposal would be the largest to offer a permit category solely for child care providers.
The idea, however, has drawn criticism from those who call it elitist, applying only to a small number of the city's 815,000 residents in a city desperate for parking spaces.
"If you keep letting people get permits, it places another strain on a fragile system and eventually it will reach the breaking point," says Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, a group that promotes transportation changes in San Francisco, the AP reports.
But transportation officials say they are eager to keep families from fleeing to the suburbs.
"We're being tugged in different directions, and it's kind of hard to draw the line and say, 'You're OK to park here' when there are other groups that feel just as worthy," says Bond Yee, director of the transportation agency's Sustainable Streets program, who supervised the creation of the nanny parking proposal.
A new online payment system for people who commute to and from Boston by commuter rail will make parking easier and help the MBTA collect parking fees.
The transit authority is allowing riders to purchase monthly parking permits online, eliminating the need to pay each time they enter a rail station parking lot. Online permit availability extends across the T system, including the Greenbush and Old Colony lines on the South Shore. A monthly permit costs $70, so a commuter who otherwise would pay to park every day can save $10.
The MBTA has been following through on its pledge to crack down on parking scofflaws. T personnel began more aggressively ticketing parking-lot freeloaders in late fall.
Many commuter rail stations rely on an honor system to collect parking fees. Patrons push their payments through marked slots in metal collection boxes. Many riders complain that reading the numbers marking each space is difficult in snowy weather.
The parking fee is $4, but the fine for not paying is only $1. The monthly permits can be purchased on MBTA's website and printed out immediately. If the original permit is lost, the rider can print out another.
It's not "convenient" to be disabled. People tend to forget that fact when they are in a hurry to run into the grocery store and carelessly park their car in an open disabled spot.
But now the city of Austin is cracking down on healthy people who don't think they will get caught. In fact, they're making it a heftier crime to break the rule.
Parking in a disabled spot just seems like bad karma. While it's tempting to park in a "handicapped" spot at a busy outlet mall, just think about how blessed you are to be able to walk a little further to the door.
This Tuesday, a new law takes effect that not only imposes a higher fine, but the charge will be criminal. Those who park their cars illegally in a disabled spot in Austin will have to pay a $500 fine. That's nearly double the current fine of $255 to $300. As a criminal offense, the fines and court costs will begin at $511 for the first offense.
Even borrowing someone's placard will break your wallet. Violations include parking in a disabled space without a placard and illegally using a place-card if you are not disabled.
If you are disabled and you loan out your placard? You too could face a $500 fine.
The new fines take effect Feb. 1 in Austin. But leaving those spots for people who need them is the right thing to do across the state.
An effort meant to draw people to downtown St. Cloud by easing parking hassles ended up costing the city about $84,000. But downtown businesses hope to come up with a new plan to offer easy parking that won't affect city coffers.
Parking meters were removed in St. Cloud's downtown from June 2009 through June 2010 and replaced with two-hour parking signs. The move was meant to attract more people downtown to shop and eat.
St. Cloud City Council reinstalled the meters after seeing the plunge in revenue.
The St. Cloud Times requested parking system revenue data from 2008 through 2010. It shows that removal of the meters contributed to a 14.4 percent drop in overall parking revenue from 2008 to 2010.
In 2008, on-street parking meters brought in about $234,000. In 2010, they brought in about $150,000, about a 36 percent drop. On-street parking meters include meters downtown and those near St. Cloud State University. "It took quite a big drop," City Finance Director John Norman said.
The revenue the St. Cloud parking system generates pays for upkeep of the system and to pay off debt incurred by building the Centre Square parking ramp. The dip in revenue did cause a cash-flow problem, Norman said.
But that problem didn't have any long-term effects because the trial ended after a year, he said. "If it would have gone on, a real issue would have come up," Norman said.
The meter revenue numbers still aren't where they once were, but Norman said they are trending up. Downtown Council Executive Director Pegg A.K. Gustafson said businesses wanted the meters removed as a way to revitalize downtown by making parking easier for customers. It also would help attract new businesses to downtown if they didn't have to worry about the cost of parking for customers and employees.
"It seems to be a deterrent," Gustafson said of the current parking system.
From the day meters were put back in, some business noticed an immediate decline in business, she said. So the Downtown Council is rethinking the parking situation and trying to come up with a new proposal to bring to the city.
The council plans to conduct a questionnaire with businesses about parking needs and gather other data from other cities.
There's also an education element for relieving parking downtown. Gustafson said the word needs to get out that the ramps are open, have availability and are reasonably priced. Parking in the ramps also means customers don't have to return to their car to put quarters in the meters.
"Park in the ramps, then you don't have to worry about the meters," she said.
Bumbledee's owner Dee Holsinger said every day she hears from customers who are concerned about feeding the meters. Reinstalling the meters in July caused an immediate drop in sales, she said. "It was like a curtain came over," she said.
Holsinger has had to turn to advertising and direct mailings to get customers back in her shop. Sales have improved somewhat, but they aren't what they were when free, two-hour parking was offered downtown.
Holsinger said she'd like to see the city remove the meters again. Although the city relies on the revenue from them, it also gets revenue from sales taxes, she said.
Offering free parking also will help revitalize downtown and make it a destination, Holsinger said. "The healthier downtown gets, the healthier the city gets," she said.
The laser-guided parking traps will show no mercy. Even motorists who roll the dice and stay just a few extra minutes, hoping to beat the Grey Ghosts, won't stand a chance.
Their sensors alert parking officers the second a vehicle's parking meter expires or it overstays the allowed time, eliminating the need for them to chalk tyres or read meters.
Figures leaked to the Sunday Herald Sun indicate the system could result in Melbourne motorists being slugged with additional parking fines totalling up to $20 million a year.
It also has grave implications for the city's Grey Ghosts, with council sources revealing job losses were likely if adopted.
A confidential briefing document given to Melbourne City councillors on Friday indicates the council would detect 60 per cent more parking offences with the sensors installed.
"Information from the trial shows that at present we're only detecting about 10 per cent of all parking infringements," a councillor speaking on condition of anonymity said.
In the financial year ending June last year, the council issued 460,268 fines, reaping almost $34 million in revenue.
Based on those figures, the sensors would result in an extra 276,000 fines being issued every year. The fines range from $60 to $119.
"It is going to be controversial on a number of fronts," the councillor said. "There will be a lot more fines issued and it will have industrial relations implications," the councillor said. Councillors will this week vote on whether to advertise tenders for parking sensor technology. However, the Sunday Herald Sun has been told some councillors will seek to defer the item. "This is a big deal and it seems outrageous we have to make a decision with so little time," the councillor said.
Melbourne company Database Consultants Australia was last year contracted to install sensors at a Templestowe shopping centre for Manningham Council.
Fine revenue leapt 24 per cent in the first six weeks after the system - called PinForce Sentinal - was installed. The company did not return calls, but its website claims the technology "makes chalking practises a historic last-century relic".
The website states the system beams information to hand-held units already used by parking officers, meaning officers only have to enter vehicle registration details.
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle refused to discuss this week's confidential meeting, but confirmed parking sensors were on the council's agenda.
"As with all council decisions, the normal processes such as councillor briefings and consultation with stakeholders will occur," Cr Doyle said.
"In response to your inquiry about in-ground sensors, a trial has been underway for two months in the city."
The proposal drew a negative response from Melbourne Business Council secretary Don Parsons, who predicted widespread anger among CBD traders.
"It's just another negative device that would discourage people from coming into the city," Mr Parsons said.
There's a new high-tech sport utility vehicle cruising the streets of Santa Rosa, and it's going to make life miserable for parking scofflaws.
Decked out with four cameras, two laser shooters and a global positioning system, the truck evokes images of Big Brother surveying the city streets.
The white Ford Escape hybrid was purchased by the city parking department to serve as the platform for the sophisticated array of gadgetry intended to more quickly spot parking violations throughout the city.
Eventually, it could doom the traditional system of parking officers driving slow-moving scooters and marking the tires of cars with chalk to track how long they have been in a spot. This souped-up truck will reduce the need for chalking when it's launched for official duty within the next week or two.
"The new system allows us to be more efficient with how we deploy the staff," said Cheryl Woodward, deputy director of parking for Santa Rosa. "Parking enforcement officers have had to chalk all the vehicles in the area, and it is a process that is labor-intensive, prone to workers compensation claims from that repetitive chalking and prone to some problems where people are removing the chalk from the vehicle."
For now, the city plans to use the truck primarily in problem areas such as around Santa Rosa Junior College and Memorial Hospital, neighborhoods where residents complain that they can't find open parking spots on their streets.
Woodward said the city spent $64,957 to purchase the new system, which will cost about $12,000 a year to maintain. She expects those costs to be recouped from an increase in parking citations generated by the rolling snoop. She said the truck will be emblazoned with Santa Rosa parking department logos before its official launch.
Inside the truck is a sophisticated computer system that enables the officer to cruise along at a comfortable 20 to 30 mph while the computer system scans parked cars and beeps when it finds one that has overstayed its limit.
Roof-mounted lasers measure the length of the car, its cameras snap photos of each vehicle and its license plate, and its computers digitally stamp the photos with a time and date. The data and photos are then stored until the enforcement truck takes a second turn down the same street.
The system will take new time-stamped photos, digitally compare the old photos with the new, consult the computer's internal data on that street's parking time limit and beep if it determines that the car has been in the same spot for too long.
The system, called "auto-Chalk," was made by the Ontario, Canada, company Tannery Creek Systems. The company has deployed similar systems in Santa Barbara, Madison, Wis., Fredericksburg, Va., and other cities.
"It would take them five hours to do the whole downtown with chalking," said Bill Franklin, president of Tannery Creek Systems. "With our technology it takes about a half hour."
As Franklin drove the truck downtown, passers-by asked what he was doing and he explained that no, he was not the Google truck, which captures images for its online mapping systems.
Alicia Alexander of Cloverdale, who was sliding an hour's worth of quarters into a parking meter in downtown Santa Rosa, said she didn't mind the new enforcement tool.
"It's just another way for law enforcement to keep an eye on who's parking properly," Alexander said. "It's a great idea, but probably not for those who aren't very good about parking."
But employees at the nearby La Chaise Rouge salon said the enhanced parking enforcement could hurt their business, where many clients come in for appointments that last three hours.
"Businesses have a hard enough time downtown," said hairstylist Quinn Bishop. "There are empty (parking) spots all over the place. Less people would shop downtown, I guarantee it."
Franklin said he hoped the system would be used to focus on drivers who are routinely parking for several hours beyond the posted limit. He said violators who camp out in precious spots hurt downtown businesses.
The autoChalk system is capable of reading license plates, so it can alert the enforcement officer to stolen vehicles and parking scofflaws who have five or more unpaid parking tickets and are eligible to have their vehicle towed. The parking department uploads license plate data provided by the Police Department into the truck's computer system.
Woodward said the parking department doesn't have plans to regularly provide the data it collects to the police. But she said it would cooperate with police investigations if asked.
The parking department will save photos only of vehicles that were found to be in violation, Woodwardsaid, so officers have evidence if a parker contests a ticket. She also said the parking department won't be collecting more information than it currently does, because parking officers already take photos of parked cars.
Some privacy advocates are concerned that data collected by license plate readers, if shared with local law enforcement agencies, could also be shared with others, including federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security.
"We don't have any involvement with Homeland Security or any other groups," Woodward said. "We haven't been approached by them, and I don't see any reason that they would have an interest in the pictures that we have."
A Nebraska legislative committee will discuss a bill that would see those who park illegally in a handicapped parking space paying a much heftier fine.
State Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha introduced the bill (LB438). Current law caps the fine at $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense and $500 for a third or subsequent offense within a 1-year period.
Howard's bill would make any offense - even a first offense - subject to a fine of up to $1,000. The Legislature's Urban Affairs Committee will hear the measure on Tuesday.
The Intermodal Transportation Center is Johnstown's newest, largest parking garage. But it also attracts the fewest drivers and brings in the least revenue. Seven years after the $6.5 million garage opened, statistics released last week show that fewer than 25 percent of its 650 spots are rented for monthly parking.
And while the facility also hosts special-event parking, it produces negligible revenue for the city in that category, too.
Officials are unsure how to make better use of the concrete structure that towers over the intersection of Vine and Walnut streets.
"It's absolutely disappointing," said Councilman Jack Williams. Williams was serving on the governing board when the garage opened. "I don't know what the answer is," he said.
The ITC garage was part of the city's $25 million "renaissance" project that also included construction of Pasquerilla Conference Center and renovations at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
ITC boasts 230 more spaces than the city's next-biggest parking facility. But one official said the parking garage's size is due to another element of the renaissance project that never came to fruition.
"It was built for a 10-screen movie theater," said Ron Repak, Johnstown Redevelopment Authority executive director. "When we started that planning process, the movie theater (proposal) was going great."
The movie complex's developer, Wallace Theater Corp. of Portland, Ore., eventually pulled out. Garage plans were not subsequently downsized, with Repak recalling that the parking facility already had been funded by state and federal money at that point.
After construction delays caused some headaches, ITC opened on the final day of 2003. But it never has caught on with commuters.
Johnstown Finance Director Carlos Gunby produced a report last week showing that, of the three city-owned garages, ITC hosts the fewest parkers.
The Lincoln Street garage is more than 75 percent occupied by monthly parking leases, and Main Street East is nearly 74 percent full. In contrast, only 24 percent of the ITC spaces are leased monthly.
Despite its size, ITC produced only $71,520 in revenue from those leases last year. That's almost $51,000 less than the money earned at Lincoln Street.
Part of the problem is location: ITC sits a few blocks away from the core of the Central Business District. And, while the Holiday Inn sits just across Vine Street, the hotel has its own parking lot and garage.
Without an influx of business and employees in the ITC area, "there is very little likelihood that we would extend our parking base in that garage," Gunby said.
So the garage sits mostly empty. In an effort to boost daily usage, the city in early 2009 installed automatic payment centers at ITC so that those without monthly leases could park there.
But Gunby said "there is limited usage" of that service. The city still staffs the garage for special events, charging $5 per vehicle. That is particularly fruitful during the annual Thunder in the Valley motorcycle rally.
"That is the busiest garage during Thunder in the Valley, by far," Gunby said. "It is jam-packed."
However, Gunby added that special-event parking brings in only $5,000 to $10,000 annually.
That's not to say that ITC has no value. The garage's proximity to Pasquerilla Conference Center is an asset for that venue.
"It is useful to us for our events, and to the War Memorial, too," said Melissa Radovanic, the center's sales and marketing director. "Every time we have an event, that garage is used."
She added that, for a conference center to be successful, "it's essential to have parking nearby."
For that reason and others, Repak does not believe building the large garage was a mistake.
"Why not have it?" he asked, noting that surplus parking spaces can't hurt the city's development prospects. "It is definitely a selling point," Repak said.
The Norman Police Department, working in partnership with members of the community, is taking a proactive approach on parking enforcement. Improvements made to the city's downtown and campus corner areas have created a noticeable increase in the amount of customers, vehicle traffic and demand for parking.
Norman police have communicated with people and businesses in the core areas of the city on parking-related issues. Police will continue to work with members of the community to develop positive problem-solving measures for the quality-of-life issue.
Parking enforcement officers will take a more proactive approach toward enforcement of parking-related issues beginning Feb. 1, in an effort to bring about better compliance with parking ordinances.
In the last year, several positive adjustments have been made to parking in the downtown and campus corner area. Compliance has improved in these two specific areas.
However, there is still room for improvement, and Norman police want to inform citizens on parking ordinances within the city.
Chattanooga airport officials are looking at what could be the biggest slate of improvements at the passenger terminal in almost two decades.
Among changes eyed are shifting the passenger security checkpoint, adding a 1,200-space parking garage and improving exterior traffic flow, officials said.
Also weighed is renovation of ticketing, baggage and food and concessions areas along with improvements in the exterior rental car site and other ground transportation.
"It's something we want to look at in great detail," said Mike Landguth, the airport's president.
Tall order for consultant
The airport received bids from seven design consultants, he said. A firm likely will be picked by summer.
Airport spokeswoman Christina Siebold said the winning bidder will come up with ways to finance proposals and work up a timeline to implement them, which could be over a period of years.
"It's important to remember there may not be dramatic changes immediately," Siebold said. But in coming years, there should be "some real improvements to our travelers' access to and through the terminal," she said.
Driving the potential changes is growth, future activity identified in the airport's master plan and meeting passenger needs, Siebold said.
While airport boardings were down last year by 6 percent compared to 2009 to 291,388 passengers, traffic grew the last half of the year, Landguth said.
Also, airport officials have talked about the addition of companies such as Volkswagen, Wacker and others in the area. Lovell Field recently landed another carrier, Vision Airlines.
A key project could involve relocating the passenger security checkpoint from the terminal's second level to the first and the addition of another lane.
"The Transportation Security Administration would like to put in a second lane," Siebold said.
TSA plans to install a full-body scan device, but the existing space may not be enough, she said.
"Our No. 1 priority is eliminating potential bottlenecks in the passenger processing system both in the access to the airport and through the checkpoint," Siebold said.
The parking garage would nearly double existing inventory, she said.
This week, the airport lot has been nearly full, Siebold said, noting this time of the year typically isn't especially busy at the airport.
"We must maintain our competitive advantage of offering convenience to passengers," she said.
Improved first impressions
Trevor Hamilton, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president for economic development, said the airport is a gateway and often a visitor's first impression of the city.
"It makes a statement about the community," he said.
Airport travelers Friday said they'd welcome some of the work.
"Increased amenities would be a help," said Calvin Anderson, of Memphis. He said he'd like to see a broader array of food offerings in case of an airline delay.
Jim Hinton, of Richmond, Texas, said he likes flying out of medium-size airports such as Chattanooga's. He said he'd like to see taxes he pays to fly be plowed back into airport improvements.
In 1992, the airport opened the existing terminal, a $19 million project complete with Lovell Field's signature 75-foot skylit copper dome.
Winter Haven City plans for the construction of a downtown parking garage moved forward this week.
In a 5-0 vote Monday, the Winter Haven City Commission gave City Manager Dale Smith the authority to begin negotiations with Everett Whitehead & Son Inc. for design and construction services for the garage.
A Winter Haven-based company, Everett Whitehead & Son came out on top in a city review team's assessment of 11 companies that originally expressed interest in building the parking garage. Tucker Construction & Engineering Inc. of Winter Haven also was in the running for the job.
City commissioners were pleased that a local company had reached the negotiations stage for the garage project.
Plans call for the garage to be built on city-owned property at the southeast corner of Third Street and Avenue A, N.W.
A city staff report justifies the construction of a parking garage, stating that the "current inventory of surface parking is not meeting the needs of existing downtown businesses and public facilities."
"For the continued success and expansion of the city's downtown area, additional parking, in the proper location, is critical," the report states.
If the City of Austin Transportation Department has its way, parking on the weekends will soon become a freebie of the past in downtown Austin.
According to its recommendations presented before City Council at the end of January, the department seeks to extend parking meter hours to include Saturdays. The meters would also remain in effect until midnight and carry a three-hour time limit.
The recommendations come after a year of studying parking usage and meeting with stakeholders, said Robert Spillar, director of the city's transportation department. By implementing the recommendations, city staff hope to create parking turnover so that downtown businesses can receive a constant influx of new customers.
"After hours, we have more people parking on-street for longer periods of time than during the middle of the day," Spillar said. "We want to generate turnover in the evenings. It's a business development effort to create that turnover and to address the perception that valet parking is causing problems as well."
According to a memorandum sent by Spillar to Mayor Lee Leffingwell, City Council members and City Manager Marc Ott, there are 2,300 on-street parking spaces and 14,000 surface lot and parking garage spaces in downtown Austin. A November 2008 study conducted by parking planners found that 87 percent of on-street parking is used on Wednesday evenings and 96 percent is used on Saturday nights. Planners consider 85 percent utilization to be at capacity.
Spillar said there are numerous parking garages and lots available, but several are either unknown to downtown patrons or are closed because they cannot compete with the availability of free on-street parking. By eliminating free on-street parking, educating the public on alternative transportation methods and guiding patrons to available garages and lots, city staff hope to decongest downtown and increase business.
"Economics are a good way to help people make good choices," Spillar said. "The reality is, our studies show there is plenty of existing parking spaces downtown. The question is, how do we unlock these parking spaces?"
To accommodate people who may park downtown for work, the transportation department is working with Capital Metro to increase the operating hours of the E-Bus, Capital Metro's late-night downtown bus service. Other added benefits include reducing carbon emissions and better funding for parking enforcement officers, who will be able to patrol even larger areas to maintain car security, Spillar said. Transit operations downtown are set to be improved and revenue for the general fund will be generated through ticket citation funds.
City staff met with stakeholders to receive comments and recommendations and garnered 600 responses from a public online survey. However, Michael Kline, president of the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance, said city staff did not seek the alliance's opinion until the parking recommendations were nearly solidified, excluding the alliance from having substantial input.
Kline said the alliance is not in favor of the city's parking recommendations primarily because the alliance sees no added business benefit to creating parking turnover.
The alliance seeks a compromise-to retain some free parking and to give downtown patrons the option to park their car at an on-street spot beyond the three-hour limit, potentially into the next morning.
"The last thing we want to see as a result of this is increased traffic fatalities or accidents involving alcohol," Kline said. "Our main issue is the amount of time they want to have people park. A lot of people feel it is their … right to drive around for five to 10 minutes and at least look for a free spot. You want to have at least the chance to look."
Thomas Butler, transportation program director for the Downtown Austin Alliance, said the DAA supports the city's efforts in improving parking downtown and increasing on-street turnover, but it has not taken a position on Spillar's specific proposal.
The DAA does support extending parking meter hours in hopes that it will increase parking turnover and business downtown, in particular for restaurants and retail. Butler said the perception that there is a lack of parking downtown keeps people from patronizing the area to some degree. By increasing the visibility of on-street parking, it may encourage more visitors.
To avoid reaching capacity again downtown, Butler said it is important to endorse alternative forms of transportation such as Capital Metro's buses. An educational campaign, just like the initiative the city enacted when electronic meters were first implemented, will help ease Austin residents into becoming familiar with extended meter hours.
Ultimately, tax dollars spent downtown and revenue generated by parking meters will help benefit downtown and the rest of the city, Butler said.
"Fundamentally the recommendations are sound; it is all there," Butler said. "If people have an easier time parking they are more likely to want to come to a certain area. The benefits to downtown are great and the benefits to the city as a whole are great."
After hearing widespread complaints about its new parking rates, the city Thursday agreed to back off - a bit - but not in the downtown core where it will cost $4 an hour to park.
The new rates, to go into effect over the next two months, means Seattle will have one of the highest on-street parking rates in the country. Chicago is now $5 an hour, according to a national traffic consultant.
The city also plans to go ahead and make drivers feed the meter for an extra two hours - to 8 p.m. - in eight neighborhoods including downtown, Pioneer Square, Belltown, Capitol Hill, Chinatown/International District and the University District.
"Critics are not going to be happy, but we'll look at the data again in a few months," said Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw.
The city estimates that on-street parking will generate $35 million in 2011, up from $27 million last year.
In all, rates will decrease in 11 neighborhoods, including Belltown (from $2.50 to $2), and in the University District and Ballard (from $2 an hour to $1.50.)
And rates will rise in four neighborhoods (downtown, Pioneer Square, First Hill and Capitol Hill) and will stay the same in seven.
Pioneer Square got a small break. Instead of $4 an hour, the rate was reset to $3.50. But that may not satisfy some merchants who worry the neighborhood, already suffering from the sour economy, will lose customers.
"If they think raising parking is going to help business, they're crazy," said Ty Myers, owner of the Fenix Tattoo parlor in Pioneer Square.
Myers joined with others Wednesday to criticize the increase as well as the methodology used by the city in studying parking patterns. The department measured parking in November, and at peak hours of use, then adjusted the numbers.
The goal was to create one or two open spaces per block, but critics said not all blocks had an equal number of parking spaces. Earlier this week, the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) asked the City Council to delay implementing the new rates because of faulty numbers.
Thursday, after the readjustments were announced, the association hinted it may not be satisfied. "We're still reviewing the city's revised data," said Jon Scholes, DSA vice president. "We still believe there's more work to be done."
Mayor Mike McGinn and the City Council agreed last fall during budget negotiations to move the city to a market-rate parking system. The goal was to increase the availability of on-street parking and to reduce auto emissions by decreasing the number of cars circling blocks in search of a space.
The city has said it will review the new rates within six months and see if they're working.
"This is new for Seattle and relatively new for the country. We're on the cutting edge of progressive parking management," Councilmember Tim Burgess told a forum on the parking issue Wednesday.
The University of Massachusetts Medical School has acquired 27 acres of state land on Plantation Street and plans to build a parking garage for about 1,300 cars.
The deal gives UMass room to accommodate parking for faculty, staff and students when it opens the 500,000-square-foot Albert Sherman Center for research in 2012 on the UMass campus. It also creates space for a local development organization to build a 100,000-square-foot medical research building.
"Parking is key, and having the new parking garage come on line as the Sherman center comes on line, that's what we wanted," said Mark L. Shelton, a spokesman for the medical school.
The land is a small piece of a sprawling, hilly area that was once part of Worcester State Hospital. The state began turning over many of the psychiatric hospital's parcels in the 1980s to the Worcester Business Development Corp., a local development organization.
The WBDC developed a number of buildings to create a biotechnology office and research park, but the parcel now destined for a parking garage has remained undeveloped.
"We always felt we didn't quite complete the park," said David P. Forsberg, WBDC president.
Under the current deal, the WBDC acquired 32 acres on the western side of Plantation Street from the state for $1.06 million. The land extends north of biotech buildings owned by Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. and is about one-third of a mile from the UMass campus.
The WBDC then sold all but 5 acres of the parcel to UMass for $1.06 million, Worcester County Registry of Deeds records show. Mr. Forsberg said the WBDC hopes to develop a research building on its parcel, when market conditions are right.
"We're not poised to build, but we're getting ready to do so," Mr. Forsberg said.
The WBDC also retained rights to a nearby site for possible development into more building and parking space, the WBDC reported.
The cost and design of the parking garage is undetermined at this time, according to Mr. Shelton. Work on the site should begin this spring, and it will take about 18 months to build the garage, he said.
Bethlehem Parking Authority's executive director agreed Wednesday to leave his job for six months of severance pay after receiving pressure from Mayor John Callahan to resign, sources said.
Executive Director Stephen "Hector" Nemes and Callahan had been
having ongoing disagreements over raising revenues, the sources
said. Specifically, Callahan wanted the city's meter rates to be
raised from 50 cents to $1 an hour and also replace the authority's
garage fee collectors with automated machines, the sources
Nemes, whose termination agreement was accepted at Wednesday's authority board meeting, declined comment on the circumstances. Callahan did not return calls for comment.
The parking authority had been in the practice of providing hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual surplus toward the city's operating budget, but hadn't been able to do so since the recession hit.
The authority board voted 4-0 to approve Nemes' agreement, which gives him a payout of half of his $96,000 annual salary plus 12 months' coverage of Medicare health benefits. Nemes, whose last day is Monday, had been the authority's executive director since January 2002.
Board Chairman Joe Hoffmeier in December had asked Nemes if he was interested in taking the city's early retirement deal, but Hoffmeier said Callahan never asked him to fire Nemes.
"I had no conversation with the mayor about forcing him out," Hoffmeier said.
During the board meeting, Hoffmeier complimented Nemes and the board gave him a commemorative parking meter and cake.
"You were brought in to make the parking authority a kindler, gentler place to be. I think you went above and beyond that goal," Hoffmeier said. "You did an excellent job."
Nemes advised the board not to consider laying off any employees, who he said make the authority run as well as it does. Several employees attended the board meeting with a couple shedding tears as Nemes' departure was announced.
"Service is the only thing we have to offer," Nemes said.
Hoffmeier said the board wants to retain as many employees as possible, but does plan to study the possibility of having automatic payment machines in the city's garages. The board plans to advertise for a new director, who will probably earn a similar amount to Nemes' salary, Hoffmeier said. The board Wednesday made Operations Manager Bob Curzi interim executive director.
In Nemes' time with the authority, the organization helped to build the Lehigh Riverport garage and bought the Main Street Commons garage. Nemes also oversaw initial leasing of the North Street garage and, at one point, had the Walnut Street garage entirely rented out. Both garages now have open spaces, 244 and 146, respectively.
Nemes' appointment to the authority also was controversial with him having no executive experience and being a close friend of then-Mayor Don Cunningham.
Soon San Francisco drivers won't need to cruise endlessly in search of an available parking spot.
By the end of March, San Francisco will have replaced more than 5,000 old parking meters with state-of-the-art versions that take credit cards, and, if all goes according to plan, work with sensors to indicate when a car is there.
Other Bay Area cities such as Sausalito and Redwood City have already shifted away from coin-only machines to so-called smart parking meters that help make parking more convenient for drivers and easier to manage for the cities. San Francisco's $25 million project intends to go a step beyond the other early adopters, using the new meters to reduce car congestion on city streets.
While other cities are using smart meters to simply charge different rates at different hours, San Francisco plans to use the meters to influence how many people park in a particular area at a particular time. The long-term goal is to continuously adjust rates up or down to keep 15% of spaces in a neighborhood free, says Nathaniel Ford, executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The city hopes the project can reduce emissions on the streets by stopping people from "circling around trying to sharp-shoot a parking spot," says Mr. Ford.
That approach will make San Francisco among the only places to use smart meters to control parking flow when its system goes live this spring, say transportation experts. "If it works in San Francisco, the whole world will take notice," says Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at University of California, Los Angeles.
Making the transition to smart meters can be complicated, however. For one thing, unexpected problems can crop up with new technology, says Mr. Shoup. In Redwood City, it can take as much as 30 seconds for smart meters to process a credit card-which can seem like an eternity to someone standing in front of a parking meter. In Sausalito, the frequency with which the pay stations transmit information had to be adjusted because of weak cell signals, and the city decided to manually check each potential violation before issuing a citation during the test period. And it is too soon to know whether the San Francisco initiative actually will achieve the city's goal of reducing traffic congestion. "It's too early to say that it works as predicted," says Mr. Shoup. But, he adds, "there can be a real cascade of benefits if it works well."
The San Francisco project, funded entirely by a federal grant, began with the premise that the city could reduce traffic if it could direct people quickly to open spots, says Mr. Ford. Now workers are placing disk-like sensors on the ground next to more than 5,000 metered parking spaces-about one-fifth of the total-which will detect whether a car is there. New meters and pay stations that cover multiple spots also will send signals to a central system that will give the SFMTA real-time insight into utilization.
The city plans to make information about open spots available to drivers through signs and, later, a smartphone app, although the city will rely on outside parties to provide the software, similar to the way it does for bus-arrival information. It is legal in California for drivers to enter information into a map on a smartphone. Still a spokesman for SFMTA says drivers looking for parking "should keep safety in mind."
The city will be able to set parking rates based on demand. For instance, downtown spaces could cost more during the workday and less at night.
Smart meters will still accept coins, but with new technology that can send a signal when the coin chamber is full, eliminating the need for collectors to make regular rounds.
Drivers, too, could benefit, by paying for additional parking with their smartphones even if they were in restaurant or office.
The pay-by-phone system in currently in place in Sausalito, which officially approved its $500,000 smart-parking program this week. "If someone is shopping or enjoying sitting in the sun they can add time via their phone," says Jonathon Goldman, director of public works for the city. "In an ideal circumstance we would never have to write a citation."
Sausalito decided to buy new parking meters two years ago after determining that new manual meters would cost as much as high-tech replacements. Now four of the city's five parking lots and some street spaces are equipped with sensors and monitored by Web-connected meters.
The new system, which the city has been testing since July, hasn't been without glitches. The sensors initially gave false readings when large trucks drove by, requiring some reprogramming. And when Mr. Goldman first tried to pay by phone, the app told him his lot was in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Now the flaws have been fixed-the sensors work properly more than 95% of the time-although few people are using the smartphone app.
Still, Mr. Goldman has big plans for the system, including billing residents monthly for parking, and letting businesses open Web accounts to pay customers' parking tabs.
The extra features "cost virtually nothing" now that the system is in place. "It's just a matter of making it available. We aren't there yet, but that opportunity is."
Ashville City Council
Supports New Downtown Parking Garage
Joel Burgess / The Citizen-Times
January 26, 2011
View Video News Story
A last-minute push by opponents of a new downtown parking garage failed to halt the project. An overflow crowd of more than 95 people - for and against the garage - came to Tuesday's regular City Council meeting.
In the end, council members voted 5-2 to move ahead with up to $14.1 million in financing for the parking deck at 51 Biltmore Ave. across from Barley's Pizzeria and Taproom.
The project, which is set to include a 412-space city garage and a privately funded 115-room hotel and retail space on top of it, drew little attention during three years of negotiations.
But as Tuesday's final vote neared, more critics emerged, chief among them Councilman Cecil Bothwell, who said the city was paying too much for the land and the project was furthering dependence on automobiles.
"We're paying $1 million in debt service. That's $1 million that could be paid for something else," Bothwell said.
Councilman Gordon Smith also voted no.
Proponents, including most other council members, said the garage would boost business by easing a chronic nearby parking shortage and that garage revenues would more than cover the building cost.
Arguments that spending more on transit would be a good substitute for the garage are unrealistic, they said.
Vice Mayor Brownie Newman said that downtown needed the parking to help reduce sprawl outside the city.
"I believe our single most powerful solution to that is promoting this successful pattern of development we have downtown," said Newman.
In 2008, the council approved an agreement with Georgia-based McKibbon Hotel Group and landowners, including Public Interest Projects, on the west side of Biltmore Avenue, just south of Aston Street.
The city would build the deck, now the home of a 100-space surface parking lot and a Hot Dog King restaurant.
McKibbon would build a six-story Aloft hotel on top and would rent 35 of the deck spaces at $140 each a month. Another 80 spaces for evening and night hours would cost only $70 or $80 per space per month. McKibbon would also put retail space on the Biltmore Avenue side of the building.
Critics at the meeting said the money could be used instead for sidewalks or public transit and that the city is paying land owners too much.
I have lived long enough to know a developer is just like a lover. He will tell you just about anything to get you to say yes," resident Linda Brown said.
The city is paying $4.56 million for the two parcels plus an estimated $9.54 million for design, engineering and construction of the garage.
Appraisals done for the city value the site at $4.54 million. McKibbon will get the retail space and the ability to build above the garage. A 30-foot wide strip on Lexington Avenue goes to Public Interest Projects, which plans to put moderately priced housing there.
Buying the Hot Dog King property saves about $800,000 because expanding the garage footprint reduces excavation costs, city officials said.
Downtown visitors and workers get more parking in an area where studies say there is a chronic shortage. The city gets increased tax revenue from the hotel and nearby property, and the garage will eventually turn a profit. The city parking system, which turns a profit, should be able to continue subsidizing the transit system, which doesn't.
Business owners will gain customers as hotel guests shop and dine downtown and more people are able to park there. Some Biltmore Avenue business owners said their customers and employees have parking problems.
"I've been waiting for a parking deck in that particular spot for 16 years," said Barley's owner Jimi Rentz. View Video News Story
Keep a few quarters, nickels, dimes and perhaps a couple of loonies handy. Oh, and don't forget to plug the meter. The City of Moose Jaw is trying to crack down on illegal parking. Currently, it's a five dollar voluntary payment for a parking ticket at metered stalls, but that will go up to ten dollars this spring and up to forty-five dollars if you forget to pay.
"It really is kind of impractical to put the money in the parking meter when the penalty is only five dollars," said Mayor Glenn Hagel. "Really, it's cheaper to pay the penalty, if you get caught, than it is to pay the money to park. That is an odd set of circumstances."
Soon, if you collect a stack of tickets, the city could put a lien against your vehicle. Another change is to the enforcement of no stopping zones. "It's a parking offence where a ticket had to be issued, but only police officers could issue those," said Councillor Terry Coleman.
"No stopping zones haven't been enforced to the extent they should be and this makes it enforceable by bylaw officers," he added. That means, starting this spring, commissionaires can start to issue the tickets that are worth between twenty and sixty dollars each.
Washtenaw Community College will pay $11 million for the construction of a new parking garage.
The college's Board of Trustees gave the project its unanimous approval Tuesday afternoon, despite protests from four campus community members who said the garage isn't needed and is an unnecessary financial risk.
The board selected Colasanti Construction Services Inc. of Detroit to build the structure. The contract does not include costs such as architects' fees and road construction that will be needed to accommodate the project.
The 470-space garage will be located behind the Morris Lawrence and Occupational Education buildings.
The Ann Arbor Township Planning Commission gave its blessing to the project earlier this month, stipulating that WCC must put about $140,000 into an escrow account for invasive species removal and natural features restoration projects to help offset the loss of 468 deciduous shade trees that will be cut down as part of the project and not replanted.
The destruction of a significant number of trees on campus was among concerns raised by a quartet of staff members during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting.
The staff members also pointed out that the latest enrollment numbers show a 4 percent decline in head count and a 5 percent decline in credit hours for the winter semester.
That drop, combined with a reduction in aid from the state, could squeeze the college's budget just as it has to pay debt service on the building.
"You're going to be locking yourself into paying," said Philip Geyer, a faculty member in the business and computer technology department.
Board members did not respond to those comments, instead focusing on the selection of Colasanti to do the work.
Trustee Mark Freeman was on the panel that screened the bidders and recommended Colasanti to the full board. He said Colasanti ranked high in the panel's evaluation of the bidders
'They were essentially tied for No. 1 (in the ranking of the companies) and gave us the lowest price. It was hard not to pick them."
Janet Bernard is ready to fight Jacksonville International Airport to retain her customers.
Bernard, owner of V.I.P. Park & Ride at 1565 Airport Road, is one of a half-dozen businesses that offer parking and a ride to the airport, putting them in competition with JIA for the parking revenue.
On Monday the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, which runs JIA, approved a parking rate adjustment that will lower overnight rates in the daily surface and economy parking lots. New rates begin Feb. 1.
However, the cost of parking overnight in the hourly and daily lots closer to the terminal will increase. The airport doesn't want people leaving their vehicles in those lots for long periods, but the price of parking for a few hours will stay the same.
The rate change means JIA will now have cheaper parking in some lots than the $4.99 a day that Bernard offers. But she isn't worried.
"We offer personal service that the airport can't match," said Bernard, mentioning curbside pickup, a free car wash, and having her employees check a customer's luggage upon arrival at the airport. "I don't think we'll lose any business."
Rates for the daily surface parking and economy lots 1 and 2 will be lowered by $2, while the parking rate for economy lot 3 will be lowered by $5.
The hourly daily garage rates will each see a $2 increase. Incremental rates in the garages and daily surface parking lot will remain at $1.50 per 20 minutes.
Nancy Coppen, JAA parking administrator, said one of the major goals of the rate change is to get cars out of the daily and hourly lots. People park there because it's closer to the terminal.
"Too many cars are staying overnight at the hourly garage because of the low rates," Coppen said.
That becomes a problem in the morning and afternoon hours because people coming to the airport to meet and greet arriving passengers can't find a parking space in the lot meant for them, creating more traffic congestion around the airport, Coppen said.
Airport Authority Executive Director Steve Grossman estimated that 65 percent of the hourly garage parking spaces are filled overnight.
Grossman wasn't sure if a $2 overnight increase, from $16 to $18, would be enough.
"If six months from now we've seen no movement out of the hourly garage," Grossman said, "we may have to look at adjusting it more."
Coppen said the airport expects to generate an additional $1.6 million in parking revenue in fiscal year 2011. The airport generated $15.2 million in parking revenue in fiscal year 2010.
Occupancy rates are expected to increase by about 10 percent. The increase is due to the new rates, and the airport's assumption that more people will use the airport in 2011 with the economy getting better.
The number of people using the airport in November 2010 increased by 8 percent compared to November 2009. In December the airport saw a 3 percent increase in traffic.
The possibility of the airport getting more customers didn't thrill Gary Pada, manager of Park EZ Fly at 1479 Airport Road.
"The last couple of years have been pretty bad," he said. "We're just starting to get more business."
Having the airport make a play for more customers won't help, Pada said.
But Bernard expressed confidence that her customers would remain loyal.
"When you get off the plane and call us we make sure there's a van waiting for you when you get to the curb," she said. "And we don't wait for the van to fill up."
It does not take a genius to realize parking can be a bit of a problem in Belmont, but officials believe "smart" meters could be a revenue-boosting solution.
The Board of Selectmen on Jan. 24 decided to move forward with a pilot program that would install at least one smart parking meter by the MBTA commuter rail station on Royal Road. The board also encouraged Town Administrator Tom Younger to invite Belmont Police Department, Lions Club and Traffic Advisory Committee into the conversation as the process moves into the RFP phase.
Paul Roberts, a Town Meeting member from Precinct 8, has been the driving force behind the parking meter discussion.
Roberts first pitched the pilot program in last year and conducted a study projecting that two meters for 17 spaces on Royal Road - where he said the town basically gives away all-day commuter parking - would generate $30,000 in new revenue for the town.
Roberts said his projection took into account the price of the meters, which go for between $7,000 to $9,000, and a ballpark estimate of the Web-based management fees and communications fees against 17 spaces at 75 cents per hour.
"If you work out the revenue, it works out to about $30,000 per year," said Roberts, adding that the town could potential cover as many as 40 spaces around the station. "That looks like a great test case for us, and it would be net new revenue for the town, which is good."
Roberts, who is also the author of the Blogging Belmont Website, said he has only thought about on-street parking the town gives away for free, often to commuters who park for an entire day and catch a train into Boston, and so charging for these spaces could impact other areas in town.
"As we go to implement this anywhere, we're going to have to think about spillover," he said. "Humans, being economic animals, are going to say, 'If I'm going to have to pay $5 a day to park here, where do I have to go to park for free?'"
Talking about rates, the selectmen said that $1 an hour seems to be the going rate for parking in Belmont and surrounding communities, while it costs $7 for the day at Alewife Station, but keeping the local rates at 75 percent could be to the town's advantage.
"I'm willing to stay a quarter down from the norm for the time being," said Selectman Mark Paolillo. "Because we want to them to use it. We want the revenue."
In this, his second appearance before the selectmen, Roberts brought along Dan Kupferman, business development manager for Parkeon North America, who demonstrated how one of his company's multi-space meter works.
The tall, dark-colored machine would accept both coins and cards, and contained buttons that would allow for different languages and rates. The meter can be bolted into sidewalks that are in good condition or concrete pads atop parking lots or walkways.
In addition to improving convenience for users and revenue for the town, the meters are also able to track who is parking where and for how long.
"You'll know trends," said Kupferman. "You'll know how long people are parking, where they're parking and what they're paying. Cities and retailers like to know this kind of information."
Installing the meter at Royal Road would likely require a re-striping of the spaces and street signs announcing the spaces were no longer free, according to Roberts, who suggested charging for parking from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
The next step is for Roberts to contact Younger's office so they can engage other interested parties -such as the police who will enforce parking and the Lions Club, who are headquartered inside the train station - and get rolling on the RFP process.
The city is on pace to begin addressing its most pressing parking priorities.
A report released Thursday by city staff calls for major changes to the parking landscape and could have overarching affects on residential development downtown. Called the Downtown Parking Strategies Concept Plan, the report is considered a draft plan for implementing coordinated strategies to increase the supply and enhance the management of off-street parking in the Central Business District.
The strategic plan is considered to be among the next steps following the release of a Downtown Parking Focus Group report last year. In the 22-page report, seven recommendations were identified to protect some limited free and low-cost parking around the downtown, create a parking enterprise fund and turn some parking revenues into enhancements for the downtown.
The most recent report groups the recommendations into five "priority strategies" and other "longer-range strategies." The five priorities include eliminating off-street parking requirements in the central business districts, repealing the optional payment in lieu of parking fee, creating additional off-street parking, creating a parking enterprise fund, and providing variable on-street parking rates and durations.
As the slate of recommendations could have a major impact on development downtown and could require changes to the zoning ordinance, the concept plan has fallen under the purview of various city boards.
On Jan. 20, members of the Planning Board, Economic Development Commission and Parking Committee gathered to discuss the concept plan. Planning Director Rick Taintor said the city will try to move on the five priorities this year "as quickly as possible." From a zoning perspective, Taintor said the city should be cognizant of how off-street parking requirements and in lieu of parking fees affect economic vitality downtown, and how requirements affect the balance between residential and non-residential uses.
Taintor said recommendations to eliminate off-street parking requirements and in-lieu fees are based on a concern that the city shifted the balance too much from commercial use toward residential use. The concept plan calls for eliminating off-street parking requirements for all projects, including residential, except "large projects" on lots of 20,000 square feet or more and on which 40,000 square feet or more of gross floor area is proposed. The change would require amendments to the zoning ordinance, Taintor said.
That change raised concerns from the Economic Development Commission. EDC chairman Dana Levenson said the committee feels strongly that there needs to be a balance of residential and non-residential uses. Levenson said the EDC is opposed to eliminating off-street parking requirements for residential development and would advocate for an in-lieu parking fee charged to residential projects.
"The EDC has long held a vision of having ample and affordable parking in the central business district," he said. "It is the No. 1 tool in the toolbox to promote economic vitality in the downtown."
Another major recommendation deals with creating additional off-street parking, particularly the construction of a parking garage at the Worth Lot. The strategic plan calls for the city to proceed expeditiously with the design and construction of the garage. If the City Council is to authorize continued planning and design in March, the city would have a new $12 million garage by November 2013.
The fourth recommendation to create a parking enterprise fund "would be coordinated with funding of the new parking garage," Taintor said.
The fifth and final priority recommendation calls for variable parking rates and durations throughout the downtown. Taintor said the recommendation would be needed to ensure normal turnover of on-street parking and would help shift long-term parking patrons to places like the High-Hanover Parking Garage.
The changes would involve on-street spaces costing $1 an hour and "high-occupancy" spaces on Congress, Market and Pleasant streets costing $1.25 an hour. The hourly rate in the parking garage would remain at 75 cents.
Longer-term strategies that will be up for consideration include providing free and low-cost parking for downtown residents and employees, investing some revenues in downtown enhancements, expanded hours for metered spaces, increasing monthly rates in the parking garage and installing meters at the Parrott Avenue parking lot.
City Manager John Bohenko said it appears the city will move forward to eliminate the in lieu of parking fee for non-residential uses, but could consider applying a fee toward residential uses. "We are moving rapidly toward an over amount of residential use in the downtown," he said. "Not that it's bad, but you need a good mix and at some point you won't be able to reduce that spiral."
Bohenko said in order to move the recommendations forward, he would like to package them as an "omnibus" of changes. Bohenko said he plans to issue a comprehensive recommendation for further consideration in the near future.
After more than a year of a pilot program that eliminated parking meter fees, Davenport city leaders have to decide what's next for downtown parking. Several council members are in favor of re-instituting the fees as a way of filling a budget hole. Others say it would be a step backwards for the downtown.
The meters used to generate about $400,000 each year. That money was helping to pay off downtown parking ramps, but there's still about $12 million owed. Now the debate is: bring back parking fees or pull the money for somewhere else.
At a very packed work session on Monday night, Davenport council members put several ideas on the table and business owners as well as residents gave their own input. One option that was widely disliked from dozens in the room is to restore all of the downtown spaces to charge fees.
"The public I don't think wants another aggravation, another tax, another fee to come and spend money in downtown Davenport," said Mayor Bill Gluba.
Some business owners say they've seen an increase of up to 50 percent in customers since the meters switched into 2-hour free parking and they want it to continue the way it is. "We've done so much better business wise since not having to worry about tickets," said business owner Mary Augustine.
"It would be disastrous again to the downtown. We would lose two years of progress made since we've gone to the system," said property owner Fred Dodds.
City leaders say another option, pay stations, which would generate about 45 percent more revenue. Another idea is to pull money from Davenport's $55 million Capital Improvement Projects budget, but many council members are against that. "We can't even pay for half the street projects, or the laundry list of sewer projects. Someone tell me, how can we cover this money other than putting meters back on the streets?" said alderman Mike Matson.
"I would love to see free downtown parking period. Unfortunately we have this pesky little thing called debt and it's not a doughnut hole," said alderman Bill Edmond.
Other possibilities are to increase fines for parking violators, or increase rates at the downtown parking ramps.
"Where is the paid parking elsewhere in the city, why is this entirely on the back of downtown which is struggling to draw people in?" asked Ken Croken representing the downtown library.
"What brings people downtown is free parking, access, and ability to go places," said Amy Gill from Hotel Blackhawk.
Davenport has seen an 8 percent increase in parking downtown and more than 30 new businesses have opened since the parking fees were eliminated. City leaders made no decision on the parking at Monday's work session. They are expected to approve the budget late in February. The total gap to fill for 2011 is nearly $630,000.
Business Owners Have Mixed
Opinions of New Parking Garage
Todd Tumminia / KOMU Columbia
January 24, 2011
View Video News Story
Downtown drivers will have one more place to park coming soon. The new parking garage on the 5th and Walnut is expected to be open in the middle of February. Business owners in the area have mixed feelings about the new structure.
Richard Walls, owner and general manager of Boone Tavern, says he fully supports the construction of a new parking garage downtown.
"We have a lot of people living downtown and that garage should help them out," Walls said.
A different business owner does not agree. Seth Reynolds, owner of Buzz Barbershops, says the structure is a bit excessive and his suggestion for the parking problem is to increase the time limit.
"The two hour limit does not give people enough time to eat, shop, and do whatever they want to downtown," Reynolds said. View Video News Story
A new parking deck added 900 parking spaces in downtown Raleigh on Monday.
The deck is part of the Green Square development at McDowell and Jones streets. Another 400 parking spaces will open when the new wing of the Museum of Natural Sciences, named the Nature Research Center, opens later this year.
While employees of several state agencies are assigned to park in the deck, 110 hourly parking spaces will be available for visitors.
The $17 million deck features LED lighting, a 20,000-gallon cistern to collect rainwater for irrigating state property downtown, 23 electric car chargers, a design that maximizes natural lighting inside, energy-efficient elevators and devices to track energy consumption and gauge savings, officials said.
Pregnancy may soon have its privileges.
A City Councilman has a proposal that might turn the swollen feet, achy back and raging indigestion of a difficult pregnancy into a pretty sweet perk: free parking.
"New York is a tough place to get around," said Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn). "If you have a difficult pregnancy, it's even tougher. This should make it a little bit easier."
The councilman plans to introduce legislation next week that would grant special parking placards to pregnant women whose doctors say they have physical or mobility challenges.
The women could then park for free in no-parking or no-standing zones until 30 days after their expected due dates - a cushion of time for those whose deliveries come later than expected - or who need to recover from childbirth complications.
"If I'm on a train and a pregnant woman walks in, I stand up and offer her my seat," Greenfield said. "I consider this legislation to be the same thing - standing up on the City Council for women who have difficult pregnancies."
He decided to introduce the bill after watching his wife struggle through two tough pregnancies. It's similar to laws on the books in at least two states - Georgia and Oklahoma - according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Some women cheered the news as a welcome salve for the lumbering woes of late pregnancy. "Being eight or nine months pregnant is hard anyway, so this is a good benefit," said 29-year-old Asma Lat of the upper West Side.
But critics warn that the bill could further entangle the city's mess of parking laws - or even contribute to discrimination against expectant mothers. "Parking privileges for women experiencing difficult pregnancies is a thoughtful idea," said Sonia Ossorio of the National Organization for Women in New York City. "But I don't want to see a short-term privilege like easy parking ... create an environment that further stigmatizes pregnancy."
Workplace discrimination against pregnant women is on the rise already, Ossorio said, and if women say they need special parking spots, it could feed the perception that they're weak. "A lot of bosses just don't think you'll be as dedicated, that you're as nimble or fast, mentally or physically," Ossorio said. "You see women's career paths completely take a wrong turn as a result of getting pregnant and becoming mothers."
Paul Steely White of the transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives said the city already has too many special parking permits - and too many people abusing the system with fake placards and scams. "This would create another group entitled to park on curbs where there is no room already," White said. "Until we have effective enforcement, additional carveouts are only going to create more problems."
The bill would not grant pregnant women the right to park in handicapped spaces in parking lots or give them the right that people with permanent disabilities have to park all day without feeding the meter. "Pregnancy is not a disability," Greenfield said. "It's a temporary condition ... This is the city providing a common courtesy."
A system allowing residents to rent on-street Hertz rental cars for hourly rates has become a political football in Hoboken, with council members who support the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer supporting the initiative, and those who criticize Zimmer voting against it. The critics -including some residents and business owners - have complained that the cars take up valuable parking spaces in town, while the program's proponents say it actually frees up parking by encouraging residents to give up their own cars and use the rentals instead.
The council has already tabled an ordinance making the 42 spots for the cars permanent, and last week, they postponed a follow up vote. A vote is now scheduled for the Feb. 2 meeting.
Car-sharing initiatives have met with criticism in other cities that have tried it, although they've been able to find workable compromises.
Parking issues not new
Cities that introduced car sharing a decade ago have - like Hoboken - grappled with the merits of setting aside designated on-street spots in urban communities where parking is at a premium.
A number of cities are still struggling to determine the best balance of on-street/commercial, on-street/residential, and off-street parking.
Some car sharing companies have tried to avoid or minimize the issue by leasing space in private garages. ZipCar, for example, keeps many of its Hoboken-based cars in private garages, for which the company pays annual fees that are passed on to the company's members.
But private garages can be a mixed bag, and for the customer who uses shared cars, they can be problematic. Some garages are dimly lit and can be dangerous. Not all garages have parking attendants on-duty 24 hours a day. And locked private garages - such as those in small condo buildings, some of which lease space to car sharing companies - can be tricky for customers to access.
"If you look at our web site and you see all the cities we're in, you'll see that we're in places like New York, Denver, Boston," said Hertz spokeswoman Paula Rivera. "But the program is not one size fits all. We actually run the Corner Cars a little differently depending on the city. In Denver and Boston, we work closely with two apartment buildings and we have our cars in their garages. So the issue of street parking has not come up there. In New York City, our cars are in private garages because the company made a conscious decision to expand into that market, and that was something we initiated."
Hoboken's Corner Cars program is different, she said, because the city decided it wanted to implement a car sharing program, requested Requests For Proposals (RFP) from different companies, and played a leadership role in how the program would operate.
Car sharing companies and municipal leaders who want the shared car concept to grow have come to see street parking as key to the success of programs like Corner Cars.
Despite the parking controversies, the car sharing programs in all of these cities have continued and expanded since their inception. None has been scaled back or discontinued.
That's no accident, according to program supporters like Hoboken Parking Director Ian Sacs.
"One of the reasons why cities have been willing to take on the consternation that comes from the decision to create on-street parking," Sacs said, "is because it's very clear, it's been demonstrated in programs around the county, that by having high visibility of the vehicles these programs gain membership, and therefore results in more [privately-owned] cars given up at a much faster rate."
Sacs said Hoboken Corner Cars currently has more than 1,000 members.
To make the car sharing concept more amenable to the local business community, which has been most opposed to the current designated spots for Corner Cars, Rivera said Hertz would be open to working with them to set aside Corner Cars that met some of their needs. She said businesses could, for example, have Corner Cars designated for deliveries.
It just takes time?
According to Sacs, if anything is to be learned from car sharing programs in other cities, it's that patience is a virtue and such programs will need to be tweaked along the way.
In Cambridge, Mass., the City Council and Planning Board took
several months to develop a parking law that sets limits on the
percentages of shared vehicles that can be parked in residential
neighborhoods, non-residential zones, and in commercial
Washington, D.C. has over the years increased the number of on-street parking spaces available for shared cars. More than 300 on-street parking spaces are now set aside in the city, on both residential and commercial streets, for shared cars, according to the city's planning department.
Back in 2006, Philadelphia initially set aside on-street parking spaces for shared car services run by nonprofits. But in 2009 the city expanded the law to open up street parking for shared cars operated by for-profits as well.
In all of these cities, the decision to pluck spaces from the small pool of available on-street parking spots was controversial and was met with some resistance.
"When we introduced the Corner Cars program in Hoboken, we were fully aware of these other cities and of the history," said Sacs. "And we knew the on-street approach was more contentious than off-street. But it also reaps better benefits."
Business owners have said that the Hoboken cars should be moved to residential parking spaces, rather than the permit parking spaces they take up now, which they say makes it harder for their customers to park.
City officials have said that the Hoboken City Council did not want to lose any residential spaces.
Sacs said Hoboken has already begun to see rewards. He said 61 residential parking permits have been surrendered, purportedly because of the Corner Cars program.
"The program incentivizes people to reconsider whether or not they need to own a car," he said.
The city has offered hundreds of dollars in incentives to encourage residents to give up their cars, including credits toward the rental program.
Another controversy on the horizon?
Should Hoboken iron out its current Corner Car wrinkle, another one - which cropped up in Washington, D.C. - could soon materialize: whether on-street parking should be made available to vehicles registered out of state.
Under their contracts with the District, ZipCar and Flexcar are required to register their vehicles in the city. Thus, only D.C.-registered cars that carry D.C. license tags can use street parking spaces reserved for shared cars. A ZipCar that carries Maryland or Virginia tags can't use the reserved spaces in Washington.
The requirement means that Washington gets back another tangible benefit - vehicle registration fees.
A number of Corner Cars parked in Hoboken are registered in New York and carry license plates from that state, not New Jersey. While it's unclear whether Hoboken residents or elected leaders will flag this as an issue, it could be a concern raised in the near future.
Columbia's parking monitors have written 6,000 fewer tickets this year than last year, but the city has collected nearly $400,000 more in fines by aggressively targeting out-of-state violators.
In-town residents are not off the hook. Over the next two months, parking officials plan to use parking boots to disable vehicles of people who owe fines of $75 or more, something Columbia has tried before but stopped because the boots were damaging vehicles.
The extra money goes into the city's parking fund to pay off a $45 million loan used to build several parking garages. The city's annual loan payments are $3.1 million.
"This is something we've been working on for some time really, because we need to be more efficient," said John Spade, the city's parking services director.
Columbia's status as a state capital and home to a large research university means it attracts a lot of out-of-town drivers. Those drivers attract parking tickets and sometimes forget about them when they leave town. But the city has a new computer program that can track each ticket, including late fees, and mail a statement to the car's registered owner.
The statement includes a sentence threatening to turn the case over to a collection agency, which can eventually affect the person's credit rating.
For students, bad credit ratings can affect their ability to get college loans. If a car is registered in a parent's name, the parent's credit rating gets the ding.
University of South Carolina Student body president Ebbie Yazdani agreed that a good portion of the city's out-of-state parking tickets are USC students. But often times the students don't realize they have city parking tickets.
USC has its own parking meters that are intermingled with the city's parking meters. Unpaid USC parking tickets get tacked on to a student's tuition bill, Yazdani said. With limited parking on campus, students who are late to class often will risk a ticket, knowing they can pay for it later through their tuition.
"But they don't realize that the city tickets just keep on accumulating - and their tuition doesn't cover the city ticket fine," Yazdani said. "In no way are students trying to beat the system by parking and not ever paying the tickets."
The city's letters have had some success. About 40 percent of the people receiving statements in the mail have paid the fines - a response so large that, for the first time, city officials are starting to make a dent in the number of outstanding parking tickets that date back to 2007.
So far this year, the city has written 73,000 tickets and received payments for 71,000 tickets. By the end of the year, Spade said the city should have received more payments than tickets written. From 2007 to 2010, the city wrote 457,297 tickets but received payment for only 359,422.
In Greenville, parking officials keep their fine collections under control by allowing people to pay their fines online, a convenient feature for people who don't live in Greenville, said Carl Jackson, the city's transportation director. And for serious in-state violators, the city will contact the state Department of Revenue, which will deduct the parking fines from the person's state income tax refund.
The income tax refund approach is part of a program sponsored by the Municipal Association of South Carolina and run by the state Department of Revenue. Last year, the department collected more than $4 million in fines from state tax refunds on behalf of 163 participants, which included cities, colleges, housing authorities and special purpose tax districts.
Spade said he was not aware of the program and said he would look into it for Columbia. He said violators should be able to pay their parking tickets online by the end of the year. And he said the new boots that will disable vehicles of people who owe parking fines of $75 or more will be safe for cars.
Spade said the majority of tickets written are for meter violations. Meters are important, especially in business districts, he said, because they free up parking spaces for potential customers.
Still, the meters have been a source of controversy, with many merchants arguing that downtown parking should be free.
But parking monitors aren't overly aggressive, Spade said.
"Our first priority in writing tickets are safety type of offenses, like blocking driveways," he said. "In instances where (parking monitors) go down a certain block downtown and only one car is parked in the whole block, they won't even bother to go look at the meter."
Anyone who has ever tramped through a dim, Escher-esque parking garage in search of a "lost" automobile might welcome an abracadabra technology that could help locate it.
But what if that magic involved an array of 24/7 surveillance cameras and was also available to police and auto repossessers? What if it could be tapped by jilted lovers, or that angry guy you accidentally cut off in traffic? Would the convenience be worth the loss of privacy?
Those are some of the questions civil libertarians and others are asking as technology capable of spying on motorists and pedestrians is converted to widespread commercial use.
Santa Monica Place recently unveiled the nation's first camera-based "Find Your Car" system. Shoppers who have lost track of their vehicle amid a maze of concrete ramps and angled stripes can simply punch their license plate number into a kiosk touch screen, which then displays a photo of the car and its location.
In Sacramento, the Police Department and Arden Fair Mall partnered to install license plate readers on mall security vehicles. The vehicles roam parking lots and garages in search of "hot list" vehicles provided by the state Department of Justice. If a car with a "hot" plate is spotted, mall security guards view closed-circuit TV footage to locate the vehicle's driver and alert police.
To date, the scans have helped police recover 44 stolen vehicles and arrest 38 individuals, according to mall security manager Steve Reed.
Both shopping centers are owned by the U.S. mall giant Macerich Co., which extols the surveillance systems' ability to locate lost and stolen cars. However, some wonder whether the convenience of such systems justifies their intrusive nature.
Under U.S. law, the entity taking the video owns it and can largely use or share it however it likes as long as the video is taken in public. There is, however, a difference between being allowed to share and being required to share. Police do have the power to compel the owner of the video to share it, usually through a subpoena.
"What should give people pause is that this technology is advancing upon us without anyone having chosen it," said Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, which studies national security issues. "We have not decided as a society or as individuals that we want this convenience. It is being thrust upon us."
The car finder is just one of many license plate imaging and facial-recognition devices that have proliferated in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, popping up in airports, border crossing stations, tollways and police cruisers.
Developed by New York-based Park Assist, the Santa Monica Place system goes beyond programs found at the Grove and Westfield Century City shopping centers, where electronic billboards alert shoppers to packed parking aisles and shepherd them to vacant spaces.
In addition to featuring red and green lights and signs showing the number of available spaces by level, Park Assist's system offers "Find Your Car" kiosks that allow drivers to key in their plate number - or just the first few characters - on a screen to bring up a photo of a vehicle and a description of its location.
The system, which uses a network of cameras and a central computer, "has proven so far to be a big assist," said Doug Roscoe, senior manager of Santa Monica Place. "We don't have close to as many direct assists." In mall security parlance, "direct assists" refer to occasions when a security person drives a frantic shopper around in an electric cart to find a vehicle.
Macerich paid to install the system in the center's two city-owned parking garages, which have a total of 2,000 spaces. At Arden Fair Mall, the license plate scanning technology was covered by $100,000 in grants from the federal Department of Homeland Security, Reed said.
Across the country, more businesses and government agencies are using technology to collect personal information on consumers. Privacy concerns arise if the information is saved for a long time and shared, experts say.
"What if a divorce attorney came and asked who was in the mall? Or someone looking to repossess vehicles for past nonpayment?" said Chris Calabrese, the American Civil Liberties Union's legislative counsel in Washington. "The unintended consequences can be huge."
Park Assist said its technology is indeed an effective tool for high-risk sites such as government buildings and airports. Although the Santa Monica Place information is for internal use, Roscoe said the mall would share it if the Santa Monica Police Department ever asked.
Like any new technology, the system is bound to have a few bugs - both technical and human.
At Santa Monica Place recently, the "Find Your Car" system did not recognize the license plate numbers of some cars parked near the main-floor kiosk. Also, one driver who had recently purchased her car and did not yet have plates was out of luck.
There was also another weakness in the system for those who were searching for a lost car.
Andrea Minnich of San Pedro approached a kiosk but then realized she had forgotten more than where she parked.
"It might help if I knew my license plate offhand, but I don't," she said.
To Holly DiFonzo, 30, of Chatsworth, the system seemed "pretty cool," although she acknowledged a bit of Big Brother unease. "If I had an ex-boyfriend who I didn't want to find me, that could be a concern," she said.
DiFonzo noted that there were alternatives to the mall's car finder, such as "find my car apps" on smart phones.
The system can help alleviate "the most frustrating aspect of shopping," said Jeff Becker, a vice president with Amano McGann, a Minneapolis company that develops custom software for parking. Amano McGann first saw the Park Assist technology at a parking conference in Amsterdam; last March it became the exclusive distributor of the new system in the United States.
According to a survey by National Car Parks Ltd., Britain's largest parking lot operator, 44% of drivers had at some point forgotten where they parked.
System developers say consumers are more likely to return to shopping centers if they don't have to worry about parking hassles. Park Assist says its systems typically lead to a 3% to 5% increase in customer visits.
"We've seen fairly overwhelming demand globally," said Richard Joffe, co-founder and co-chief executive of Park Assist. He said furniture seller Ikea plans to roll out the system in Europe, beginning with stores in the Netherlands. In Australia, customers include shopping malls and the Brisbane Airport.
Park Assist has developed even newer technology with Amano McGann to better balance customer service with privacy concerns. With that system, which Joffe said would be installed in a few months at a major shopping mall a few miles from Santa Monica, a customer will be able to feed a parking stub into a machine that will then bring up the vehicle's location.
For Minnich, the shopper who didn't know her license plate number, that upgrade might be helpful. As she hunted for her car at Santa Monica Place, privacy meant little.
"If I was somebody famous and worried about my personal security, I would be concerned," she said. "Since I'm basically nobody, I'm not too concerned."
University of West Florida students Carson Howton and Hannah Shouppe circled the parking lot in the heart of campus in Howton's Scion TC, hoping to find a parking spot quickly and painlessly.
"It's a lot of luck," Shouppe, 19, said about finding a spot. "You've got to time it and be patient."
"Sometimes you've got to stalk people," Howton joked.
After riding around the full lot four times, the disgruntled students moved on to Lot F, an overflow lot.
They arrived on campus at least 45 minutes before their 1 p.m. class so they would have plenty of time to find a parking spot. After 20 minutes, they found a commuter spot and made the 15-minute trek to class.
In the fall, UWF enrollment reached 11,700 students - 500 more than the previous year. And some students say campus parking is getting out of hand.
"I'm all for having a bigger university, but you have to take steps in accommodating all of the students," Shouppe said. "Fill up our classrooms, but please give us more parking spots."
While parking might be a hassle, students could have some relief in the next few years - a parking garage.
Parking services manager Chip Chism said few details have been worked out, but more should be available by the end of the month.
It is expected to house 947 spots and will be funded by money brought in by parking permits and tickets. With tickets at $25 each, parking services usually brings in about $240,000 per year, Chism said.
The garage's location has not been determined, but it will be within a 10-minute walk of everything on campus, Chism said.
"We can only put things in certain locations," he said. "One half of our campus is a nature preserve."
UWF junior Deona Hooker, 21, lives off campus and leaves as early as she can for her 10 a.m. class every day.
"If you don't come to class 15 minutes (early), you're not going to find a parking space in time," she said.
Chism said the issue students have with parking is one of inconvenience, and that there are more than enough spots to accommodate everyone with a permit.
"Parking is one of those issues everybody is going to complain about," he said. "Right now, we have a surplus, but it's not going to last forever. By around 2014, if enrollment keeps going up and new buildings are built, we will have a problem."
Hooker said a centralized parking garage would be ideal, but she understands the difficulty in finding a good location.
"They have parking lots completely away from your classes," she said. "But I think it would be difficult to put one in the central part of campus because construction would take up the spaces."
Even though many students find parking to be a constant struggle, some disagree.
Vicki Nottingham, 20, a junior majoring in social work, does not see a need for a parking garage.
"A few years down the road, I can see it being necessary," she said.
Howton, 19, who has gotten four parking tickets since August, was pleased to hear about plans for the new garage.
"It's a good idea, but it's all about where you're going to put it," he said.
Construction will soon begin on a new College of Business building, which will close 158 parking spots in Lot Q for commuter students, faculty and staff.
Chism said the lot will close sometime next week.
Massive parking fines inspired one Australian man to create an iPhone app that lets users warn each other when parking officers are spotted lurking near their cars.
"The idea was pretty much born out of frustration," said Joseph Darling of "ParkPatrol," the app developed by his Sydney-based firm to help users avoid tickets that cost what he said was at least $82 - and often more.
"I could show you a list of maybe 20 to 30 parking tickets that I had last year, in my town, just by being a normal driver. I must have spent thousands of dollars."
The final straw came when he was ticketed in his own neighbourhood despite a parking permit that he pays hundreds of dollars for each year.
The app lets users "sign in" and report sightings of parking officers with a single push of a button. Cartoon faces wearing a police cap then appear plotted on a map of the area, along with a notice thanking them.
The app will also alert users if a parking officer is spotted in their area and how close. Notification options for 500 metres, 200 metres and 100 metres are available.
The free app is available in English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Roughly 80 per cent of users are in Australia, but it is also used in England, Spain, France and Germany, Darling said.
"With an active community, it's pretty accurate. We reckon around 90 per cent," he added.
Future versions, currently being finished, will include an alert function for when parking time has expired. The company is also finalizing an Android version.