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The maximum charge for a Blue Badge disabled parking permit is to rise five-fold to £10, the Government has announced.
It said this was the first increase for 30 years and in return badge holders would benefit from less abuse of the system under changes to the scheme.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said high levels of fraud meant 50% of badge holders now found it difficult to get a parking space and that fraud was costing around £46 million a year.
Among measures outlined are giving local authorities an on-the-spot power to recover badges that have been cancelled or misused, as well as extending the scheme to more disabled children under three years old, severely disabled military personnel and veterans.
A decision has been deferred until later in the year on whether or not to extend eligibility for a badge to people with temporary disabilities lasting at least a year, pending the outcome of independent research into the likely impacts on existing holders and local authorities.
Mr Baker said: "The Blue Badge Scheme makes a real difference to millions of disabled people every day. However, it is clear that it is in real need of modernisation after 40 years without major reform.
"The changes I am announcing today will crack down on badge misuse, modernise the system and extend eligibility.
These improvements will mean that badge holders get a much better service for less than 1p per day."
Dai Powell, chairman of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, said: "These proposals can bring us one step nearer to a fairer and more consistently applied scheme."
The Suns and Diamondbacks are bringing the bright, flashy signs of Las Vegas and New York City's Times Square to downtown Phoenix, and city leaders hope the effort will pump more life and money into the area.
By the time the Major League Baseball All-Star Game begins July 12, electronic billboards four to five stories tall will cover concrete walls and tower over the plazas of US Airways Center, the Jefferson Street parking garage and Chase Field. Giant LED TVs may cover the sides of other buildings nearby. Animated advertisements may flicker a commercial for Pepsi or Coca-Cola or a downtown restaurant.
Called the Legends Entertainment District, the marketing initiative is expected to be unveiled today by Phoenix's professional basketball and baseball teams, which have formed a limited-liability corporation to jointly handle ad sales on the big signs they plan to build.
The plan for erecting the signs is timely. Sponsors want opportunities to market their products to baseball fans coming to the All-Star Game.
"This is going to take it to another level with the baseball All-Star Game," said Rick Welts, president and CEO of the Phoenix Suns.
But over the next few years, buildings from First Avenue to Seventh Street and from Washington Street to Jackson Street are expected to be covered with the bling of a bustling city.
The aim is to create more energy to encourage people to linger outside the major stadium events to shop, eat and drink downtown.
"The point of the Legends Entertainment District is to really put some excitement on Jefferson Street," said Judd Norris, the district's general manager.
Mayor Phil Gordon said he believes the district will let other downtown venues benefit from the estimated 700 games and other events held each year at US Airways Center and Chase Field. "The new Legends Entertainment District, an attraction itself, will help connect all other downtown attractions, assuring visitors a more memorable and exciting downtown experience," Gordon said in a statement.
Additional retail sales downtown would bring additional sales-tax dollars for Phoenix. The city charges a 0.5 percent license tax for advertisements that are broadcast, published or appear in the city. Last year, the city collected about $2.8 million in license taxes from ads.
The teams would earn money from ad sales and sponsorships. The teams have about 200 sponsors.
"We want our partners to benefit," Diamondbacks CEO and President Derrick Hall said. "There really is no exclusivity, but with our marketing opportunities, we really would want those to go to them first."
Other businesses that want to build or add a large-scale sign are responsible for the costs and the contracts with sponsors.
City and team officials say they do not know how much revenue the district could generate.
But experts say such districts can increase revenues by millions of dollars as they spur economic growth around them.
Jeff Soule, a planner and outreach director for the Washington, D.C.-based American Planning Association, said entertainment and signage districts have been around for years, but more recently, they have been defined as an area surrounding sports entertainment centers, stadiums or arenas.
"It's a place where you can capitalize on foot traffic and try to keep people in the downtown longer," Soule said. "It's good for tax revenues obviously, sales tax or whatever."
Other experts are more skeptical. An entertainment district doesn't always catch visitor interest and increase foot traffic, said Ed McMahon, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C.
He said he knows of entertainment districts in Richmond, Va., and Louisville, Ky., that have collapsed.
Concept to reality
"That was one of the best ideas I had all year," Cavazos said. "It's going to activate downtown."
City staff in November 2008 recommended amending the Phoenix zoning ordinance for the downtown area so that large high-tech signs could be added to and around large buildings. Until then, the city had no zoning regulations for the giant LED screens that are now common in major cities. The code had been written for the typical billboards seen along roadways.
In March 2009, the City Council unanimously approved the changes, opening the door to the creation of special signage districts downtown.
The Phoenix Planning Department approved the Jefferson Street sign master plan in July 2009.
Several other downtown buildings are part of the plan: the Luhrs Building at the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Jefferson Street; the two-block retail and office development CityScape; and the Phoenix Convention Center's South building and East parking garage.
A group that had planned a separate entertainment district for downtown, the Jackson Street Entertainment District, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June. The 12-acre district was proposed as a mix of nightclubs, restaurants, and commercial and residential space.
The George Washington University installed bicycle racks in the City Hall parking garage last month to alleviate congestion in the residence hall's lobby and entrance.
Students are required to use the two new bike racks, instead of chaining their bikes to handrails or posts. Bikes in violation will be confiscated by the University Police Department.
"Residents of City Hall have been notified that abandoned bicycles will be removed by [UPD]," Director of Community Relations Britany Waddell said in an e-mail. Waddell said the bike rack installation "has reduced the amount of bikes being left in front of the property," though Thursday two bikes were seen locked to a street sign and a pole outside City Hall, located on 24th Street.
Waddell also said the University may install additional bike racks near the entrance of the building.
University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said UPD removes bikes that are locked to fixed objects and are hazards.
"Examples of such hazards include instances when bicycles are locked to wheelchair access hand railings, stair hand rails, are blocking the ingress or egress of any campus building, or are blocking any access ramp or narrow pedestrian walkway on University owned or controlled property," Sherrard said.
Moe Kamara, a property manager for GW, said he helped set up the new bike racks and put up signs around City Hall to notify residents of the policy change.
"It's a constant problem for us," Kamara said, adding that between eight and 20 bikes used to be left in the lobby and exterior of the building.
Last semester saw an increase in bike thefts around campus, with about eight locked bikes stolen from the Law School quad by the end of September. UPD Chief Kevin Hay said in September that on average four or five bikes are stolen each month.
Scranton officials have hammered out where and when a free trial of new parking meter technology will take place, but have yet to decide on what happens when the trial is complete.
Fifty meters around the Lackawanna County Courthouse are expected to serve as the test bed for StreetSmart Technology LLC's electronic monitoring system in a 90-day demonstration likely to begin by April, account manager John Miskell said. The technology is designed to increase revenue by alerting inspectors when meters are expired or broken.
Installation would take place on a weekend, when the meters are not monitored, and the Scranton Parking Authority is ready to implement the technology, said its executive director, Bob Scopelliti.
What remains unclear is whether the city will have to seek bidders after the test is finished.
Under bidding rules amended by city council last year, professional services that cost at least $10,000 in a calendar year must be bid. StreetSmart's program clearly exceeds that limit, as the city would pay about $42,000 per month for 1,200 meters over the life of a 60-month contract.
But "sole source" services - meaning a company provides a product or service that no one else does - are not required to be bid, under city regulations. The company maintains its product is one of a kind.
StreetSmart met with city officials Tuesday. Business Administrator Ryan McGowan said Mr. Miskell sought "reasonable assurances" from the administration that StreetSmart's program would be implemented if the test proves successful.
"That's the biggest stumbling block, whether it would be bid or sole source," Mr. McGowan said. Attorneys from the administration, controller's office and council are looking into the issue, he added.
Mr. Miskell said he asked during the meeting if the city would initiate a request for proposals if the test is successful. City officials said yes, and Mr. Miskell said he responded that his company would have been happy to issue an RFP.
When asked if a test would be done if the city determines bidding is necessary, Mr. Miskell said he would have to consult with StreetSmart.
Money and technology
City council cited the program as a source of revenue in the $74.9 million budget for 2011, saying the company's technology would ultimately boost revenue.
The city maintains the parking meters, which includes providing $562,234 for citation issuers - who work for the SPA - in the 2011 budget. The authority's budget contains $43,443, which the council slated for implementation of StreetSmart.
In 2010, Scranton collected about $1.4 million in meter revenue and parking tickets. The city's 2011 budget projects a similar amount. Mr. McGowan said the goal is to exceed the $1.4 million meter revenue projection using meter information technology.
StreetSmart's technology is designed to alert enforcement agents in real time about the meter's status, including expiration. The company has said the city could realize $4.8 million in revenue if it takes full advantage of the technology by increasing the capture rate - the number of tickets written compared with the actual number of meters expired - to 9 percent.
Mr. McGowan said details on how to boost the capture rate has not been determined. He added, however, discussion began on Tuesday with Mr. Miskell to look at "better practices to follow on how to accept real information."
StreetSmart, which offers a guarantee that its service is free if it fails to provide more revenue than what is already collected, projects $1.4 million in revenue if Scranton's capture rate remains at 1 percent.
The company is paid by collecting up to $30 per meter when the revenue that had already been collected is exceeded.
"They don't have to pay us anything from the current revenue," Mr. Miskell said.
The city has about 1,200 Duncan Eagle 90 meters (the "90" represents the type of meter mechanism used). StreetSmart requires Duncan Eagle 2100 parking meters. If all meter mechanisms were replaced, the city would pay about $42,000 per month during the 60-month contract.
Mr. Miskell said the mechanism in the city's meters will have to be replaced to do the test, but the housing and poles will remain intact.
SPA staff would also have to be trained to do the test, while a pave cut would be made in the ground next to the meter to install a sensor.
Those looking for a parking spot near East Stroudsburg University or Pocono Medical Center might need more change.
East Stroudsburg Borough officials are considering increasing parking meter rates and the cost of parking tickets in the borough's institutional district, which includes parking along Normal, Prospect and Smith streets. Fines for an expired meter would increase from $4 per ticket to $15.
Borough officials will hold a public hearing on the ordinance at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the municipal building.
Meter rates will increase from 25 cents for 30 minutes to 25 cents for 20 minutes, from 7 a.m. through 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
In the downtown area, meter rates will remain at 10 cents per 20 minutes and 25 cents per 30 minutes between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and the fine for an expired meter will stay at $4.
Borough Mayor Armand Martinelli said the proposed ordinance is the result of an April 2010 traffic study conducted by ESU.
The study showed university students were parking their cars at borough meters for extended amounts of time, opting to pay the $4 fine rather than move their vehicle or add more change, Martinelli said.
ESU officials impose a $15 fine on drivers without the proper permits who park their cars on university property.
Borough officials chose not to change downtown rates because they were afraid of the effect it could have on local business.
"Things are hard enough on downtown merchants, and we don't want to make it any harder," Martinelli said.
Some aldermen are criticizing a proposal to make up to half of the parking spots at LRT park-and-ride lots reservable while charging $70 for the service.
The proposal, to be discussed by city council Monday, comes in the wake of the December decision to axe the daily $3 parking fee. The changes are slated to take effect in April.
The charge was introduced in 2009 to help Calgary Transit bolster security and provide previously lacking maintenance for the lots.
Ward 5 Ald. Ray Jones voted to get rid of the daily fee, but said keeping up to 50 per cent of spots for reservations is too high. "I think we should start with 25 per cent . . . and see how it works," said Jones. "We should at least experiment with it."
Jones explained the biggest issue in his area is LRT users trying to avoid payment and parking in communities near transit lots. He noted as long as there are no-charge LRT parking options, it'll alleviate concerns.
However, Ward 2 Ald. Gord Lowe warns that reserved parking will make for more neighbourhood parking problems, not less.
"What that means is between six in the morning and six at night there will be empty spaces because they're reserved and people will end up parking in neighbourhoods because the other spots are filled up," said Lowe.
A survey done this past January by the transportation department found 23 per cent of current and former park-and-ride users would be interested in paying for reserved parking spaces with the average willing to cough up $70 a month.
Lowe did the math and said people currently paying $3 a day to park in the lots on weekdays would end up paying about the same amount in a month for an allocated spot.
"Seventy dollars is actually a bargain," said Lowe. "I think the price should be reflective of a percentage of a reserved lot in downtown Calgary."
Will Stach takes the LRT to get to his classes at the University of Calgary. The 20-year-old used to park at the Southland LRT Station, but stopped after the fee was introduced. He added he won't be shelling out 70 bucks for a primo parking spot either.
"It's not really in my budget to do that," said Stach. "I'm used to taking the bus now to the train. It's a habit."
Ward 11 Ald. Brian Pincott said Calgarians' attitudes are changing toward public transportation. He added the next step for council should be examining how to get people using transit to get all over the city and not just to downtown.
"People want more transit," noted Pincott. "I think Calgarians are saying, and have been saying for years, if you give us an efficient transit system that works, then I will use it."
Traveling around Plymouth can drive you crazy. Visitors arriving in town via train or bus need a ride to get downtown. But that's not always easy to come by. Sooner or later, these same visitors need to leave downtown to pick up the train or their car. And that's not always easy either. Bus travelers arriving at the P&B station need a way to move around, too. And let's not even mention the poor drivers who head into town for an event and can't find a parking space.
The discouraging scenarios are endless. Experts say a parking and transportation center would help, so GATRA is partnering with the Plymouth Growth and Development Corporation, or PGDC, and the town on a study to determine the what, where and how of such a facility.
"GATRA is the driving force behind this - literally," PGDC President Leighton Price said. "They're trying to find out what they can do in order to provide better transport into and out of Plymouth."
GATRA Administrator Frank Gay said he and former Town Manager Mark Sylvia discussed the need for a transportation center years ago.
"Since we started service in Plymouth we've been in a temporary facility on Memorial Drive," Gay added. "We need to find a home for our buses as a hub for the downtown area in Plymouth, and to tie that in with other development taking place in that location. The plan is to make it a comprehensive location to provide a number of services."
GATRA buses already pick up and drop off passengers at various stops in town. But few use this system, Price said. A multi-modal transportation center would provide parking and a connecting point for a number of transports including, but not limited to, buses, taxis, bikes and even, possibly, pedicabs carrying up to two passengers.
PGDC Director of Operations John Burke, who worked with Gay to write the federal grant for GATRA, said the facility would be about connections - connecting the downtown to the train and bus stations, which connect to Logan Airport, Boston and other points of interest. The Gateway Center in Newport, R.I., is an example of just such a transportation hub, he added.
"It's right in the heart of the downtown and makes connections with the dinner train and ferry and bus services," Burke said. "It's the convergence of different modes of transport all connecting."
Information services would be available at the center, in addition to tickets for trains, buses and bike services as well as events. Retail establishments that compliment these functions could be included in the center, enhancing its multi-faceted uses.
Burke also serves as Chairman of the 2020 Parking and Transportation Subcommittee, which is trouble-shooting and planning for the town's 2020 celebration, now just nine years away. Thousands of visitors are expected to pour into America's Hometown during this year-long celebration, which will feature political appearances and other famous draws. Initial discussions have touched on the need for shuttles from satellite parking lots and spots to the downtown, since available parking there won't support the influx of visitors. These potential feeder lots are crucial to helping the town handling these event-specific tourists, which are expected to boost the local economy considerably.
A transportation center would be an enormous boon as well, helping everyone get to where they need to be with a minimum of difficulty, Burke said.
Town Manager Mark Stankiewicz said some possible sites for the center include the lot behind the former 1620 restaurant and building, on Memorial Drive next to Memorial Hall, near the former Probate Court, at the parking lot at Main and Market street and at the parking lot at Main and Middle streets.
But Burke said it's too soon to say where the center could be located, since work on the study has only just begun.
"The thing is, it's not just a study that says, 'let's put it here.' This involves a lot of engineering to figure out the feasibility of the project," Price said. "It goes a long way to figuring out what you can do where, as well as determining what the community would support."
Federal money will also be sought to design and build the facility once this study phase is completed sometime this fall, he added.
The federal grant is for $130,000, Price said, and the PGDC has kicked in $15,000 of its revenue for the study as well. The town gave $15,000 from the Parking Fund to the cause.
"We're trying to look forward to 2020 in the longer run and also do some things that will help Plymouth in general," Price said. "2020 is just a rallying point. The objective is to make things better for tourism and residents that might want to use public transportation."
The study will include public input and information from previous studies.
City officials are considering raising parking meter fees by 25 cents, a measure that could generate an additional $65,000 in revenue, according to City Manager Greg Ferrese.
In the city's proposed 2011-12 budget, Ferrese suggested that all meter fees be a uniform $1.50 per hour. The rate increase would bring Rehoboth Beach in line with Bethany Beach and Lewes.
"We're looking at minimal increases," Ferrese said. "With the way the economy is, (I feel) we have presented a really good budget here."
Last summer, meters on the beach block and Rehoboth Avenue were $1.50 per hour, while the more than 625 meters outside of those areas charged an hourly rate of $1.25.
The 25-cent increase at those particular meters -- located in the most desirable areas of the city -- was instituted in 2009 to combat revenue troubles.
Commissioner Stan Mills said the latest proposal goes against the reasoning for increasing the meter prices two years ago.
"It's getting away from the philosophy that people pay a premium for premium parking spaces," he said. "There's no incentive for people to park one, two or three blocks away if there's a spot on the main avenue where they can park all day."
If the increase is adopted, Carol Everhart, president and chief executive of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, said she would like to see more change machines available to the public.
"That was our No. 1 issue last year," she said. "We're more than happy to provide (quarters to guests), but it's almost to the point of how many quarters can we give."
Ferrese said the city's four change machines have been upgraded to carry more quarters this summer, and all parking enforcement officers will carry at least $20 in change to accommodate visitors.
The sleek new meter in the downtown parking ramp almost always stands unused. The messages "available" and "$1.50/hr" stream across its digital screen.
Still, the $8,000 meter is a proud accomplishment: Rochester Public Utilities says it's Minnesota's first public utility-owned, publicly available station to charge electric vehicles.
Never mind that mass-market electric vehicles aren't even available here yet and probably won't be for the better part of the year. The Midwest, it seems, is embracing electric vehicles before electric vehicles embrace the Midwest.
Dozens of electric vehicle charging stations are sprouting up in places large, small and unexpected. In the Twin Cities, electric car advocates say, there will be about 30 public chargers by the end of the year. In a tiny town off Interstate 80 in Iowa, a local businessman has installed eight of them -- giving Elk Horn, Iowa, a 21st-century update to the authentic working Danish windmill that has been its longstanding claim to fame. The town now has "the largest concentration of electric vehicle charging stations per capita in the world," boasts Mike Howard, who spent about $6,000 for each of the stations in the 662-person town, about 80 miles west of Des Moines.
"We're trying to get these [car manufacturers] to understand: Don't forget about the Midwest," Howard said. "They tend to overlook that we, as Midwesterners, we want to be able to use this technology just as much and just as soon as the other states."
The all-electric Nissan Leaf and the electric Chevy Volt, which has a gas backup system, were rolled out for retail primarily on the nation's coasts late last year. They aren't scheduled to hit Minnesota sales floors until late this year. Other major car companies will follow.
In the Twin Cities, electric car advocates say they're getting a jump on the infrastructure to encourage manufacturers to sell here earlier and to ease consumers' "range anxiety" -- the fear of being stuck somewhere with a dead battery.
In the Leaf, for instance, a fully charged battery could carry passengers over 100 miles, depending on conditions. Car companies say most electric vehicle owners will plug into their own garages at night, but if they have a long commute or want to go to an event miles from home, they might want the reassurance of a public charging station.
Race to be first
The federal government is leading the way toward electric vehicles with tax incentives for car buyers and grant money to local governments for support infrastructure. In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama called for the United States to be "the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015."
Locally, governments and companies are scrambling to be among the first buying into the movement. Rochester's high number of out-of-town visitors to the Mayo Clinic helped prompt their downtown charging station. "We're ahead of the curve, but that's a position I'd like to be in as opposed to trying to catch up," said Jerry Williams, the utility's board president.
While some cities like Indianapolis, Detroit and Chicago are aggressively pursuing the technology, much of the upper Midwest hasn't been leading the charge, said Brett Smith, an industry analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The privately owned First National Bank building in downtown St. Paul installed a charging station for public use in November. Last week, 3M unveiled one for employees and visitors at its headquarters in Maplewood.
Plenty of other stations are in the works, including one for public use at a city-owned parking ramp in downtown Minneapolis and four at the Mall of America.
"We see the electric vehicle market as growing," Mall of America spokesman Dan Jasper said. "I actually believe in the coming months and years, it's going to be an expectation of guests wherever they go ... I think we're just trying to be on the front edge of that."
The city of Chicago awarded a contract to a California company to install 280 charging stations in its metro area, setting up 73 plazas where drivers will be able to fill batteries.
The utility company in Madison, Wis., announced last fall that it would install 18 stations, bringing that city's total to two dozen.
St. Paul will rival that. Using $286,000 from federal stimulus grants plus a grant from Xcel Energy, the city has bought three Ford Transit Connect commercial electric utility vans and plans to install charging stations with enough public plug-ins throughout the city to charge a total of 21 vehicles at once.
Stations costing between $1,100 and $5,000, plus installation, will be strategically placed to serve both suburban commuters and people driving to St. Paul for a hockey game, a play or dinner.
Depending on a charging station's voltage and a car's battery capacity, it could take several hours to fully charge a vehicle with the type of chargers that St. Paul plans to install. In some places nationwide, including 73 spots in Chicago, newly available fast charging stations will be able to fill batteries to 80 percent full in about a half-hour.
"Electric vehicles are the future," said Anne Hunt, St. Paul's environmental policy director. "A consumer needs to have the confidence that if they're going to be purchasing an all-electric vehicle, that the charging stations are going to be there."
Car company officials say electric vehicles will give riders a new experience: a quiet ride, less complicated mechanics and less fueling expense, costing as little as a few pennies per mile.
The cars also promise to help air quality, said Fran Crotty, a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency employee who works with Drive Electric Minnesota, a public, private and nonprofit coalition. About a third of the state's toxic air pollution emissions come from gas-powered cars and trucks.
The production of electricity in traditional coal and nuclear plants brings its own pollution, but Crotty said the coalition is urging that at least some charging stations be solar- or wind-powered.
Some expect the introduction of mass-market electric vehicles to mark a sea change in consumer behavior. Auto industry analysts say that's still a question.
The charging-station building boom "makes for a very good story, but the usefulness of it over the next three or so years is questionable," said Smith of the Center for Automotive Research. "Maybe it's more important in a colder city where you don't get nearly the travel distance from a charge."
Manufacturers expect that most families buying an electric car will use it for local commutes and errands, keeping a traditional car for longer trips. Questions remain about how batteries will perform in ultra-cold climates. Running a heater in the car in the winter will take more juice and cut down on the car's range, for example.
Jukka Kukkonen, president of the Minnesota Electric Auto Association, said he thinks electric car use will widen as technology improves, much like cell phone use.
Risto Sivula, of St. Paul, is on the waiting list for a Nissan Leaf, which he said would work well for his commute to New Brighton. Though he's typically not an early adopter, one of the family cars is aging and the timing might be right to make the next car an electric one.
"I think the time for the internal combustion engine is kind of over," he said.
The city erred when it applied an old zoning ordinance for approval of a new 300-person conference center, ruled a Rockingham Superior Court judge.
The ruling by Judge John Lewis nullifies approval granted by the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment on Feb. 18, 2010, for a ground-floor conference center at the new Marriott Residence Inn on Maplewood Avenue. The hotel is owned by Parade Residence Hotel LLC, and Judge Lewis remanded the conference center debate back to the city for consideration under its current zoning ordinance, which no longer includes so-called parking credits.
A related debate is expected to continue over whether the conference center, which is proposed as including a kitchen and food service, could be considered a restaurant. If it's found to meet the definition of a restaurant, the conference center would be bound by the city's new ordinance mandating one parking space per 100 square feet for all ground floor restaurants.
All other downtown ground-floor businesses are exempt from that parking requirement.
The judge's decision was in response to a Superior Court lawsuit filed by Harborside Associates, owner of the Sheraton Harborside Portsmouth, a hotel and conference center at 250 Market St., and an abutter to the new Parade Residence Hotel. Harborside filed suit against the city of Portsmouth and asked the judge to do exactly what he did: find that the ZBA erred in applying the old zoning ordinance and remand the case back to the ZBA.
The Sheraton owner is being represented by Portsmouth attorney Jonathan Springer, who said the court agreed the city's review of the project was "not done correctly." "We said this falls under the new ordinance and the judge agreed with us," he said.
In summarizing the history of the case, the judge wrote that in September 2008, Parade was granted approval for a 5-story building with a 100-plus room hotel, a 2,500-square-foot restaurant and 7,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space. On Jan. 19, 2010, the city approved Parade's amended plan, which eliminated the retail space and added an 11,437-square-foot conference center with a kitchen, the judge wrote.
When the project was first approved under the old ordinance, Parade was given "parking credits," calculated in a manner that the city's own planning director once called "convoluted." In summary, the credits exempt businesses from having actual parking spaces.
Harborside appealed to the ZBA on April 20, 2010, when board members debated whether a conference center is a restaurant, the judge wrote. At the same hearing, Principal Planner Lee Jay Feldmen is quoted as advising the board that the old ordinance remained applicable to the Parade project for four years from the date of its original approval.
In his 9-page decision, Judge Lewis disagreed. The judge said Parade's second and amended application represented a "major change" to the majority of the ground floor and therefore the project was not exempt from the new zoning ordinance.
"The 2010 ordinance thus applies to the plans dealing with the conference center since these were submitted to the board on Jan. 19, 2010, after the new ordinance came into effect and encompassed a request for approval of a new use," the judge wrote.
At the conclusion of the April 2010 hearing, the ZBA denied Harborside's appeal by a vote of 5 to 2. A subsequent motion for a rehearing was similarly rejected.
Harborside then took the case to Rockingham Superior Court.
In his recent decision, Judge Lewis said the debate about whether or not the conference center is a restaurant does not belong in the Superior Court on appeal because the city of Portsmouth never ruled on it.
Through attorney Alec McEachern, Parade has filed a motion with the Superior Court asking it to reconsider the judge's decision. If it's overturned, the case remains remanded to Portsmouth's zoning board, or it can be appealed to the N.H. Supreme Court.
City Attorney Robert Sullivan said until those options are exhausted, "it is not a final decision and doesn't have any bearing on the city's actions."
"When we're in a situation that there is a final decision," he said, "we'll respond to whatever that may be at that time."
In October 2007 a different Superior Court judge settled a similar hotel parking dispute when he found the Portsmouth City Council made an "unlawful" deal with developers for a proposed Westin hotel and conference center by voting to bond $15 million for an attached parking garage.
Judge Kenneth McHugh ordered the council to revisit its Dec. 19, 2005, vote to bond the $15 million garage because the deal benefited developer HarborCorp more than it did the city. The ruling was in response to an appeal of the bonding vote by Nine Seventy Six Realty Trust and 1000 Market Street Corporation, also known as Ocean Properties
City officials argued the proposed convention center would benefit the public and was an important part of the parking garage debate.
"The evidence revealed that the convention center is that carrot that is driving the city to bond the parking garage," wrote the judge. "City Manager John Bohenko admitted as much when he testified that in his mind the need for a convention center trumps all other factors including the city's commitment to bond $15 million of the cost of a parking garage."
Citing the potential for jobs, tax revenue and increased commerce, the city argued the convention center would provide enough public benefit to justify the $15 million bond. But the judge agreed with Ocean Properties, noting "all of these benefits are still available to the city if HarborCorp funds the garage itself."
Springer said he wasn't involved in that earlier case and it was "not driving the bus" in the current case.
"What we're doing here is asking the Planning Board to apply the law," he said.
A slugging and commuter parking system that some Prince William residents say has worked well for years will end Monday, sending hundreds of people in search of alternatives.
Potomac Mills mall officials announced in January that they planned to slash the number of commuter spaces from about 1,000 to 275 to make way for new commercial development.
About 200 of the soon-to-be displaced commuters met with Prince William officials Wednesday to hear what other options are available and to voice their frustration.
"I don't know what I am going to do on Monday," said county resident Denise Burkhart, who has "slugged" by catching rides from Potomac Mills for more than 10 years. "It is going to be extremely disruptive for me. Even if I try to go somewhere else to get picked up, I won't know how I will get back home."
Potomac Mills General Manager Mike Sullivan said the county requires the mall to provide 275 spaces. For more than 20 years, however, the mall has provided four to five times what was required.
"We had a business decision to make," Sullivan said. "This is private property. We run a business and we want to have enough parking for customers and employees. We've helped the county out over the years . . . but it's the county's job to provide commuter lots."
County officials said they knew for years that the mall wanted to expand; it was just unclear when or what impact it would have on the commuter system. Some residents blamed the county for approving new developments but not having the infrastructure to support them. Others said that with the taxes they pay, the least officials could do is provide enough commuter parking.
"I would consider moving because I no longer have an incentive to stay," Prince William resident Rhonda Reed said. "The way this was handled was disrespectful to us. . . . The county knew they would expand and it would impact parking. . . . They should have looked then" at the situation.
County officials said there are other commuter lots that are underutilized, including the lots at Route 123 and Interstate 95, Dale Boulevard and Gemini Way, Dale Boulevard and Hillendale Drive, Dale Boulevard and Quate Lane, and Minnieville Road and Harbor Drive. No bus service is available at the Minnieville Road location.
Other lots that have some capacity are at Exeter Drive near Route 234, Dale Boulevard near Gideon Drive, Cherrydale Road and Dale Boulevard, Route 234 near Stockbridge Drive, and Rippon Boulevard and Farm Creek. No bus service is available at the Rippon Boulevard lot.
"If I try to go to the 123 lot, it will add 20-plus minutes to my commute," Neabsco resident Jessica Bassett said. "There is no way I want to add anymore time onto my commute."
Prince William officials said that once Potomac Mills reduces its lot, there will be 8,500 spaces in the county. Some residents asked about building a parking garage. Officials, however, said garages cost at least twice as much as surface parking.
County officials said they are close to securing new commuter parking at some private lots near Potomac Mills. Although county officials would not reveal who they were in negotiations with, they said they hope to secure new spots within 30 to 60 days. There are also plans to expand the Horner Road lot by next year.
"These lots that have spaces have them for a reason," said Prince William resident Sabrina Akins, who slugs from Potomac Mills. "I live in Marumsco, and I'm not driving [an extra 20 minutes or more] to get to another lot. . . . Potomac Mills has lost my business because of the way they handled this."
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan for shoring up the city's budget by leasing out nine public parking garages collapsed on Friday, with the city's top budget official reporting that no one was willing to submit a bid.
None of the 12 companies that have been in talks with the city for the last year were interested in the proposed concession agreement, which was supposed to generate $53 million for the city's general fund budget in the middle of a deep financial crisis, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said.
The City Council redesigned the proposed parking concession agreement last month after its members received a barrage of complaints from business leaders in Hollywood, Westwood and elsewhere. Those changes, which were designed to keep parking rates from spiking dramatically, also made the deal unpalatable to potential bidders, said Councilman Bernard C. Parks.
"The more restrictions we put on it, the less money was available," said Parks, who opposed the deal from the beginning on the grounds that it was "fraught with problems."
The news eliminates the last flicker of hope that the city will secure an influx of parking revenue in time to erase a $54-million shortfall. And it leaves Villaraigosa and the council with a dwindling number of options for closing that budget hole eight months into the fiscal year.
In a report issued Friday, Santana said the council should either change the terms of its proposed parking concession agreement to make it more appealing to potential bidders or abandon the idea altogether. Either way, the parking deal is off the table as a solution to the problems of the current budget year, he said.
Instead, a more sweeping budget reduction strategy is expected from Villaraigosa in March, one that would erase at least $100 million in expenses. That plan would likely involve new cuts to the workforce, Santana said.
Villaraigosa spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said the mayor was reviewing Santana's report Friday. He still wants to complete a parking garage deal before June 30, Hamilton said.
City officials had hoped the parking deal would generate between $200 million and $300 million, enough to wipe out the debt on the various garages and still provide some money for basic services, such as public safety and parks.
An enhanced nightlife, better parking and a reduction in truck traffic are the top changes needed in Lancaster's downtown, according to a Web survey conducted by Main Street Lancaster.
"This is nothing new," said David Uhl, executive director of Main Street Lancaster. "We confirmed a lot of what we already know."
During the past year and a half, the organization has conducted focus groups with downtown residents, property owners and business executives. Those focus groups yielded the same results as the community survey, which was open to any user on the organization's website.
The survey yielded about 330 responses to its open-ended questions, Uhl said. It asked respondents what events they want to see downtown, what one positive aspect of downtown is and what they would change about downtown.
More parking, a more expansive nightlife and reduced truck traffic were listed on the most surveys in response to what respondents would change about downtown Lancaster. Respondents also suggested adding retail and restaurants, rehabilitating old buildings and filling empty storefronts.
Uhl said Main Street Lancaster is working to attract more downtown businesses, such as coffee shops and restaurants, that would be open in the evening.
The organization is pursuing entrepreneurs that have businesses in the area, but not downtown, to bring them closer to the city center, he said.
As portions of the downtown are developed or renovated, Uhl said he plans to talk to property owners about bringing nightlife to the rehabbed sites.
"We're hopeful that as the folks consider what they're doing, they will consider these nightlife opportunities," he said.
The problem with vacant store fronts is more perception than fact, Uhl said. In the past year, eight businesses have opened downtown and two more are on the way. Large vacant sites, such as the Mithoff building, create the perception that the entire downtown is in disrepair, he said.
"When we talk about open store fronts, they're becoming few and far between," he said.
The combination of available space, data from the survey and a planned retail analysis will help form a sales pitch that Main Street Lancaster can give to potential entrepreneurs, he said.
Uhl said the downtown problem with parking also is more perception than reality. At night and on the weekends, many private lots become public, he said, and parallel parking is typically available within a block of a destination.
The organization is planning an awareness campaign to combat the perception of downtown parking problems, he said.
Because Main Street is a state route, Uhl said reducing truck traffic will be difficult. The state is unlikely to allow changes to the route, but Uhl said the possibility of a facility where trucks could load and unload away from Main Street could take some of the traffic away.
"Significant reductions are going to be a huge challenge for us," he said
The Duluth City Council decided to return to a harder line on parking requirements for rental properties at a special meeting Thursday night.
By a 5-2 vote, councilors chose to eliminate an appeals process for special fees levied against landlords who fail to provide sufficient off-street parking for their tenants. The measure is part of an ordinance change scheduled for a final vote when the council meets again Monday.
Several speakers unsuccessfully tried to sway the council, including Gary Kalligher, a landlord and member of the Duluth Association of Responsible Rentals.
"It doesn't seem fair that you can't go someplace and be heard," he said.
But Councilor Patrick Boyle said something needs to be done to deal with overcrowded on-street parking that's causing problems for longtime residents, as former single-family homes are converted to multi-tenant rental properties. He talked about his concern for an elderly arthritic woman who has lived in his neighborhood for 60 years.
"She sometimes has difficulty bringing in the groceries when she has to park two or three blocks away from her home," Boyle said.
Duluth landlords are expected to provide one off-street parking space for every rental unit they have in a multi-tenant rental building, but new rental reforms included in an ordinance that's scheduled for a vote Monday would put teeth in those rules.
Owners of pre-existing, non-conforming rental properties would be allowed to continue to operate, but they would pay more for rental licenses unless they provided adequate off-street parking.
The city proposes to grant rental properties one free on-street spot, but for every additional rental unit lacking off-street parking, an extra $100 would be tacked onto the three-year license fee.
But Councilor Todd Fedora saw the fees as wrong-headed in situations where certain landlords could not create more off-street parking because of the physical characteristics of their property. He had led the call for an appeals process that would waive the fee in such cases. To punish everyone the same regardless of circumstance troubles Fedora.
"We'd be saying: 'We know you can't comply, but we're still going to take your money any way. I think that's wrong," he said.
But Fedora was in the minority Thursday, as only one other councilor, Jay Fosle, took his side.
Voting in favor of a straight parking fee for non-compliant rentals were councilors Boyle, Jeff Anderson, Jackie Halberg, Jim Stauber and Dan Hartman.
Councilor Tony Cuneo, a landlord himself, abstained from voting. Councilor Sharla Gardner did not attend the meeting because she was competing in a local Celebrity Dance Challenge.
The Parking Committee on Thursday postponed a pair of valet service proposals after some members raised concern over regulation on what has become an increasingly popular parking solution in the downtown.
Both Pesce Italian Kitchen on Congress Street and The Wellington Room on Bow Street are among the latest restaurants to seek permission to offer private valet parking through Atlantic Parking Service. Last month, owners of Brazo and The Green Monkey were granted 90-day trial periods to offer the service through APS on Pleasant Street. Customers who use the service will have their vehicles parked in private parking locations.
Seafood restaurant to open in Martingale WharfMatthew Sharlot, co-owner of The Wellington Room, said he has heard from many of his customers who say they will often drive around the block several times looking for parking until they finally give up on their reservations. "There is not nearly enough parking on that side of town," Sharlot said.
Sharlot's proposal involves the use of a loading zone following completion of the Martingale Wharf project. However, parking officials noted that in January, they approved an amended sidewalk plan for the Martingale Wharf that stipulates the new loading zone could not be used for valet.
Ultimately, the announcement from Sharlot that a new 125-seat restaurant has leased space at the Martingale Wharf and would share the valet service prompted parking officials to hold off on moving forward. City Manager John Bohenko expressed reluctance and asked that the city learn more about the new restaurant plan before making a determination. Officials also expressed concern with how the traffic flow in that area would mesh with a valet service.
Eventually, discussion turned to valet service overall in the downtown. "We're going to have to come up with a solution, not just for the Wellington Room, but for all these restaurants," Bohenko said. "I think (the committee) needs to have a comprehensive look at this."
Committee members agreed on the need to "take a hard look at valet throughout the city."
"Valet service, concept-wise, I agree with, but there are certain locations that it just doesn't work," said Public Works Director Steve Parkinson.
Because there have been various requests for the service the past few years, officials agreed that getting a hold on how many restaurants are using valets would also be a good idea.
When it came time to consider a similar request from Pesce Italian Kitchen owner Cliffe Arrand, the Parking Committee briefly discussed the request before postponing it until March 10. Arrand's proposal involved using an "unofficial loading zone" on the side of Congress Street or potentially a loading zone on Chestnut Street for the service.
"We want this to work for everybody, we really do, but we need to make sure we don't have unintended consequences," Bohenko said.
Parking in Springfield is cheap. Visitors from Chicago sometimes joke that it's cheaper to get a parking ticket here than to simply pay the meter in their city. But that could change with a proposed ordinance under consideration by the city council.
On Jan. 25, the council considered a measure to double Springfield's fine for overtime parking, and although the proposal was tabled for more discussion, proponents say they will continue to push for its passage. The three aldermen who jointly introduced the proposal say the city needs to look at ways to increase revenue during a time of budget trouble, but opponents on the council blasted the idea as harmful to downtown businesses.
The current fine for an expired parking meter in Springfield is $5 if paid within 14 days and $10 if paid after that. The proposal would increase the initial fine to $10 and the late payment fine to $20. It would not raise the cost of paying a parking meter.
One concern among opponents of the proposal is that the possibility of an increased fine could deter consumers from visiting downtown. Ward 6 Ald. Mark Mahoney says a scarcity of downtown parking spots already prompts complaints from his constituents.
"My concern with this is we're talking about the problems downtown businesses are having, and we're sending a message here," Mahoney says. "We've taken parking away on Capitol [Avenue], … We bag meters from time to time, and I know it is necessary, but I get complaints from businesses and people saying the meters are bagged, in their opinion, longer than they have to be. I just think it's the wrong message to send."
But proponents say it would actually encourage more customer turnover.
"I don't see it as a hindrance because I would think downtown businesses would want to recycle their customers," says Ward 7 Ald. Debbie Cimarossa, adding that it may be helpful to change time limits on certain meters to better suit businesses. "If it's a 30-minute meter, maybe it needs to be changed to an hour. …We want to work with downtown businesses, but we want to make sure we take care of appropriate penalties for people who choose to park there all day and hurt businesses."
Ward 3 Ald. Frank Kunz, who is running for mayor, decried the proposal as a tax increase when he says the city should be making cuts instead.
"It's still the government taking the money," Kunz said. "It's still a tax. It's a 100 percent increase no matter how you cut it. … I think here we are, instead of cutting the budget, we're trying to raise revenue."
According to the office of city treasurer Jim Langfelder, the city is currently owed $283,344 in fines for expired parking meters and the majority - 72 percent - of parking fines issued by the city are for overtime violations. About 46 percent of all parking fines are paid within the first 14 days, Langfelder's office says, and the city issued 41,757 tickets in 2010. The same number of tickets issued in 2010 would have generated an extra $150,000 with the higher fines, the treasurer estimates.
Currently, the city is owed for 46,113 unpaid parking fines, though that number includes violations other than overtime parking.
Among similar-sized cities in central Illinois, Springfield's overtime parking fine is relatively low. In Peoria, parking too long costs $15 if paid within seven days, $20 if paid within eight to 30 days, and $30 after 30 days. Decatur charges $10. Urbana charges $10 for the first offense in the city's campus and hospital districts, then $15 for the second offense and $20 for the third. In Urbana's downtown district, the first violation is a free warning, but the second and third violations cost $10 and $15, respectively. It's $10 in Champaign within seven days and $15 after that. Bloomington and Normal don't have parking meters.
Cimarossa says she and Ward 1 Ald. Tom Shanahan support the measure and will find a third alderman to jointly sponsor it. Former Ward 9 Ald. Steve Dove originally introduced the proposal, but has now moved on to be an aide to Mayor Frank Edwards.
"We need to look at the cost of doing business," Cimarossa says. "The administrative office that does hearings, the staff that processes all that - everything has gone up, but the fines haven't gone up. That's where we're trying to do this balancing act."
Denver police have issued a summons to a man they say operated an unlicensed valet-parking business that employed a parking attendant killed in a hit-and-run accident.
Everardo Moses Garcia III never applied for the license needed to provide the service at the Rockstar Lounge, where 21-year-old Jose Medina was run down, said Meghan Hughes, spokeswoman for the city's Excise and Licenses Department.
Medina was hit Jan. 22 as he held a car door open for a patron outside the nightclub, at 940 Lincoln St.
Garcia couldn't be reached for comment. An employee at the club said Patrick Wilson, one of the owners, had no comment on the summons.
A competitor, Rocky Mountain Valet, submitted an application to the city of Denver for a license needed to run a parking business at the Rockstar in November, Hughes said.
But the company withdrew its application in December after finding there weren't any parking lots available nearby, Chris Misko, president of Rocky Mountain Valet, said recently.
"We were fully intent on doing business there, but it was evident there wasn't proper parking in the area. If I can't secure a parking lot, we don't provide service," Misko said.
Without a parking lot, cars would have to be parked on the street, increasing the danger that they could be vandalized.
"We can't patrol it properly; there is no security in place to make sure the vehicles are safe," Misko said.
The penalty for operating without a license can be a fine up to $999 or up to a year in jail.
Authorities believe Norma Paola Vera-Nolasco, 31, was driving the vehicle that hit Medina. Besides Vera-Nolasco, three others have been arrested in the case: Eliu Montes-Garcia, 28; Yolanda Bastida-Nolasco, 43; and Guadalupe Bastida, 47. Vera-Nolasco was arrested as she was leaving Phoenix on a plane bound for Mexico. All four are in the country illegally and are awaiting trial.
After an unexpected setback and trip back to the drawing board, construction on the proposed University of Minnesota Bike Center is back on track.
The center will provide 24-hour storage to members, a repair shop, classes and showers for sweaty riders. The Hub Bicycle Co-op will operate the University bike center.
Project Director Steve Sanders said contractors took a walk-through of the space last week after the original construction contract bids came in too high last fall. The new bids are due Tuesday, and construction on the center, located in the Oak Street Parking Ramp, could begin as early as the end of the month.
The project was originally planned for completion last August but had to go through red tape and budget retooling in the past few months.
Since the University plans on paying $218,000 of the estimated $777,000 project out of its own pocket - the remaining $559,000 is covered by a federal grant - Sanders said the assumption was that the project wouldn't need board approval.
But because the total cost of the project is more than $500,000, it was included in the University's annual capital budget, which requires approval by the Board of Regents. That approval didn't come until September.
After the center was approved by the Regents, Sanders said the project faced another roadblock when the original bids from contractors came in too high.
Project planners went back through the budget to find cosmetic features that could be scaled down. Things like light fixtures will be cheaper, but the scope of the project will remain the same, Sanders said.
"I think we were able to get the cost down without decreasing the utility of the project," Sanders said. "We didn't have to cut anything out."
Originally a waiting area for city buses and most recently used for storage, the 18,000-foot space in the Oak Street Parking Ramp already has tile flooring and bathrooms but requires a new ceiling and refurbishing.
The contractor with the winning bid will need to be approved by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in accordance with the federal aid process.
The federal grant is part of the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program. Minneapolis, along with four other cities, was granted $25 million to promote biking and walking as alternatives to driving.
Sanders said he doesn't know how long that process will take, but he hopes to begin construction at the end of February.
"We've been told that they can turn it around in a pretty short time if everything goes right," Sanders said. "But that's a pretty big 'if.'"
Sanders added that once construction begins, it will take about 10 to 12 weeks to complete.
"We're ready when the space is ready," said Benjamin Tsai, development coordinator at The Hub. "[The delay] really hasn't affected us. If anything, it's given us more time to plan."
Matt Theisen, president of the University cycling team, said that while he hasn't heard much buzz about the center, he thinks it will help promote "responsible cycling" on campus.
"A lot of cyclists feel like they don't have to follow the rules of the road," Theisen said. "It's unfortunate because they can cause unsafe situations when they don't."
Charleston County operates two parking garages in downtown Charleston that together produce nearly a half-million dollars in operating income each year, and officials are discussing whether it would make sense to privatize or sell them.
County Council members asked the staff to research the possibilities, and the pros and cons of such decisions.
"We've had a couple of people in the private sector interested in buying or leasing our garages," said Council Chairman Teddie Pryor.
An analysis the council is set to discuss this evening suggests that the garages, on Queen Street and on Cumberland Street, could be worth more than $33 million in a sale.
However, the county would then have to spend more than $2.2 million every year to provide parking for county employees, jurors and law enforcement officials.
Currently, employees, jurors, judges, law enforcement officials, county officials, members of the legislative delegation and people attending church services park at the garages for free, the staff analysis said.
"On the analysis of a sale, we feel that it would not benefit the county," Deputy County Administrator Walt Smalls said. "It would mean a perpetual increase (in expenses) to the general fund."
Barring a sale, there's still the question of privatizing the garage operations.
The city of Charleston privatized its much larger network of parking garages in the late 1990s, and earns money from the garages each year.
The city pays the operating expenses and pays Republic Parking to operate the garages.
City Chief Financial Officer Steve Bedard said the deal limits the city's risk, and turns management over to people who run parking garages for a living. He said the city has not considered selling the garages, because they make money while serving a public need.
Pryor said the county could really only consider privatizing one of its two garages, the larger one on Cumberland Street between St. Philip and Meeting streets. The other garage is connected to the county courthouse, and law enforcement use of the garage involves some security issues, he said.
"We wouldn't think of privatizing that one," Pryor said. "It just wouldn't work, with the sheriff bringing prisoners in there and judges parking there."
Councilwoman Colleen Condon said it's always a good idea to check and make sure county operations are being run efficiently.
"The thought was, does it make sense for us to do it?" she said. "But it isn't a business for us, it's a service."
The discussion comes at a time when the county is poised to spend more than $2 million on the final phase of a repair program for the two garages.
The county currently carries about $4 million in debt for one of the garages. The other is owned free and clear.
A controversial plan to charge festival backers, film crews and construction firms more than $20 an hour to close a metered parking space has been toned down, but the reworked plan will cost the debt-ridden San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency $500,000.
Currently, only construction and building crews pay the $4 fee to use metered spaces for all-day storage of trucks, trash containers and other equipment. Last year, the SFMTA proposed increasing that to $22.50 per meter and extending the charge to street festivals, athletic events, and film and video shoots. That is the maximum amount a meter can earn per day.
But following an outcry from an array of businesses and organizations, including The City's Film Commission, the SFMTA shelved its initiative.
On Tuesday, it came back with a more modest proposal, which would increase fees for reserved meters to $5 a day and only affect building and construction companies.
According to SFMTA documents, the average meter brings in $4.72 to $4.86 a day in parking revenue, so the increase in reservation fees is strictly a cost-recovery initiative.
On Tuesday, the transit agency's Policy and Governance Committee recommended approval of the reworked proposal. It still must go before the board of directors for final authorization.
Sean Keighran, the president of the Residential Builders Association of San Francisco, said the final proposal was much more equitable to his industry, which has seen a 94 percent decline in new building permits since 2007 and suffers from a 30 percent unemployment rate.
Keighran said his organization's persistent lobbying helped persuade the SFMTA to scale back its plan.
"The increase to $22.50 per meter would have been devastating," Keighran said.
By dropping its initial proposal, the SFMTA will lose about $500,000 in budgeted revenue for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, according to agency spokesman Paul Rose.
That loss is one contributor to the SFMTA's projected $21.2 million budget shortfall, which must be made up in the next 4½ months.
Agency officials said they can reconcile the deficit by focusing on efforts to cite parking scofflaws and cut down on employee overtime. Although the revamped proposal appears poised for final approval, it is unlikely to end there.
The SFMTA said it will re-examine the initiative during the 2012-13 fiscal year, which starts in the middle of next year.
That prospect concerned local festival producer Steven Restivo.
"If the originally proposed increases ever go into effect, it will kill me," said Restivo, who manages the Fillmore Jazz and Union Street festivals, among other events. "I understand The City needs money, but it's getting to the point where I just can't afford this anymore."
Like many small businesses these days, traffic at tow yards is slow. In Berkeley that business is likely to drop another 30 percent, tow yard owners say, now that the City Council voted to discontinue their service of towing and impounding cars with unpaid tickets.
The Council voted 8-0 Tuesday night without comment to instead put an immobilizing boot on cars with unpaid parking tickets and eliminate the mind numbing bureaucratic nightmare that goes with it to get the car back.
In its place is a contract with PayLock Inc. to provide a metal contraption called a boot that is placed on a car's wheel when the owner has five or more unpaid tickets. The owner, upon discovering the boot and the immobilized car, can call a "help center," pay off the tickets along with an additional $140 fee, get a code that unlocks the boot and drive off. A $500 credit card deposit ensures the driver will return the boot to a central location.
Tow company owners doing business in Berkeley say they will lose about a third of their business with the new policy.
"We may have to lay people off, there's no question," said Bob Berry, owner of Berry Brothers towing in Oakland, one of four companies that does business with the city of Berkeley. Berry has 15 trucks and 15 employees and has been in business 38 years.
Berry does not expect any sympathy, however, because he knows the experience of retrieving a car from a tow yard can be a joyless one.
"It really doesn't pay to say, 'Hey, what about us?'" Berry said. "People don't really have much sympathy for tow owners or police officers on the enforcement side. It's certainly not going to be a good thing for us."
Berry estimates that of the three cars on average he tows from Berkeley every day, one of those is for unpaid parking tickets. That's about a third of his business down the drain.
In the current system, parking ticket scofflaws who have their cars towed must first go to the city's customer service center downtown and pay their unpaid tickets in return for a tow release form. Then they have to go to the police department and pay $75 for a vehicle release form. Then they must go to the tow yard and pay a $160 tow fee and $65 per day for storage before getting the car back.
David Kotolup, co-owner of Avenue Tow in Berkeley, said he too will lose about 30 percent of his business from the new plan.
"It doesn't make me mad, it's just inevitable," Kotolup said. "With the economy, it's just not hand over fist profit anymore. The volume goes down, but as a business owner I've found other ways to stay afloat."
Kotolup said he now fixes wrecked cars instead of selling them for parts or scrap. "But it's still not as lucrative as it was five years ago," Kotolup said.
Gale Larks, tow manager for Hustead's Towing in Berkeley since 1966, said he is not too worried about losing business.
"We're already hurting, so it's not going to hurt that much more," Larks said. "There will still be these kids up at UC Berkeley who roll in from Kansas, park their car for the semester, get 30, 40, 50 tickets and when they find out how much it is to get it back, just abandon their car. So those cars will still need to be towed.
The Downtown District will take over the management of the downtown parking system from the city on April 1 in a deal with City Hall that runs through 2015.
The district and the city have worked over 40 weeks to reach the agreement, which the district says will allow it to pay more attention to parking because it is so important to the health of the downtown.
The agreement will give the city the ability to continue to use 25 percent of the system's uncommitted parking spaces as part of economic development packages for the downtown.
The city also commits to providing $4 million to the district for deferred maintenance, though the amount can be limited to $500,000 a year.
The city will continue to own all the assets while the district sets the parking prices.
Six full-time city employees can remain with the district-run system as part of the agreement with the city picking up half of the extra cost and the district half of the difference between city wages and the private-sector ones that the district otherwise would pay for the positions. That will cost the city and district $57,000 a year each, according to city estimates.
The district has promised to bring better customer service and modern technology to the parking system.
Issues related to the public employees and the amount of deferred maintenance have held up the agreement until now.
In the first major step towards modernising parking system in the capital, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit today appointed a high-powered committee to examine introduction of automated and IT-enabled parking facilities in Delhi on the lines of top cities in the world.
The committee to be headed by Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta will examine introduction of the modern parking system which will enable a car owner to park his car by swiping a credit card or smart card at automated kiosks after checking availability of space and other details.
Dikshit appointed the committee after she saw a presentation on the IT-enabled parking facilities which are quite common in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Brussels.
Officials said the city government is in the process of finalising two such facilities in Bhikaji Cama Place and Greater Kailash-II as pilot project.
They said under the automated parking system, motorists will be able to check availability of space, number of cars at the parking facility, fees and other related information online and accordingly, have the option of booking slots by paying online.
The officials said introduction of such a modern parking system will help authorities dealing with mafias controlling certain parking slots and encroachment on non-parking areas.
The presentation was attended by top officials of IT department, MCD, NDMC, police, Transport.
Besides Mehta, the committee will comprise the Transport Commissioner, the MCD Commissioner, the NDMC chairperson, the IT Secretary, Joint CP(Traffic), Project Director (Survey of India) and a representative from National Innovation Council.
Officials said the project was conceived as it was found that unregulated parking had significantly shrunk road space across the city resulting in traffic mess.
According to statistics, there are nearly 65 lakh vehicles registered in the city. The number of vehicles in Delhi is more than the total number in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. On an average over 1,000 vehicles are added to the city roads everyday.
15 per cent of the road space in Delhi are lost due to haphazard parking, the official said, adding, the national capital will be the only city in the country with such a parking facility.
Enterprising hustlers in this congested capital city cornered the street parking racket long ago but their monopoly could unravel as officials get tough and automatic parking meters multiply.
The curbside parking toll is a ploy conceived by the city's franeleros, or 'rag boys', known to signal to drivers looking for parking spaces by frantically waving a tattered cloth.
In the city's leafy neighborhoods, street parking has been divvied up by franeleros who guard their patch with the watchfulness of a prairie cowboy minding a herd of cattle.
"My customers know they can trust me - that I won't leave their car unattended," said Patricia Martinez, who daily patrols the streets of Polanco, an upscale shopping district, and laid claim to her stretch of asphalt a dozen years ago.
At night, many urban side streets are littered with steel drums, concrete blocks and boulders that mark a franelero's turf. In the morning, the debris is pulled away as the franelero parcels out parking spaces and collects a small tribute - typically a few pesos per hour.
Officials have long tolerated the petty extortion while cops have enriched themselves with small-time shakedowns of franeleros, also known as 'viene, viene' or "come on!", but urban leaders now want the valets to smarten up.
Mexico City franeleros are supposed to register with authorities and some neighborhoods expect the grifters to wear vests or sit through civics class. An expansion of coin-fed parking meters could also cut into the franelero's trade.
"They need to understand that informal work such as this cannot continue," said Erwin Crowley, a spokesman for the city's urban development office.
Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, a bicycle booster who wants more commuters to pedal to work, hopes the steel-headed parking meters will discourage drivers and raise revenue for quality-of-life projects.
"In time, these folks could become part of the formal economy. They'll be working to improve the neighborhood," Crowley said.
One block from Ebrard's apartment building in the trendy neighborhood of La Condesa, Carmelo Morales expects parking meters will soon bounce him out of a job.
"I'll work here until that final day but I don't know what then," he said near the end of a 12 hour day that typically nets 250 pesos, or about $20.
Morales left the rural state of Chiapas sixteen years ago to seek his fortune roughly 600 miles north where he laid claim to the corner that has become his second home.
Sun-tanned and wearing slicked-back hair, the 36-year-old said he does not have any skills but that he might stay in the car-service trade.
"If I don't park cars, I could just wash them," he said as he carried plastic buckets full of water across the street to scrub a sedan.
Melbourne Airport Parking in
Andrew Heasley / The Melbourne Age
February 8, 2011
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Australia's consumer watchdog has blasted Melbourne Airport over the high cost of parking, which constitutes a fifth of the airport's revenue - more than any other Australian airport.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's latest report monitoring airport prices, Melbourne Airport makes $103.9 million a year from parking, eclipsing Australia's busiest airport, Sydney, which makes $95 million a year from parking.
Melbourne Airport charges as much as $36 for four hours (Sydney is even more expensive at $52) and up to $140 a week in the long-term park, $18 more than at Sydney.
Commission chairman Graeme Samuel said Melbourne Airport reduces the ability of alternatives to compete. ''Melbourne Airport can increase demand for its own car parking services, charge higher prices to consumers and, therefore, earn monopoly profits,'' he said.
The airport drives away competition from other parking venues and bus operators by imposing ''excessive access levies and controls the available space for those operators. This affects those operators' own prices, convenience and, therefore, attractiveness to consumers,'' Mr Samuel said.
Melbourne Airport spokeswoman Carly Dixon said: ''We find the
statements quite irresponsible on the basis he makes it clear he
just doesn't have the evidence to support the allegations.'' She
said rates were comparable with CBD parking.
Mr Samuel also let fly at Sydney Airport, which made more than $14 a passenger in the 2009-10 financial year. That was an 8 per cent increase on the previous year and comfortably the highest margin in the country.
He said Sydney Airport stood out compared to other airports that had responded to concerns about service quality.
''The airport's monopoly position, the airlines' ongoing dissatisfaction with the service they receive, as well as increasing prices and profits over time, all point to Sydney Airport earning monopoly profits from the services it provides to airlines,'' the report said.
The heaviest criticism of Sydney Airport was for the services it provided to airlines. The availability of check-in counters was poor, particularly in peak periods. The standards of baggage facilities, parking and runway control were also poor.
''The issues that the airlines are concerned about ... the broad report on those is that they are not good enough,'' Mr Samuel said.
Sydney Airport also has the most expensive short-term car parking in the country. The charge for four hours of parking - $52 - easily clears the price at Melbourne ($36), Brisbane ($22), Adelaide ($14) and Perth ($9.80).
The airport made $95 million from parking last financial year, against $27 million in costs. At $68 million, the margin Sydney Airport skims from car parking ranks second only to Melbourne.
Sydney Airport, owned by Macquarie Airports, had attempted to pre-empt the commission's findings by commissioning its own analysis questioning the methodology of the regulator.
In particular, Sydney Airport is critical of the commission for not disclosing how many airlines participated in its survey.
But Mr Samuel dismissed the concerns, saying that the commission was delivering simple price monitoring work and not conducting academic analysis.
''If I was Sydney Airport, where year after year after year . . . this has been going on for five years . . . they are being ranked the poorest in terms of quality of service, rather than ask a couple of academics what they think, frankly I'd be asking the customers,'' he said.
When the parking meter was broken or the parking ticket completely unfair, frustrated citizens have gone to the City Attorney's office in the County-City Building for potential relief.
Last year, the City Attorney's office waived about 2,594 tickets, or 4 percent of the total 61,493 tickets issued.
But beginning this week, with any ticket issued Tuesday, Feb. 8, or after, you no longer will go the City Attorney's office to appeal. Instead, you will go to 850 Q St., the city's Parking Services office, to complain about a malfunctioning parking meter or an unfair ticket.
Parking tickets and citations for other non-moving traffic violations, including violating a snow ban, will be handled by the Parking Services Division, part of the city's Urban Development Department.
There also is a new hearing process. People dissatisfied with the internal review of their ticket can seek an administrative hearing. And the hearing decision can be appealed to district court, explained Ken Smith, the city's parking manager.
The new review process will be explained on tickets issued Feb. 8 and after. In addition to the change in appealing tickets, the city also is moving ticket-related administration duties such as accounting and data entry to the City's Parking Services Division.
The actual work will be done by Republic Parking, the private company recently hired to write tickets. The company will be paid an additional $18,000 a year for that work, based on a contract before the City Council Monday. The transfer is another step in Mayor Chris Beutler's consolidation of parking-related duties under a single division, according to a news release.
The duties of enforcement, meter maintenance and collections were previously handled by three city departments. These duties are now assigned to Republic Parking and overseen by the city's Parking Services Division.