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D.C. Parking To Get Easier, More Complicated
Colliers: South Florida Parking a Bargain
Court Declines to Halt Reading Citadel Parking Project
Inspection of Milwaukee Structures Complete, Report Filed
NCCU Parking To Be Ready For Semester
Port Authority in Parking Fees Fight, Tries to Force Competitors to Pay Them
Lack of Training Put Parking Security Guard in Dangerous Situation
Florida: We Can't Help With the Parking You'll Lose
Cars at Curbside, Available to Share
Oklahoma-Invented Parking Meter Turns 75
Lots to Buy For Tampa Parking Kings After Real Estate Bust
Cincinnati Loses Millions To Unpaid Parking Tickets
Park 'n' Bike Offers Deal To Arsenal Workers
Will 'Solar Trees' Sprout in Parking Lots?
Salt Lake City Proposes New Parking Meter System
Multiple Parking Meters Stolen in Rehoboth Beach
New Parking Tricks Exposed: No Wonder You Can't Find a Parking Spot in LA
Detroit Edison to Build $1 Million Solar Installation on Blue Cross Parking Structure
Honolulu's $100 Million Traffic Center Gets Moving
Washington County Saves One Million Dollars on Parking Deck
Newark, Ohio, Parking Free, but Stores Upset
Wildwood Tests Meter-Feeding by Phone
Clipper to Roll Out Parking Garage Pilot Program
Walnut Creek Downtown Redevelopment Plan Takes Huge Step Forward
Phoenix to Scan for Parking Scofflaws
Effectively Managing Downtown San Diego's Parking Supply
Have you ever looked at a parking meter and said to yourself, "This is just too simple! I need something far more sophisticated and complicated to take my money when I need to park." If so, you're in luck.
District transportation officials are trying out new parking methods in the coming months. The programs will be in effect for a few months, but they could be greenlit if deemed a success.
The ideas include:
While the new systems mean you may not need to carry around 10-pound bags of coinage, they do come with some extra baggage -- more steps to follow.
The pay-by-space program will be implemented in the Friendship Heights area. Think of this as the traditional parking system -- but more confusing. Each spot will have a designated number. Just pay for your allotted time at a single machine planted in the middle of a row of spots.
You'll find the pay-by-license plate parking spots in the 1300 block of U Street, NW, later this week. You'll have to enter your license plate number into a meter, along with the money you'd like to use to pay to park. The meters will accept major credit cards as well as coins.
If you park in parts of Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, or near Nationals Park, you'll be able to use your cellphone to pay for parking soon. You'll have to sign up for the program, though, in advance. DDOT has instructions on how to do so on its website.
When it comes to parking in South Florida, Fort Lauderdale is a bargain, according to the Colliers International 10th Annual Parking Rate Survey.
The report found that it costs $15 a day, or $53 a month, to park there. While Miami and West Palm Beach came in at $17 a day, parking by the month was considerably higher in Miami, at $134.12. In West Palm Beach, it was nearly half that, at $69.90 a month.
But, it's still cheaper than the median monthly parking rate of $161.56 for the 44 U.S. central business districts surveyed. That rate increased by 1.1 percent from June 2009 to June 2010. The median daily rate for the U.S. decreased 1.4 percent, to $16.36, during the period, according to the report.
With the economic recovery unfolding in slow motion, parking rates are expected to show little change over the next 12 months, Colliers reports. Rates are expected to trend upward beginning in the second half of 2011,
Stabilizing office occupancies is one of the underlying reasons for the slight uptick in monthly parking rates. Supply and demand is another major factor in the stability of parking rates in North America, according to Ross J. Moore, executive VP and chief economist for Colliers International in the U.S.
And, in case you were wondering, Midtown Manhattan in New York City reported the highest daily rate, at $44, and the highest monthly rate, at $550.
A Commonwealth Court panel has upheld a Berks County judge's decision to deny an injunction to halt construction of a parking garage at the new Reading Citadel Intermediate High School. Perrotto Builders LTD requested the injunction in February after the Reading School District terminated a contract with Perrotto to renovate the garage.
The injunction was denied in county court, and the company appealed to Commonwealth Court last month. Last week, a three-judge panel affirmed the county court decision. The garage is at 12th and Walnut streets. It was in need of major repairs when the district awarded Perrotto a $1.79 million renovation contract to do the work in August 2008. Before significant construction began, the district hired O&S Associates Inc. engineers to re-evaluate the garage.
In September 2009, the district ordered Perrotto to halt work on the garage. It later terminated Perrotto's contract and rebid the project based on new plans created by O&S Associates. Perrotto bid on the new plans, losing out to Restoration East LLC. The district awarded the Baltimore firm a $2.32 million contract.
In the Commonwealth Court's memorandum opinion, Judge Johnny J. Butler said the district's contract with Perrotto included a clause allowing the district to end the contract at its convenience.
The district plans to open the Citadel in August. District officials have said the garage will not be ready then, and plans for temporary parking are being devised.
The report is in for the city of Milwaukee's parking structures. It was ordered by Mayor Tom Barrett after a piece of a Milwaukee County parking garage fell and killed a teenager. Two city engineers looking over five garages. First, at 2nd and Plankinton Ave. Those engineers found some cracks and rusted frame connections. But the overall condition of the facade is good and the risk of failure is low.
Second, the nine-level facility at 4th and Highland. Repairs were made to the facade in 2009. There are few concners. But the engineers say the structure must be re-evaluated during the next capital improvement project.
Next up - the nine-level facility at 1000 N. Water St. in downtown Milwaukee. The main concern was the sixth level where some panels had hairline to moderate-sized cracks. Overall however, the structure is listed in good condition.
The fourth structure noted in the report - a parking structure at Milwaukee and Michigan Ave. The condition there is listed as good. Finally, the MacArthur Square parking garage. Some of the facade panels were removed in January 2009 and 2010 because of safety concerns. After this most recent inspection, the city and county agreed to remove 23 pre-cast panels for repair.
The engineers who filed this report are approved bridge safety inspectors and their procedures also apply to parking structures.
Even though it's the middle of the summer, between academic high seasons, Lawson Street by N.C. Central University is lined with parked cars, from Fayetteville Street east to the bottom of the hill. But at that bottom of the hill, at Lincoln Street, there is hope. The Latham Parking Deck is almost finished, on schedule to be ready for the beginning of classes Aug. 16.
"According to the contractor, we will be able to open the deck on time," said Zack Abegunrin, NCCU's associate vice chancellor for facilities management. "As far as being able to park cars, we'll be ready." The university -- particularly as it has grown over the past few years -- has had a significant problem in getting cars parked.
Currently, there is parking available for only about 20 percent of NCCU's faculty, staff and students. For the last fiscal year, NCCU had the second-lowest percentage of parking available in the UNC System; only Fayetteville State University's rate was lower.
"Everyone knows it," said Glenn Adams, chairman of the school's Board of Trustees."Parking on campus is a challenge." It's even more than a challenge, said Edward Atwater, an NCCU student walking down Lawson Street to his car recently. "It's impossible," he said. "Sometimes you just have to be lucky that somebody pulls out right in front of you. Otherwise, you keep riding around and around." The new deck will significantly ease the crunch.
It will provide parking spaces for an additional 700 vehicles on campus. But the new spots will come at a cost, beyond the $15 million construction budget for the facility. Over the course of the next 10 months, "regular" faculty and staff parking permit fees will rise to $45 per month; existing "premium" reserved faculty and staff spaces will go up to $55 per month; and "student" parking will be $300 per year.
Deck spaces will be reserved spaces but will carry the $45 price tag. "There are unavoidable costs associated with transforming this university into a vital, modern institution, but we aren't looking back," said NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms. "We're moving forward."
The university, which is not permitted to use state money to subsidize parking, had no alternative other than building a deck, even though deck parking spaces are several times more expensive than surface spots. "Our campus is landlocked, so we have to build up -- not out -- to accommodate more vehicles," Nelms explained.
The deck will feature separate public and cardholder access, round-the-clock surveillance, extra lighting and an attendant during business hours. Campus shuttles will arrive every 15 minutes at the deck between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to transport passengers around campus.
The deck ultimately also will feature a new bookstore and a police substation, but those won't be ready for the beginning of the school year. "The contractor will continue working on the front, where the book store will be, after the deck opens," Abegunrin said. "It should take a few more months for them to finish that work."
The parking deck is the first of a number of massive construction projects at NCCU to come online. Also on schedule, Abegunrin said, are a new residence hall, slated to open in May 2011, and the university's new nursing school, scheduled to be ready by July 2011.
The New York City Port Authority is staring down independent parking lot owners, demanding the thriving businesses pay for the privilege of operating near area airports. The PA, which operates Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports, fired off a letter in March to nearly 30 off-airport parking businesses. They want them to fork over an "annual fee" of $200 per parking space.
That's a tax by any other name, say miffed parking lot operators who are balking at the fee. "We're out of business at that point," said Jim Sparro, co-owner of JFK Long Term Parking, which opened in June.
Sparro's lot has 408 spaces, meaning the fees would cost him $81,600 a year. "We're trying to reach a compromise," Sparro, 60, said. "But if you don't go along with them, then there's retaliation."
Industry officials say parking lot owners pay access fees at other airports, including Atlanta and Dallas/Fort Worth, which charge businesses 10% of their gross revenue. Port Authority officials said they were negotiating with the businesses and hoped to reach an agreement on "an equitable fee structure." While the haggling over fees crawls on, customers in Queens and Newark are still flocking to off-site lots for discounts.
"It's a competitive price and it's convenient," said Ryan Murphy, 32, of Bronxville, who travels every weekend for business and recently started using JFK Long Term Parking. Jose Villavicencio, 48, from Woodside, Queens, said he was the first customer at SmartPark JFK, when it opened last year. "It's the best price," Villavicencio said. "I was so happy."
Both SmartPark JFK and JFK Long Term Parking charge $13.95 a day plus tax, and provide a van to and from terminals. The PA's long-term lot at Kennedy Airport is large and requires passengers to take a train or a bus after parking. The PA charges $18 for the first day and $6 for each additional eight-hour period.
In the March letter, the Port Authority said it had control of all commercial enterprise at the airports, and even threatened to charge van drivers for the independent lots with a crime. The agency said that if operators didn't get prior approval, shuttling passengers to the terminals could be deemed "criminal trespass."
The issue is not only about control, it's also about money. PA spokesman Ron Marsico said the agency has "seen steep revenue decline during the recession." Some owners stand ready to chip in. "I don't have a problem paying my fair share," said Adam Smith, president of SmartPark JFK. But paying the Port Authority would be like paying a rival. "They are my No. 1 competitor," Smith said.
Police say a lack of training appears to be responsible for the assault on a young security guard at the city parking garage last week. "This person didn't know what they were doing," said Central Business District Commander, Lt. Larry Faulkner.
Around 3 a.m. July 10, a 20-year-old security guard, on her second night on the job, was beaten and robbed at the garage next to City Hall. The Richmond, Ind., woman was semiconscious when she was found by officers and later told police that two men in a Red Pontiac attacked her after she approached them to see if they needed assistance. The two men, who have not been caught, allegedly struck her in the face, kicked her while she was on the ground, and slammed her head into the concrete floor.
"If you're by yourself without any means to defend yourself, you need to call police and tell them what you observed," Faulkner said. "Even if one of my police officers approached those guys without letting dispatch know, they're putting themselves in danger."
A representative for Ampco System Parking, which manages the garage and others downtown, said they leave security training to a hired firm, Brantley Security, which could not be reached for comment.
"We work in conjunction with the city to determine what the security needs are," said Tony Mitchell, Ampco spokesperson.
Faulkner said he was under the impression that the city told the security company when they started that this was a place where a guard would need to pay close attention to safety.
City spokesman Tom Biedenharn said the city's contract with the parking management firm states that they must provide adequate security. He said the city doesn't work directly with the security company.
Although there have only been two other crimes reported in the 24-hour garage in the past two years - a vandalized car and a trespassing charge - a look at eight other downtown garages revealed that only one other facility has filed a police report in that time period, a theft from a vehicle.
Faulkner said last week's incident emphasizes the need to properly match the level of security to a specific location.
Biedenharn said Dayton police are currently performing a security assessment of the garage, stopping by often to determine if changes in the level of security need to be made.
Marathon attorney Richard Warner and Vice Mayor Mike Cinque appear to be losing their fight to save coveted Overseas Highway parking spaces. The two have been at odds with the state departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection because the state's Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail plans eliminate valuable parking in front of Cinque's Stuffed Pig Restaurant and the former Overseas Lounge property Warner represents.
DEP representative Jena Brooks appeared before the Marathon City Council Tuesday and, after Warner gave her an overly glowing introduction, proceeded to voice support for DOT's decision to eliminate the parking. "From our perspective, we support DOT because it would be a safety hazard if you have people backing up out of there with the trail. I don't want to sound like we don't support DOT in that process," said Brooks, who heads DEP's Office of Greenways and Trails.
Brooks apparently visited the Keys on her own after hearing of resident complaints about the Heritage Trail. She said landscaping can be changed, but not its placement. "We did not realize that the businesses would see the landscaping as onerous. As it turns out, in some cases, some businesses already have nice landscaping. We never intended to create a visual barrier. The landscaping we'd chosen was to accent and highlight the business," Brooks said.
Cinque's issues with DOT are well documented, but he went to great lengths Tuesday to reiterate them. In fact, he even stepped down from his seat on the dais and addressed the City Council as a private citizen. Cinque blasted DOT for choosing particular areas where the trail will be wider and further off the road than anywhere else. It's slated to be 8 feet wide and 13 feet off the road in front of the Stuffed Pig and Overseas Lounge, between 35th and 37th streets.
That means the right of way customers have used for decades in front of both properties will be eliminated. "FDOT has never wanted to cooperate with the local government down here," Cinque said. Councilman Dick Ramsay was also critical. He offered to meet with Brooks Wednesday at the Stuffed Pig to discuss the parking situation. Brooks again said she has no say on the parking spots.
"The parking goes away; I can't do anything about that. I have no control over that. We definitely need the trail there. It connects to everything else along the way. I'm not sure what else I can do on this particular project," she said. Local DOT representative Patty Ivey attended the meeting but did not speak.
When complete, the Overseas Heritage Trail will run from Key Largo to Stock Island. It's designed as a multi-use bicycle and pedestrian path that includes educational kiosks, picnic areas, scenic overlooks, fishing piers and boat ramps. Much of the trail, whose lead agency is DEP, is already complete in Islamorada and the Lower Keys.
In a city blessed with every variety of public transportation, car traffic is awful and parking is even worse. Yet some people still insist, against all logic, on owning a car.
That may sound familiar, but the city in question is not New York; it's Hoboken, N.J., just a short swim to the west - the land of "restaurants, bars and double-parked cars." To ease that congestion, the city has initiated a bold new experiment: It has scattered a few dozen stylish new cars around town, and left them there for residents to share. Anyone who needs a set of wheels can more or less help himself.
Putting more cars on the street might seem like an odd way to reduce congestion, but the hope is that once Hobokenites try car sharing, they will decide against car owning. It's not as unlikely as it sounds.
The program, called Corner Cars, is based on the rent-by-the-hour model that companies like Zipcar and Hertz have been offering for years. In other cities, however, those cars are stored deep in parking garages or clustered in a few neighborhoods. Hoboken's shared cars are parked on the street, in special bright green spots that appear every few blocks so they are never far out of sight or mind.
Connect by Hertz, which offered the winning bid to run the program, charges drivers $5 to $16 an hour to use the cars (plus 7 percent sales tax and a $5 New Jersey "domestic security fee"; gas is included). But it charges Hoboken nothing. In fact, it pays the city for the opportunity.
If you've ever used one of these rent-by-the-hour services, the basics will be familiar. Sign up online to get an electronic card in the mail. Then make your reservation, find your car in its assigned space, wave your card by a reader mounted inside the windshield and head off to Ikea.
I found lots of available rentals, even just a few days before the Fourth of July weekend. Setting out with Tom Vanderbilt, author of "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)," my first stop was a Toyota Yaris, at Adams and Eighth Streets. There's something a little strange about walking up to a car you've never seen before and simply letting yourself in. But we got over it. Next up was a Toyota Prius, at Monroe and Eighth, which we drove up by Frank Sinatra Park to admire the view. Later we zipped around in a Mini Cooper. When we were done with each car, we just parked it in the same spot where we'd found it and walked away.
All in all, it's about as convenient as car rental could ever be. Corner Cars, the brainchild of Ian Sacs, Hoboken's enthusiastic director of parking and transportation, is only a few weeks old, with just a couple of hundred users so far. It's too soon to measure any impact. But in other communities, studies have shown that for every car that can be rented by the hour, 6 to 20 drivers have liked the experience so much, they've given up the car they owned. Across the country there is even a growing market in peer-to-peer car sharing - informal networks of car owners and car needers with no corporation to mediate.
"I think the part that's really fascinating," says Susan Shaheen, co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, "is the behavioral response of users. What is it about car sharing that causes people to sell their cars or forfeit a car?" she said.
The expense of car ownership is part of it, but she also sees a connection to larger social forces - "a growing culture of sharing," of "social networks and the creation of communities through instant information."
Mr. Vanderbilt likened it to the difference between paying to acquire and "park" a huge collection of CDs and simply streaming the music you want, when you want it, from the Internet. So could something like Corner Cars work in New York? Well, it's complicated.
Alternate side of the street parking would be one obstacle. So would the great variety in New York's neighborhoods, not all of which are good candidates for this service. The most obvious obstacle is that in New York, space comes at a premium. Hoboken lets Hertz have those curbside parking spots for $100 a month each. But in New York? Please, that's less than the cost of some pedicures.
How much more would a rental company be willing to pay? Or would
someone else with an interest in seeing fewer cars on the street -
like real estate developers, who might like to build smaller
garages in their buildings - agree to kick in the
There is another obstacle to car sharing in New York, perhaps the biggest of all. Given the paucity of street parking, the expense of garage parking, the traffic, the insurance costs and the toll to vehicle and psyche, New York car owners who aren't motivated by true need must be motivated by some very strong force of will. So strong, perhaps, that it is impervious to reason. Is there any dollars-and-cents argument that could persuade New York's discretionary drivers to give up their cars?
"I asked that question back when I was in city government in the '70s and '80s," said Sam Schwartz, the transportation engineer who was once New York's deputy commissioner of transportation. "In the '80s we did several focus groups and we tried to find out what made them drive. And a very common theme is that they felt they were smarter than the people down in the tube. They're the Brahmins. They deserve it." He added, "I never heard of it anywhere else."
Perhaps New York will try an experiment like Hoboken's. Or maybe New Yorkers get the traffic problems they deserve.
An Oklahoma invention that's swallowed plenty of silver coins over the years is marking its diamond anniversary. Carl Magee of Oklahoma City invented the parking meter after the Chamber of Commerce asked him to fix traffic problems downtown.
He said his design was basically a clock with a spring that customers would wind. Oklahoma City installed dozens of the devices, which helped increase profits at downtown businesses and city revenues.
There are now millions of parking meters being used all over the world. Magee's original is on display at the Oklahoma History Center.
In the wake of the real estate collapse, the most marketable use these days for some land in downtown Tampa may be - parking. Two brothers who became the kings of downtown Tampa parking are becoming downtown land barons as well, snapping up property at a fraction of its peak price.
Hillsborough County land records show that entities controlled by Jason and John Accardi have paid at least $10 million for four pieces of land in the downtown core and the Channel District since fall 2007. And, they don't appear to be letting up.
A few years ago, developers dreamed of luxury condos or office towers on seemingly every corner in downtown. But these sky-high dreams fell in the real estate bust, the properties were foreclosed upon and now are just distressed bank assets.
That has created opportunities for people like the Accardis, the owners of Seven One Seven Parking Enterprises who have the money to buy up failed condo land and sit tight until real estate booms again. Better still to put a parking lot there and generate cash flow while you wait.
Last week, Jason Accardi went after his latest target, unsuccessfully bidding $1.8 million for a spot in the Channel District where a developer once dreamed of a 40-story condo. "We don't get that many downtown sales every year, but inevitably of the three or four sales we get every year, they're (the Accardis) involved in two or more," said Tim Wilmath, director of valuation for the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser. "I give them credit, they're taking risks."
The Accardis are well known in the real estate world, but not outside of it. The two brothers got into the parking business while students at Florida State University. Since then, Tampa-based Seven One Seven has grown bigger than many people realize.
It counts more than 3,000 employees including parking lot attendants, valet attendants, shuttle bus drivers and hotel concierges. It operates in at least 14 states. Major parking clients include International Plaza mall, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Louisiana State and Ohio State universities.
Locally, it may operate as many as 40 parking lots or garages in downtown Tampa alone, according to a database from the city's parking division. All told, it manages more than 100 lots or garages around the Tampa Bay area, especially in Ybor City, with more than 250 locations nationwide.
Known to be publicity shy, the Accardis gave a written statement about their business and investments, but wouldn't sit for an interview. People who've done business with them describe the brothers as aggressive businessmen.
For years, Tampa attorney Tom Scarritt and some investors have owned land across from the Times Forum, where a club called Hot Tuna sits. The Accardis began pursuing the land for a special event lot and never let up. Eventually, an opportunity arose, Scarritt allowed Seven One Seven to operate a lot there, and he's been happy with their performance, he said. "They were aggressive in pursuing a deal with us," Scarritt said. "They spoke to me over a period of years."
Real estate folks are abuzz lately at how acquisitive they've become. The Accardis didn't say what they plan to do with their new land purchases, but people assume they will sell it as soon as the real estate market improves, generating some parking income in the meantime.
In their written statement, Jason Accardi says he has the community's interests in mind. "We believe that this is an opportunity to give back to our community and to make a powerful impact by improving Tampa's downtown and historic districts one building or lot at a time," Accardi said in the statement. "Most importantly, my brother and I believe in the future of Tampa Bay."
Among their purchases since fall 2007:
• The old Maas Bros. building. The Accardis and another investor bought up this spot in the 600 block of North Franklin Street for $2.7 million late last year. It had sold for $11 million three years earlier. At one time, a group called Wood Partners had planned to build a 33-story condo tower there.
• East Twiggs Street. Just east of the Hillsborough County Courthouse, an entity controlled by the Accardis bought several adjacent parcels for about $5 million in December 2008. The same land went for more than $9 million in 2006, land records show. One plan called for a 900,000-square-foot office building there, said Bruce Erhardt, a land broker for real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.
• Channel District land. Last week, the Accardis bid $1.8 million in a foreclosure sale for land across from the St. Pete Times Forum. Eventually, the bank that holds the mortgage on the land, Fifth Third, took it back by bidding $2 million. Formerly home to Newk's Cafe, a developer once dreamed of building the luxury Plaza at Channelside condo tower there. Its previous purchase price: $7.5 million in 2007.
At least one of their moves - their purchase of the Maas Bros. property - didn't go over well with some city leaders.
Last month, then-Tampa City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena called the loss of the historic Maas Bros. building and its new use as a parking lot, "painful." At least one other downtown building, across from the Tampa Convention Center, has also been razed and replaced with a parking lot lately.
Before becoming a county commission candidate, Saul-Sena asked city staff to look into new requirements for special event parking lots, which often are unpaved and have no landscaping. Christine Burdick, head of the not-for-profit Tampa Downtown Partnership, said a parking lot is not the best use of the old Maas Bros. land long-term, but it will work for now. She sees a silver lining. "The good news is downtown Tampa has more than average and adequate parking," she said.
The City of Cincinnati is raising parking rates while allowing millions of dollars in unpaid tickets to go uncollected. In two weeks, parking downtown for $1 will be a thing of the past. Parking fares will increase to $2. Around this time last summer, however, the city's budget office acknowledged $6.2 million in unpaid parking fines from 2005 to 2008.
City administrators said in the last couple of months, they contracted with a collection agency that has recovered about $14,000.
That effort is not enough for some Cincinnatians, however. Commuter Arturo Franco said the city needs to act faster. "They need to go and get that money before they start raising the meters for the people that have nothing to do with it," Franco said.
Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Monzel said the city is trying. "If we can even get a couple million dollars, it'll help us with this tough budget situation that we're also going to be facing this fall," Monzel said.
The city said it is too soon to say with certainty if the rate of return will produce those dreamed-of millions. But city administrators point out a lot of revenue from parking meter violations comes from out-of-state licenses and it would cost them more to pursue those fines than they would take in.
Park 'n' Bike Offers Deal To
KWQC-TV - Davenport
July 14, 2010
Instead of lines of cars during rush hour, you may start seeing more bicycles in downtown Davenport. A new effort called the "Park 'n' Bike" is under way as construction on the Moline bridge to the Rock Island Arsenal continues to snarl traffic in Davenport.
The city of Davenport wants to alleviate some of the long lines on its side of the Government Bridge. So, city officials are offering arsenal workers a discount to park their cars in a nearby city parking ramp and then bike across the bridge to the island.
Normally it would cost up to $7.50 a day to park. But for arsenal employees, it will only cost about a dollar. "They can park in here, drive here and hop on their bikes and bike the rest of the way to the arsenal," says Eric West of Davenport Parking Systems.
To get the discount, arsenal employees need to bring their ID to the RiverCenter Parking Ramp located off Second Street.
Part of the fine print in solar power systems is that whatever wattage number is quoted, it is usually "peak watts,'' or the amount of electricity that the panel would deliver when the sun is directly overhead. For the rest of the daylight hours, the output is lower; a graph showing minute-by-minute production resembles a sharp mountain peak.
One way to do better is to mount the panel on a metal backbone and let it tilt over the course of the day, keeping itself pointed towards the sun from sunrise to sunset. This is called a single-axis tracker. Better yet is a two-axis tracker, which also adjusts the angle to compensate for how high the sun is in the sky. Then the graph showing output would resemble a plateau. But all of this adds cost.
Envision Solar, a San Diego company, has found a niche in the solar world by building shaded parking areas with solar panels fixed to the roofs. The panels do not track the sun, but they are angled to take advantage of it: they are usually tilted to the south.
But parking lot designers seldom take solar orientation into account when painting the stripes for the parking spaces; the company has sometimes had to realign the parking stalls so that the roofs will have good solar orientation, with the rows of cars running east-west. In the ideal configuration, said Robert Noble, an architect who founded the firm and is its chief executive, the sun rises in the windshield and sets in the back window, or vice versa.
Now Envision is trying out another idea. On Wednesday, it will
announce that with financing from the state of Pennsylvania, it is
trying out a "solar tree" mounted on a gimbal, a mechanical device
with rings mounted on axes at right angles to each
It can track both east to west and north to south and is intended for parking lots. It does not provide shade as reliably, but it does produce about 20 percent more electricity than a fixed panel, turning the peak into more of a plateau. In the video animation above, the patterns on the panels look a bit like sunflowers.
Mr. Noble calls it "solar forestation."
The company is pairing the solar tree with batteries built by Axion of New Castle, Pa., so that the installation can deliver current after sunset. The two technologies, solar tracking and battery storage, are independent of each other, however.
Much depends on how much maintenance the tracking system will require, but it could make many of today's rooftop solar arrays obsolete by delivering more electricity from each panel, Mr. Noble said.
But covered parking has other benefits, some of which would be preserved by the solar trees. They require electric cables laid in trenches, affording an opportunity to set up charging stations for electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids, he pointed out. And if a driver can charge up at work as well as at home, the daily range of a car may be doubled, he said.
Energy from the panels will flow back into the power grid, and if charging stations are installed, they will draw energy from the grid. That way electric cars can charge when it is cloudy or dark.
What is more, Mr. Noble said, "you can charge more for shaded parking."
Salt Lake City could have a solution to its parking problems. There is a new proposal on the table calling for automatic parking meters. The new meters would be credit operated, instead of using cash or coins. The cost to install the new machines is estimated at around $7 million.
With the new design, some may even be able to tell when you have not paid. City council members said they no longer want you to insert coins in the slot, but instead, swipe your card in the reader. This new system is an effort to make sure you pay for parking, and pay on time.
The city said that they are overwhelmed trying to maintain 2300 meters. City Council President Martin said he is in favor of the new renovations.
Some of the hi-tech meters being discussed include: debit card meters and that have sensors that may be able to determine if the meter has been paid or how much meter time is left.
Martin said things are just in the discussion phases, but the city believes the meters will make an additional $2 to $3 million per year.
Police in Rehoboth Beach said someone is stealing coin operated parking meters throughout the city and they don't know exactly why.
At least seven meter heads have disappeared from their posts in
the past three weeks, according to Rehoboth Beach Police Chief. The
meters were removed from several different streets; the posts did
not appear to be damaged indicating someone took time to remove the
meter heads, Banks said.
The older, coin operated meters are emptied routinely and likely did not carry a lot of change, Banks said. However, the city estimates replacing the meter heads will cost about $350 each. Removing each meter likely took at least one minute, the chief said. Police are hoping someone saw something during that time.
"Somebody that's taking our meters is doing it for one of two reasons: either for theft to take the money from within or just taking it as a souvenir," Banks said.
Early Sunday morning, someone stole a parking fine payment box on Wilmington Avenue that likely had payments inside, police said. Banks said police are reviewing footage from a nearby surveillance camera that shows several men involved in the crime. The chief said he does not think the payment box theft is related to the meter thefts. People who made payments at the Wilmington Avenue location on Saturday should check with the Parking Division to make sure their payment was processed, Banks said.
The stolen meters have since been replaced and police said they've increased patrols in areas where meters were taken. Banks said it's been several years since the city had a problem with parking meter thefts.
This past February, NBCLA exposed one major parking trick: able-bodied motorists are illegally using other people's disabled placards to hog parking meters. A placard allows you to park free at a meter all day. We found that in parts of downtown LA, for example, about 80 percent of the meters were being monopolized by people using disabled placards.
Many of them were business owners who wanted to park free all day in front of their stores. After our February investigation, the California DMV did a sting operation in the area, issuing 41 criminal citations for placard misuse.
Now, four months later, we've returned to the area, and we've uncovered some new tricks people are using to get free meter parking. We found numerous food vendors parking their carts all day long, at two-hour meters. Many of them appear to have tickets on their windshields, as if they've been cited for violating the two-hour parking limit.
But NBCLA inspected these tickets closer and found many of them are just empty ticket envelopes, or tickets that were issued days or weeks earlier. Sources tell NBCLA that vendors often put these bogus tickets on their vehicles to make it look like they've already been cited, so traffic officers won't ticket them. We found something else: city workers reserving parking meters for food vendors.
Day after day, we saw Department of Water and Power employees using cones to block off parking meters in front of their power station on Santee Street in LA's Fashion District. Then we see a hot dog vendor pull in, watch the workers move the cones, and the vendor parks there all day in front of the station.
One worker admitted to NBCLA he has been reserving spots for vendors for years. A DWP spokesman tells NBCLA it's wrong of the employees to reserve parking for vendors, but that they were doing it out of kindness.
The most common form of parking cheating we found is still fraudulent use of disabled placards, and it's not just in downtown. More than half the cars we surveyed in Beverly Hills have disabled placards. Our investigation found many of these drivers are using placards that aren't theirs.
So one recent morning, DMV agents moved in on Beverly Hills. In just a few hours, the DMV issued 13 criminal citations to Porsches, BMWs and other Beverly Hills cars.
The DMV also decided to pay a return visit to downtown, where we exposed rampant placard fraud last February. They found that the fraud is still occurring. In one morning, they issued 16 citations to downtown drivers caught using other people's placards. One business owner who was cited admitted to NBCLA that he bought his placard on the streets for $80.
Across the LA area, parking meter prices are going up, and parking spaces are becoming more scarce. So authorities expect the problem of placard abuse isn't going to get better any time soon. But the DMV promises to keep doing its sting operations and keep catching placard cheaters.
The Detroit Edison Co. is planning to build a $1 million solar installation on the roof of a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan parking structure in downtown Detroit. The 200-kilowatt photovoltaic system will cover 31,000 square feet of the 42,000-square-foot roof and should begin operating next spring, under a 20-year agreement signed by Edison and Blue Cross.
The installation is part of Edison's $100 million SolarCurrents pilot program in which the utility is installing photovoltaic systems on customer rooftops or property throughout Southeast Michigan to generate electricity.
The solar energy systems are installed, owned and operated by Edison, while participating customers get an annual credit on their energy bill as well as a one-time, upfront construction payment to cover any inconvenience during installation.
The Blue Cross system is expected to generate about 20 percent of the base power needed for Blue Cross' downtown campus.
The green light was given years ago to a centralized location for Oahu traffic management, but today marks the first step toward building the ambitious project aimed at responding in real time to traffic woes.
Construction for the Joint Traffic Management Center, projected to cost more than $100 million, begins today with groundbreaking for a 418-stall, five-story parking garage on Alapai Street. The garage project costs about $20 million of city money.
After the garage, the next two phases will bring a number of traffic-related agencies under one roof. The ultimate goal is real-time traffic management.
"That's where we can monitor traffic flows as it goes and intercede ourselves to help traffic improve," said Wayne Yoshioka, director for the city Department of Transportation Services.
Currently the city has traffic light timing programs for different times of the day -- morning, midday, rush hour and night traffic. By integrating city functions with the state Department of Transportation's monitoring, city officials will be able to create a wider variety of timing schemes and switch them on the fly.
"This integration would be not only through cameras, but other devices like speed sensors," Yoshioka said. The connectivity will also seek to improve accident response times, communication between the agencies and disaster preparedness.
The city has been planning for the center since 2004. In 2007, preliminary planning called for a 10-story building, including parking in the building. The cost projection then was about $73 million.
The design of the traffic center has yet to be finalized. Yoshioka said the building will be "four or five" stories tall.
The city decided to separate the parking and office spaces due to security concerns. The building will house space for Emergency Medical Services, the Honolulu Police Department, the state DOT and the Department of Emergency Management, which is currently in the basement of the Frank Fasi Municipal Building. The building's first phase, with an undetermined start date, will include city transportation services, fire and emergency officials.
The second phase will move the city's Department of Emergency Management out of the Fasi building and incorporate the Police Department's Traffic Division. "With the parking separate from the building, it added a lot to reduce the complexity of security, and it has simplified the design considerably," Yoshioka said.
The contract for the parking garage has been awarded to Hawaiian Dredging. Anbe, Aruga & Ishizu, Architects Inc. has been selected for the building's design.
Today's groundbreaking will also mark the beginning of work on an improved Alapai Transit Center, in accordance with the city's bicycle master plan. The existing transit center will be moved further inland to make way for a multiuse bicycle path between Alapai and Kealamakai streets. The transit center move costs about $5 million, about half coming from federal highway funding.
The area where the traffic center will be built used to be the bus barn for Honolulu Rapid Transit during the 1950s, then owned by the late Harry Weinberg. When former Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi started a public transit system, the city bought the Alapai lot from Weinberg through federal funding.
"When that was no longer used, the bus barn was torn down, revealing this big open area," Yoshioka said. "At that time we acquired the property using federal funds."
Yoshioka said a stipulation to obtaining the funding requires the city to use the property for only transportation purposes. The city will be seeking federal funding for the rest of the project, he said.
"It's clear that the time has arrived for this project," Yoshioka said. "Our traffic management system right now works very well, but when we go to the JTMC, we'll have the advantage of having the other first responders there with us."
The Washington County Quorum Court took a gamble back in February regarding how they plan to pay for the new parking deck at the court house, and it turns out the gamble paid off, the county is expected to save more than one million dollars.
"Whichever way we vote we're doing it for the county, sometimes we vote it the right way for the county, sometimes we didn't," said Barbara Fitzpatrick, who is one of nine justices of the peace to vote to pay for the parking deck as it was being built.
The other option was to pay $2.85 million up front for the remainder of the project and be done with it without having to worry about any extra costs.
It turns out the project is only expected to cost $1.7 million. "I'm totally, totally delighted with the news," said Fitzpatrick.
The wildcard in the project was the 93 foundation piers. Due to unpredictable voids and underground rock formations the piers were going to cost more than expected, but no one knew exactly how much. Rough estimates were $1.5 to $2.5 million, but depending what other unforeseen problems occur it could be more. This made the Quorum Court's decision such a gamble.
Fitzpatrick said it's a good thing the gamble paid off, because next year the county is projected to lose two million dollars in lost tax revenue. "We know that next year is going to be tough, we know that with census redistricting we know we are going to lose a percent of the city sales tax," said Fitzpatrick.
She said if the Quorum Court voted to pay the $2.85 million up front there would have had to of been budget cutbacks, such as furloughs or taking back employee pay raises.
As downtown's parking problem lingers, the union representing the city's laid-off parking attendants questions whether a magistrate's leniency on parking violators cost the workers their jobs.
The city laid off its two parking-enforcement attendants March 31 as part of citywide budget cuts. As part of their duties, the attendants patrolled the public square to make sure that vehicles did not stay parked for longer than the three hours allowed by city ordinance.
The city does not have parking meters, and downtown business owners have said that since the layoffs, they've seen more downtown employees and visitors parking on the square all day, taking spots away from customers.
A Dispatch analysis of parking violations filed with Licking County Municipal Court last year found that more than 2,500 parking citations were written. If all the fines had been collected, they would have totaled more than $148,000 - more than enough to pay the attendants' salaries of roughly $34,000 before benefits.
But more than $78,000 worth of fines was suspended - either reduced or dismissed -- and the city collected a little more than $56,700 for tickets written in 2009.
"One thing you can say with certainty is that, if they had collected that money, they could have used it to fill at least one of these positions," said Bill DeVore, a staff representative for the Columbus regional office of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Wayne Brown, the municipal-court magistrate who serves as the parking-violations hearing officer, said he did not think it was possible to make generalizations from the number of dismissed fines. As a hearing officer, he said, his job is to listen to each person's reasons and weigh the circumstances of each case before making a determination.
"If people come in and tell me they have a hardship, it is within my power to take that into account," Brown said.
Most of the reduced and dismissed fines were for vehicles illegally parked in disabled parking spots. About 440 of the $250 citations were issued by parking attendants last year. In the end, fewer than 100 people were charged the full fine.
City ordinances allow the hearing officer to reduce the fine for people who fail to display a valid placard to $25. Court records show that about a quarter of the disabled-parking-spot violations issued last year were reduced to that amount.
Brown estimated that more than 90 percent of the people who appealed tickets for illegally parking in a disabled parking spot were, in fact, disabled and forgot to display a valid permit.
"Anyone who blatantly parked there for convenience was found guilty and fined the total amount. And they should be," he said.
Mayor Bob Diebold said city officials can do little about the situation because the city lacks the money to rehire the attendants. "If we had all that revenue in, we certainly would want to keep an attendant on," he said of the suspended fines.
He said the loss of the attendants has hurt parking enforcement, but he was in no position to challenge a judge's discretion about the handling of parking violations.
Virginia Patterson said that downtown's parking problem was one of several reasons she closed her Memory Lane antiques store last month. She said she thinks downtown Newark has a lot of potential, but one of her frustrations was that her customers could never find parking in front of her building.
"What bothered me is that there was a parking issue years ago that the Downtown Newark Association worked with the city to address," she said. "Now, things are worse than they ever were before."
Wawa manager Lynn Kallas is tired of exchanging customers' dollars for quarters to feed their parking meters. "Everyone and their brother comes in here asking for quarters to fill their meters. I need my quarters, too," said Kallas, 57. "They do this to all the local businesses." Thanks to Wildwood's new call-to-pay method, the popular request may be a thing of the past.
On July 1, Wildwood initiated a new meter option through a partnership with iControl Mobile Payment Solutions' Cell Parking Service. Instead of feeding meters, drivers pay by calling the number on the meter's red sticker.
In other words, beachgoers no longer have to tread the mile back to their cars to buy more sun time. Nor do drivers have to dig between seat cushions, or beg store owners for coins.
Kallas now deters beachgoers from asking for change with a photo slipped underneath a clear mat on the cashier's counter. In the photo, a young woman stands curbside and points to a parking meter with a red sticker on it.
Cell Parking is currently in use in several Canadian cities, as well as Petoskey, Mich., and West Palm Beach, Fla. Wildwood Mayor Gary DeMarzo first saw the technology while vacationing in West Palm and contacted the company, based in Rockville, Md.
The system is simple, said Katie Ferrara, Wildwood's project manager. A driver calls the sticker number to initiate parking privileges and calls back to end them. That's it. The cost is a minimum of $1 for an hour to a maximum $8 for eight hours. Using quarters, which remains an option, the minimum time is 15 minutes.
First-time users have to set up an account online by providing credit-card information as explained on the sticker, Ferrara said. After that, parking is convenient and hassle-free. Drivers who fail to cancel a parking stint risk paying the maximum $8, she said. On the flip side, they can park for hours on end without worrying about tickets.
Another incentive to give it a try, Ferrara said, is that during the two-week trial phase, which lasts until Friday, the cost for first timers is on the city. Drivers must still call the number, but they will be notified that the city has picked up the tab. "It's user-friendly, even for people who aren't technology savvy," Ferrara said. "It's like the E-ZPass of parking."
To monitor meter compliance, parking-enforcement officers have a special cell-phone device purchased by the city. Wildwood has about 1,200 meters, Ferrara said. However, the city is adding more to rev up revenue (stickers included). About 950 meters have the new phone method.
On July 1, its opening day, 45 drivers used the system. On July 3, Saturday of the holiday weekend, 232 people called to park.
Ferrara said she had heard mostly positive reactions to the new meters, and to the new-age payment method, including one from a local motel owner who said he was tired of guests bringing multiple cars and stationing them all weekend on the perimeter of his place, where meters were just added.
Other New Jersey towns, including Haddonfield and Wildwood Crest, have called Wildwood to inquire about the system.
Amie Devero, executive vice president of iControl, said she anticipated branching out. "We would like our customers to be able to travel to Philadelphia or any beach town and use their account," Devero said. "It's so inconvenient to fish for quarters."
However, some Wildwood store owners and seasonal renters are not happy about having to pay for a spot that once was free.
Ann Healey, 70, who spends April to October in her Wildwood condo, complained about the city's decision to add meters near homes. She called the call-to-pay method a corrupt incentive to get more money.
"It's ridiculous. I don't like it at all," Healey said. "You're telling me I have to pay $8 a night to park on my street?" She said she planned to attend the next town meeting to argue against the installations. "It's not fair," she said. "Next they are going to charge us to breathe the air."
Condo owner Peg Brennan of Roxborough agreed with Healey about residential meters and also said she felt for store owners who may lose customers because drivers will occupy meter spots for eight hours at a time.
Jackie Mikuski, co-owner of Key West Cafe at Atlantic and Andrews Streets, said the call-to-pay meters would both hurt and help. "True, the spots won't turn as often, but it's convenient," she said. "Just make sure you remember to call and end it." Mikuski said she often helped out her diners by giving them quarters to park. On July 7, she helped a diner in a new way.
"I just helped a man from Russia figure out how to use the call-to-pay option," she said. "As long as they don't charge us to go on the beach, then no complaints here."
Motorists parking at five city garages will have a new tool at their disposal to pay for their spots. Under a two-year pilot program, drivers will be able to use their Clipper card at The City's Japan Center, North Beach, Vallejo, Performing Arts and Mission-Bartlett garages.
The Clipper card, formerly known as TransLink, is the one-stop media fare that regional officials say will one day be available on all 26 different transit agencies in the Bay Area. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional body in charge of managing the Clipper card, is also leading a charge to have the card pay for other travel services, such as car parking. On Friday, the MTC's Operations Committee approved a $1.7 million contract amendment to create the Clipper pilot program in the five San Francisco garages.
Paul Rose, spokesman for the Municipal Transportation Agency, the city department in charge of the five San Francisco facilities, said the pilot program will determine whether the agency should roll out with Clipper card payments in other garages.
Rose said the MTA is still determining the start date of the pilot program, but once it's launched, the parking feature will be available to anyone with a Clipper card who uses the five garages.
Although it has been in the works for over two decades, the Clipper card is only now beginning to be implemented on local transit vehicles. Five different transit operators, including the MTA and BART, accept the cards.
The MTA recorded an average of 18,575 weekday boardings of passengers using the Clipper card in the month of May, a total that represents a little less than 3 percent of the agency's total ridership of 700,000.
The Clipper card pilot program is one of many new parking policies the MTA is currently developing. The agency is also experimenting with longer paid meter times, variable pricing based on parking demand, and is considering extending meter enforcement on Sundays and late-night weekdays.
Earlier this year, the city conducted its first-ever "parking census," which determined that San Francisco had about 441,000 available paid and unpaid parking spots. Currently, about 25,000 of those spots have meters, although the MTA plans to add 1,300 new meters in January.
A long-awaited development blueprint for the "heart" of downtown is close to final adoption after the City Council on Tuesday certified the final environmental impact report for the Locust Street/Mt. Diablo Boulevard Specific Plan.
The plan focuses on 24 parcels of underdeveloped land across the street from stores such as Cost Plus World Market and Tiffany's. It would pave the way for more than 200,000 square feet of new retail, office and residential space, approximately 555 new parking spaces (including a new public parking garage) and a network of new public pedestrian walking paths and courtyards. It is set to be adopted on the council's consent calender July 20.
The plan spells out - in some cases, changes - the zoning, density, height and types of development allowed on 5.3 acres east of California Boulevard, west of North Main and north of Mt. Diablo Boulevard. The plan has been hammered out over the past six years. Council members made a few changes over the last few months, saying they didn't want the plan so specific and rigid that it discouraged development.
One change was to allow a maximum density on a potential hotel site. The plan proposes two intersections - Locust Street at Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Cypress Street at California Boulevard - where a small hotel could be built. City leaders have been aching for a downtown hotel for years.
A McDonald's, Chevron station, Big 5 Sporting Goods,an automotive repair shop and the former Mark Morris Tires site are among the businesses targeted for redevelopment. Owners of the Mark Morris site recently began updating the 7,063-square-foot building and are trying to lease it for about $44,000 a month.
It's unclear whether this will have any effect on future major redevelopment.
The plan also paves the way for the city to sale its 15-space parking lot at the corner of Mt. Diablo and Main Street. This sale, which would bring in an estimated $3 million. The council decided that once the 15-space lot was taken away the city should make up for those spaces by putting around $400,000 of the money in the downtown parking and enhancement fund. This was especially important to Councilman Kish Rajan, who said it was important to replace parking that is taken away downtown.
Mayor Sue Rainey agreed. "When we sell a parking lot citizens will be saying 'what are you doing?' " she said.
That money could be used to help pay for the 335-parking-space, nine-level garage in the center of the block between North California Boulevard and Locust Street, currently occupied by portions Chevron, Big 5 and a parking lot. The garage could be built by the city, a private developer or a mix of both.
The fate of all of this development depends on developers, leases and the desires of property owners. For example, nothing would kick McDonald's out, but developers might pay top dollar for the restaurant's property and build a more profitable project allowed by the plan's zoning and density changes.
While the plan is likely to be adopted July 20, there are still unanswered questions. The council wanted to encourage restaurants with "open air" dining, but they would require a zoning ordinance amendment and call into question what is allowed under Measure A, the voter-approved limitation on building heights.
Any change to the zoning amendment will have to be brought back. But Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Silva said she is concerned any kind of open air restaurant atop a building already at the height limit might not conform to Measure A.
"There may be a fine line "... a line that may not be acceptable to those who first brought Measure A," she said.
City staff said Measure A doesn't specifically define "height," and a rooftop garden or open air restaurant doesn't count as a "story." The zoning amendment is necessary to encourage open air dining, said Victoria Walker, planning manager with the city. As it stands today, an open air restaurant wouldn't be allowed because it is not one of the allowed exceptions to building height. Solar panels, for example, are not considered additional height.
At some point, city leaders will discuss recouping the cost of the specific plan, well over $500,000. The environmental impact report alone was $220,000.
Police in downtown Phoenix plan to go hunting for motorists who owe nearly $2 million in unpaid parking tickets, using high-tech cameras capable of scanning thousands of vehicle tags a day.
Court and police officials say they want to test whether the system, already being used in other U.S. cities, could be an effective way of recovering more than 15,000 unpaid fines going back 10 years. Valley police have primarily used license-plate-reader technology to recover stolen vehicles.
But Phoenix, following the lead of Tempe and California cities, sees potential beyond criminal enforcement to use the technology to target scofflaws who ignore multiple parking tickets and dodge collection agencies.
The cameras, known as automated license-plate readers, or ALPRs, match license-plate numbers against state and national crime databases. Civil-rights advocates worry that cities' use of the technology has outpaced privacy policies, especially as more police departments use cameras as a tool to enforce civil-traffic violations.
Officers in the Phoenix Police Downtown Operations Unit could begin using two plate-reader cameras on marked patrol vehicles as soon as next month in an open-ended pilot program, operating them in sweeps around crowded ballgames and other busy downtown events.
The technology will be configured to alert officers to vehicles listed on a city "boot and tow" list of offenders with three or more unpaid parking tickets.
Currently, vehicles on the list generally are found only by civilian parking-enforcement officers, who call for a metal boot to be placed on the car or for it to be towed and impounded.
Officers using the plate-scanning technology will check with court staff to verify the registered owner of the vehicle owes money before calling for a tow truck.
When vehicles on the repeat-offender list are spotted by plate scanners, drivers will have to pay hundreds of dollars in outstanding fines, late charges and towing fees before they can get their vehicles back.
Court officials said the cameras could provide the most efficient way to collect unpaid parking tickets, rather than spending money on expensive legal action in court.
"This is all uncollected revenue for the city," said Dianna Noli-Hill, the Phoenix Municipal Court administrator working with police on the pilot program. "Technically, it's pretty easy," Noli-Hill said.
"The court is already producing the boot-eligible list. We send it to police every day." Court officials will monitor how much revenue is collected before the city decides on sanctioning a permanent enforcement program.
Last year, Phoenix hiked its average expired-meter fine from $31 to $57 to keep up with rising state fees, which limit the city to collecting 44 cents for every dollar in paid parking tickets. City staffers said there are 3,611 names on the boot-and-tow list, who have run up 15,471 unpaid violations. Just a chunk of $1.9 million owed from those tickets would help offset other city expenses, they said.
The cameras attach magnetically to the exterior of police patrol vehicles, allowing officers to scan thousands of plates each day while police computers process license-plate characters, searching for matches to stolen vehicles, Amber Alerts and felony warrants.
Phoenix officials pitched the parking-ticket recovery idea earlier this year to a City Council public-safety committee after learning about a similar program in Long Beach, Calif.
The coastal community had as many as 30,000 unpaid tickets totaling $9 million in past years, largely from motorists who ignored beachfront meters.
Long Beach police Lt. Chris Morgan, who oversees the ALPR program, said the city transferred the program to public-works staff after a police test run proved the cameras could recover millions of dollars in lost revenue from repeat offenders with five or more unpaid tickets. "Now, the attitude in the downtown area changed where people are paying their tickets for fear of being towed," Morgan said.
Tempe police have used plate-reader cameras to target parking scofflaws around Arizona State University, though the city recently canceled the program because of staff reductions in the department's traffic bureau.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations have criticized the technology as a spy tool that allows police to conduct surveillance on people unconnected to crime or unpaid civil penalties.
Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said plate readers are a national trend toward increased surveillance of residents. She said the ACLU has raised questions about how governments manage data collected from the cameras and offered policies that outline acceptable uses. "Part of the problem with these is, you don't have any assurance that these technologies will remain focused on people with unpaid parking tickets," Soler Meetze said. "If you start using it to track and record every movement of an automobile and the person driving it, that would represent a serious privacy concern."
One of the most popular topics when discussing a growing Downtown is the availability and effective utilization of parking. Is there enough? Is it affordable? Is it conveniently located? Most urban environments face challenges that naturally come as a result of the movement of people that live, work, or visit the Downtown area.
Highly urbanized cities such as San Francisco or New York City
have focused on solutions such as a significant public transit
system to deal with increased downtown traffic. Despite San Diego's
growing trolley and bus system, Southern California, however,
remains a car-dominated commuter culture, and attempts to solve
increased traffic must also address parking issues. Today, there
are more than 60,000 parking spaces throughout Downtown, located in
a mixture of structure and surface lots, public and private and
With a current Downtown population of more than 30,000 residents and 75,000 daily workers, San Diego is one among many urban centers that must also find ways to accommodate a growing population (90,000 residents and 165,000 workers anticipated by 2030). Centre City Development Corp. (CCDC), working on behalf of the City Redevelopment Agency and also serving as the Downtown Community Parking District, and its Downtown partners continue working to address these challenges by implementing a Comprehensive Parking Plan to make accessing Downtown as pleasant and as convenient as possible for its visitors, employees and residents. As existing surface parking lots continue to become high-density developments Downtown, the Comprehensive Parking Plan has short and long-term goals that deal with both creating new parking supply and more effectively managing existing spaces.
Downtown's on-street meter parking system currently utilizes innovative technologies. There are two pilot programs currently being tested, varied rates and time limits as well as new technology meters. Meters with varied rates and time limits currently have rates that range from $0.50 to $1.25 per hour and time limits that range from four to nine hours. Rates and time limits are posted within the test areas and on the meters themselves. In the second pilot program where solar-powered new technology meters are installed, parkers can pay with coins, bills, rechargeable meter debit cards and credit cards. These multi-space "pay and display" new technology meters produce receipts, so that parkers know precisely what time the meter expires and have a record of parking for business purposes. Rechargeable parking meter debit cards are also available for purchase in $10 and $45 increments at numerous locations and can be used at any parking meter in the city of San Diego including the Port District parking meters with the bright yellow poles in the Harbor Drive area.
In recent years, CCDC has constructed and opened new multi-story public garages offering more than 1,500 spaces that were outlined in its 1997 Comprehensive Parking Plan.The public garages, Park-It-On-Market (Sixth Avenue and Market) and the 6th & K Parkade, serve the business core, Gaslamp Quarter and East Village - providing parking for patrons and employees with rates as low as $1 per hour between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and offer monthly parking. Additional private structures have been built recently near Petco Park, in the Columbia neighborhood and by the Port on the waterfront near the new Hilton hotel. In the future, mixed-use projects are envisioned that could include parking structures below public open space or parks.
In addition to constructing new spaces, some of CCDC's goals include: reducing the necessity of utilizing single-occupancy vehicles, implementing new parking programs to optimize the utilization of on-street parking, to an 85 percent occupancy level, improving wayfinding signage directing drivers to current parking available; and encouraging transit use and improvements and car-sharing programs to reduce the need for additional parking spaces.
CCDC also plans to incorporate additional bike racks and pursue development of a comprehensive bike program throughout Downtown to help ensure that all residents, employees and visitors will be able to enjoy everything Downtown has to offer.
The Comprehensive Parking Plan focuses on parking solutions to accommodate the expected population of an additional 60,000 residents over the next 20 years and the growing business environment in Downtown San Diego. Given the promise of Downtown San Diego's future, CCDC's focus has to be one that balances the creation and management of parking resources, while working collaboratively with public agency partners like the San Diego Association of Governments and Metropolitan Transit System to improve public transit and encourage more pedestrian activity.