- Meetings & Events
- Membership Services
- Professional Development
- Parking Matters
- Knowledge Center
- Shop IPI
Students at West Texas A&M University are being advised to park on campus or face the possibility of getting ticketed or having their cars towed.
In a routine traffic report, Canyon Police Chief Dale Davis noted the increased amount of foot traffic around WT lately. He reported many students are either parking in nearby retail parking lots or on residential side streets, in part, because the university eliminated parking on Russell Long Boulevard last month.
"It will only be a matter of time until the retailers start restricting parking to customers only, which will contribute to more residential parking problems," Davis wrote.
He said businesses also would have the authority to tow away students' cars if store owners opt to restrict parking.
"We cannot regulate any retail parking areas, other than handicap parking," Davis said. "(Regulating retail parking lots) falls with the owner of the business."
WT, which borders 23rd Street and Fourth Avenue, is within walking distance of businesses such as Pizza Hut, United Supermarkets and Hastings.
The university eliminated parking on Russell Long in response to the construction of its new sports complex, which is expected to increase foot traffic on the roadway. Excluding the sports complex, the campus buildings along Russell Long include the student activities center, the fine arts complex, some residential halls and the physical plant.
Russell Long runs through the north side of WT's campus and was used frequently by students because they didn't need to buy a parking pass. The roadway's parking was replaced with bicycle lanes.
Davis said his road superintendent has reported seeing student cars parked on residential alleys and on narrow streets, specifically the 200 and 300 blocks of 28th and 27th streets and the portion of 26th street between Second and Third avenues. He said those streets are extremely narrow and parking on any of them can restrict the movement of emergency vehicles.
Davis said his department will work to tow or cite cars parked in prohibited areas.
"Until there are more areas provided, we're going to have to deal with this problem," he said. "I feel for these kids, but I don't know what the answer is."
Meri Lyn Odell, WT's director of police administration, believes the recent residential and retail parking problems exist because many students are still unaware of all the areas where they can legally park.
"Especially during the fall semester, there's always a learning curve," she said. "It takes a period of time to learn about what changed this summer, and a lot has changed."
To make up for the lost parking from Russell Long, the university encourages students to begin parking at the First United Bank Center on Fourth Avenue southeast of campus. A shuttle runs every 10 minutes to pick up students who park for free at the multipurpose arena, which has 943 open parking spaces and 23 handicapped spaces.
The shuttle service runs Monday through Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
"We are working diligently to inform our students that the First United Bank Center is open for parking and busing," Odell said. "During the first few days this week, we have transported as many as 100 people per day. The more and more students become aware, they're going to utilize that service, and that's going to draw those vehicles (parked in the residential and retail areas)."
While parking on college campuses can be tough, surveys performed by WT over the years suggest the lots at the university seldom reach capacity.
In past surveys, Odell discovered the university's lots reach up to about 80 percent capacity during the fall semester and 70 percent during the spring semester. She said there are a few permit-required parking zones that students either do not use or are unaware of.
"Those parking permits are going to be a lot cheaper than a ticket or tow bill," Davis said.
WT is planning to increase its lot capacity with the addition of a 260-space parking lot west of the Jack B. Kelley Student Center. The new lot, budgeted at about $850,000, is slated for completion some time this fall and is being funded with revenue from campus parking fees.
Students, staff and faculty at WT are charged different parking fees, and the average cost of a pass is about $30.
Nashville is installing new special parking meters designed to raise money for the homeless living in the city.
Mayor Karl Dean is unveiling five meters on Monday that have been installed in areas around downtown.
Denver raises $100,000 a year for the homeless with the special meters, WTVF-TV in Nashville reported. Chattanooga also has installed meters to encourage people to donate their dimes and quarters instead of giving to panhandlers.
The change will go to the Key Alliance, which is the fundraising arm of the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission.
Each meter also has a corporate sponsor to pay for the cost of the meter. The city eventually hopes to get enough sponsors to have 30 meters.
The city is punching it into overdrive when it comes to collecting unpaid parking fines. Residents will now be unable to register their vehicles if they have any outstanding parking tickets, City Manager Mike Joyal announced Friday.
There are 4,800 outstanding fines totaling $240,000. All fines go into a fund used to maintain the city's parking system. Joyal said it would be nice if the scofflaws paid up. "In fairness to all the folks that use the parking system, these fines need to be... collected," he said.
Residents with outstanding fines will not be able to register any vehicle, whether it is a car, motorcycle, or trailer. They must first pay any fines at the police station. The rule applies to registration renewals, too.
Other communities in the state, like Manchester and Nashua, have similar enforcement measures in place. State law allows municipalities to withhold registrations from those with overdue parking tickets.
Dover Parking Manager Bill Simons said the city recently obtained new software that lets officials flag those with outstanding parking tickets, making the enforcement program possible.
About one-quarter of the unpaid tickets belong to Dover residents. Some go back seven years, Simons said. Letters will be mailed to the residents to alert them that their registration will be withheld until they pay up.
City officials are hoping to get other communities on board to make the collection effort more effective. As most of Dover's unpaid tickets - like those in most municipalities - belong to people who live outside the community, Simons said registrations could be withheld from scofflaws who live in another town, and vice-versa.
Joyal said the $240,000 in unpaid fines could pay for a host of projects, such as more "Pay and Display" parking meters that will be installed next year. It could also pay for a chunk of a potential parking garage downtown - something that has been discussed for decades but never come to fruition. Simons said the money has not been earmarked for any specific project.
Mayor Greg Ballard and fellow Republicans on the City-County Council have backed off an aggressive course that would have put a proposal to lease the city's parking meters to a vote one month after the winning bid was announced. Council President Ryan Vaughn said he was unsure whether a vote by the full council as soon as Sept. 20, as originally planned, would go Ballard's way. Republicans hold 15 of the council's 29 seats.
"It would be close," Vaughn said Friday. "My sense is a lot of people are undecided because there are lots of questions out there."
Overarching concerns on the parking proposal focus on whether the lead contractor is getting too good a deal -- the company won't have to disclose its profits -- and whether the city is giving up too much flexibility for too long.
Last month, Ballard announced that the team, led by Dallas-based ACS, a Xerox company, had agreed to pay the city $35 million for a 50-year lease of the city's 3,669 metered spots.
ACS would share annual revenue on a tiered scale, with ACS estimating the city's take at about $400 million over the life of the contract, to be used for streets, sidewalks and parks in Downtown and Broad Ripple.
Indianapolis drivers would see rates double to $1.50 per hour in some places and for extended hours. But to improve convenience, ACS would upgrade coin meters to ones that accept credit cards and cash.
Council Minority Leader Joanne Sanders , a Democrat, sees the ACS proposal as a raw deal and is glad for the delay.
"I'm grateful that they have had an awakening," Sanders said. Even if she and other opponents fail to stop the proposal, she added, "I would say that there is the opportunity to try to get a better deal."
On Friday, the council canceled a Rules and Public Policy Committee meeting that had been set for Monday, delaying the committee's hearing on the proposal until Sept. 28. That pushes a vote by the full council to October at the earliest.
City staff is looking into constructing a parking structure downtown to support local businesses and the future Redlands Light Rail Downtown Station.
The City Council directed staff this past week to develop plans, specifications, environmental documents and potential funding sources to create a lot to facilitate the increased need for parking that will come with a downtown rail station and expansion of the Redlands Downtown Business District.
Construction on the Redlands Light Rail Downtown Station isn't slated to begin until 2015, but according to agreements with San Bernardino Associated Governments, the city must develop plans to accommodate the need for extra parking.
"Back in 1996, the city entered into an agreement with Sanbag to fund improvements in the downtown area and also as part of that agreement, the city committed to provide 200 public spaces at the downtown rail station, as well as 100 spaces near the University of Redlands for (the) rail station at that location," said Municipal Utilities and Engineering Director Rosemary Hoerning.
The city owns two parcels of land on West Stuart Avenue, west of Third Street and north of the rail station. The plots equal about 1.3 acres of land, according to a city staff report.
"(The land would) accommodate under a parking structure scenario we think approximately 400 spaces," Hoerning said. "If you were in turn going to just put surface parking there, you would only have space for 100 or 120 vehicles."
According to the city's 1996 contract with Sanbag, Redlands is only required to install 200 spaces within a quarter-mile of the rail terminal. Mayor Pat Gilbreath said they want to ensure the lot benefits the whole area.
"We don't need the structure. We could probably get very close to the number of spaces we need with a parking lot, but the whole idea is to bring people to the downtown area and provide them with a place to park," Gilbreath said.
In 2005, The Mobility Group did a study for the city on its parking availability and found 5,005 parking spaces downtown, 1,301 of which were publicly owned.
"They did indicate that the parking level we currently have today meets the parking demand requirements," Hoerning said. "There is no parking shortage under today's conditions, however with the development of the downtown specific plan, and the Redlands passenger rail terminal, there will be a shortfall of over 1,000 spaces at some point in the future."
Hoerning said city staff will look into other locations for a lot and will provide the council will reports on the costs associated with different types of lots.
"A parking structure is a more significantly expensive alternative than surface parking, but it does give you more spaces," Hoerning said. "To construct a parking structure is approximately $20,000 a space. To construct a surface parking lot, it would cost about $2,000 a space, so there's a significant difference."
Magazine Street merchants have attracted a good deal of attention lately with their complaints about parking meters. They were particularly incensed when Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office announced last month that its decision to continue enforcing Saturday meter hours in "high-volume commercial zones" was made after consultation "with members from the small-business community, including representatives from the Magazine Street Merchants Association."
Greg Dombourian, the association's president, shot back that the association had made clear to city officials its opposition to forcing shoppers to pay to park on Saturdays, a policy he said drives some potential customers to shop in Jefferson Parish, where they can park for free.
But when the City Council's Public Works Committee met this week, the only item on the agenda involving Magazine Street was a request to install meters in the 4600block. Store owners there complain that the absence of meters means on-street spaces are filled by vehicles that residents or other business owners park there for days at a time.
Public Works Director Robert Mendoza said there is "a very good chance" that meters will be added in the 4400 through 4600 blocks, between Napoleon Avenue and Valence Street.
Dombourian said later that he recognizes there is no unanimity of opinion along Magazine Street about meters, with some merchants thinking they are good for business because they help make spaces available for customers, but others feeling they do more harm than good by causing resentment among those forced to deposit coins.
The merchants' public unhappiness did earn them a meeting with several top city officials, at which no agreement was reached on the issue of Saturday enforcement. The merchants did press their case that painting fresh markings on the street to show where parking is prohibited would help limit anger among those given tickets.
Mendoza said all of Magazine from Nashville Avenue to Calliope Street is due for resurfacing, starting around January, and it will get fresh markings as part of that process, but Dombourian said the merchants don't want to wait that long. If they don't see some action soon, he said, they may buy their own paint and get to work.
San Francisco, allegedly a liberal city, must have some free-market capitalists among its parking meter bureaucracy.
The city has a pilot program to apportion parking fees to the laws of supply and demand.
Parts of the city are notorious for having no parking. The goal of this pilot program is to have one space open in each block. A system of electronic sensors keeps track of every parking space in the block. If no space is available in Block X, the rates go up. Conversely, if spaces are always available in Block Y, rates fall.
You can see a bit of this concept - it's called demand pricing - in Texas City's decision to charge for access to the dike on weekends and holidays, but not on normal working days.
Some readers who have followed Galveston's debate about paid parking on the seawall believe the concept has applications there, meaning high rates in peak season and low rates or no rates in winter.
The hard part is taking the step that Texas City took with the opening of the dike today: Deciding that it's fair to charge the users of a public resource to pay part or all of the costs for maintaining it. Once the hard work is done, it's just a matter of setting a fair price.
Melissa Jaworski, 21, has agreed to pay the fines at $150 each fortnight, meaning she will be in debt to the court for almost 12 years, the Geelong Advertiser reports.
Mary Foley, for Jaworski, told Geelong Magistrates' Court that the sheriff had also agreed to let Jaworski convert some of the warrants to community work orders, allowing her to do unpaid work on weekends in blocks of 81 hours.
"There is some $30,000 owing, the price of a car and she has not got the money to pay," Ms Foley said.
Documents lodged with the court show Jaworski received the fines, often twice in the one day, when parking her car in and around Moorabool St from late 2008 through until earlier this year.Magistrate Michael Coghlan said Jaworski had shown "callous disregard" for parking rules.
"She continuously couldn't give a rat's, so it seems," Mr Coghlan said.
"When someone comes to court and says 'poor me I can't afford to pay them' I don't have a lot of sympathy for them.
"If she doesn't comply ... rest assured you won't be given any more time to pay."
Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson said she never ran for mayor to win popularity contests.
Good thing, because on the day after Thompson rolled out her plan to dig the city out of a $4.3 million budget deficit, her proposal to raise parking meter and residential permit parking rates weren't winning friends on Front, Second or Third streets.
Under the plan unveiled Wednesday to close the yawning gap in 2010 general fund budget, the mayor has asked the City Council to approve an increase of up to 67 percent in rates for metered parking spaces spanning the city's downtown and Capitol neighborhoods.
If enacted, that would take the cost of the highest-priced downtown meters from the current $1.50 per hour to $2.50 per hour. By comparison, current metered rates in Pittsburgh top out at $2 per hour. In center city Philadelphia, they are also $2 per hour.
The city's parking tax -- the fee charged for a residential parking permit in a number of surrounding residential areas -- would also bump up from 15 percent to 20 percent under the plan.
None of it sounded good on Thursday to Amber Middleton, 23, a Cumberland Street resident who said she could find herself paying more for parking by permit at home and at meters when her business takes her downtown.
"They need to fire her," Middleton said about the mayor as she left her car outside Dauphin County Courthouse. "This is a recession ... and she's not trying to make it recession-proof for us to live in the city."
But in truth, most curbside parkers, as they dropped quarters into the city's meters, described higher parking rates as a burden to be borne, if not enjoyed. If you have to go to City Hall, the courthouse, or make a trip to Harrisburg Hospital, the prevailing view was that an extra quarter or two here and there isn't likely to change anything.
"My GPS takes me here. It doesn't take me to a garage," explained Rob McCarthy, a commercial roofer from Valley Forge who was visiting a downtown job site.
According to Thompson's plan, higher rates from parking meters will generate an additional $625,000 annually.
Tweaking the hours of parking enforcement officers to keep them on the street and actively writing tickets until 5 p.m. would net an estimated $220,000 in additional fines, and the higher fees for permitted spaces would net $178,000.
They are a major part -- along with staff layoffs and the possible closure of one of the city's four fire stations -- of her plan to put city revenue and expenditures into balance long-term.
"I will not be back here in 2011 with the same devastating issues," Thompson vowed. "We're asking everybody to share in the pain. Listen, this is about making sure the capital of Pennsylvania is made whole, and that the image of the capital of Pennsylvania is corrected."
But for some small-business owners, the pain feels a bit more severe.
At 2nd Street Pizza, owner Eric Roman groaned when told of the proposed parking hike. Roman parks outside his store rather than in garages because he needs the access to his vehicle for deliveries.
Now the price for that space outside could jump from $12 per day to $20 per day -- enough to erase the profit margin for a lot of pizzas and subs.
"A lot of people are not eating out as much as before the recession hit, and for us small-business owners, every penny and every dollar counts for us," Roman said. "Adding that $8 a day more for parking, that's big."
Down the street, Zia Bhakti, the owner of the New York Deli and Convenience Store, fears the increase will cause more customers in cars to pass by the occasional open space near his store to convenience stores just a few blocks away that have on-site parking.
"It's already too much that they're charging," Bhakti said. "People will just keep going."
Other business owners didn't worry so much about a short-term loss of customers, given the large captive audience of government and office workers that fill the downtown every day and often walk to their shops and eateries.
It should be added that suggestions for better ways for the city to close its budget gap were few and far between.
But some saw the potential for longer-term damage in the way that Harrisburg sells itself, especially if a potential lease of city parking facilities to help ease the Harrisburg incinerator debt crisis leads to further increases down the road.
Luba Batazhan, the owner of a small interior design business in the 300 block of North Second Street, noted that she is not likely to lose the customers who are coming to consult with her on window treatments or upholstery styles.
But "my clients spend maybe an hour or more here with us," said Batazhan, and the complaints she already hears about parking rates, she expects, will only be magnified if the increases go through.
"People always complain that it's 25 cents for 10 minutes," Batazhan said. "Now I'm going to hear more."
Factor in a few overtime parking tickets, and she said it could undermine the good feelings generated by other things that are in place to make the downtown a destination for shopping, dining and business.
Thompson is seeking prompt approval of her plan in order to end this year with a balanced budget. If the changes are in effect for the last two months of this year, finance director Robert Kroboth told the council, it could generate $170,000.
New Haven Aldermen this week approved a deal to bring Zipcar to Union Station, a move supporters say is good for the environment and good for residents.
"It takes cars off the road," Alderman Justin Elicker, D-10, said Tuesday night, just before aldermen voted on the plan. "But I think we should be passing this for another reason and that is for socioeconomic reasons."
The idea is that Zipcar, a company that offers a car-sharing service, benefits all kinds of people, including commuters and residents who choose not to own a car for environmental or economic reasons. But it also benefits people who cannot afford to own a car, which can be very expensive these days due to insurance costs, vehicle taxes and the rising price of gas.
"I deeply believe that this is the right thing for the city," Elicker said before the vote.
The aldermen approved a two-year agreement between the city, Yale University, the New Haven Parking Authority and Zipcar that puts two cars inside the parking garage at Union Station for use by anyone in the city. There is no cost to Zipcar for use of the two spaces, a factor that made Alderman Darnell Goldson, D-30, "uncomfortable." Goldson said he loves the idea of Zipcar but he disagrees with the idea of "giving a resource away for nothing." That resource, according to Goldson, is two parking spaces in the garage.
"There is a five-year waiting period to get into the garage, and we are giving away two spots," Goldson said. He also expressed a desire to reach out to less affluent communities with car-sharing services.
Goldson introduced an amendment that requires the city to consider putting additional Zipcar vehicles in "under-served" neighborhoods. Specifically, he mentioned West Rock, Dixwell, Fair Haven, Newhallville, the Hill, Cedar Hill and West River. The amendment passed and was included in the final version of the Zipcar plan.
James Travers, deputy director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking for the city, said Wednesday that the agreement is a win-win for the city and residents. He maintains that the two spots in the garage are not used for train station parking and so the city is not losing money on the deal.
The cost for residents to use Zipcar includes a $50 annual membership fee and a one-time application fee of $25. Then it's $8 an hour or $66 a day for use.
Through Yale's contract with Zipcar, the city already has 26 vehicles, mostly in university lots but for use by all residents. Zipcar currently has about 2,000 members in New Haven.
Voters have rejected proposals to add parking meters and spaces
in Cape May.
In a 495-255 vote Wednesday, residents turned down a plan that would have raised about $75,000 annually by adding 80 meters on the east side of the resort. A second proposal, to gain metered spaces by replacing parallel parking on the beachfront with back-in, angled parking, was defeated, 546-200.
The results did not include provisional ballots, but the clerk said there were not enough of those to change the outcome.
Mayor Ed Mahaney had said adding more than 400 meters would improve traffic flow and generate revenue the city needed to maintain services.
Pittsburgh union leaders had cordial meetings with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and members of Pittsburgh City Council Thursday on the mayor's parking privatization plan, even as worries rumbled through their ranks about the threat of citywide spending cuts and layoffs if the deal is not approved.
The city's employee pension plan is only about one-quarter funded and it will be taken over by the state next year without some kind of rescue plan. Mr. Ravenstahl wants a private lease of government-owned parking garages and meters, generating an estimated $200 million for the fund, and says he will be forced to implement $30 million in cuts next year if council votes the lease down.
Some council members are questioning that budget-cut number -- saying it would be much lower -- but it is causing tremors already.
"To do nothing would be irresponsible -- somebody's got to do something," said Joe King, president of the firefighters union. "We can't have any form of takeover. The mayor's plan is the best out there publicly."
So far the mayor's plan for a 50-year lease of the parking assets is the only one on the table because council members -- in a deal reached with the administration -- are waiting for bids from private operators to be submitted Wednesday. Once that happens, the clock starts ticking toward a decision by late October on the lease and other promised pension-saving options.
The other big date on the calendar is Sept. 22, when the mayor will deliver a 2011 budget to the state oversight board detailing his $30 million in cuts, which would amount to a roughly 10 percent drop in all city spending. In the private meetings Thursday, Mr. Ravenstahl did not tell union leaders the number of jobs that might be affected, but did say every city department -- from the police and fire bureaus to public works and the mayor's own office -- is being told to budget for a 10 percent cut.
The exercise, by design, brings back bad memories for unions gutted during the city's march toward distressed status in 2003-04. The number of school crossing guards went from 227 to 117 after those cuts.
"Hopefully [the pension bailout] goes the way we hope it will go and everything will be fine. I'm very optimistic about things," said Marlene Lamanna, president of the guards' union, Service Employees International Union Local 192B.
The threat of $30 million in cuts surprised some union members who thought only new employees would be impacted by long-term pension woes, said Mr. King. "That was really a wake up call to the general membership," he said.
The city's yearly pension obligation of $45 million would rise to $72 million with a state takeover, an increase of $27 million (which the administration rounds up to $30 million). But under the city's Act 47 recovery plan, the city is instead paying $60 million as part of efforts to tamp down its long-term debt.
Some council members are arguing the city's real budget hit in a pension takeover would be $12 million, though Mr. Ravenstahl said in the Thursday meetings that the city could no longer afford to pay the extra contributions and he was sticking with the $30 million figure.
"I shared my concern at the meeting that we need to make sure we're using the same playbook and the same numbers," said councilwoman Natalia Rudiak. "I refuse to use that [$30 million number] as ammunition to scare the public. I find that offensive."
Councilman Ricky Burgess, an ardent supporter of the mayor's parking lease plan, said the $30 million figure and the threatened cuts are for real. "It means reduced police officers, firefighters, less street paving, less services. That's unacceptable," he said.
For 20 years, the hard part was getting the state to let Albany impose a permit parking system in its downtown residential neighborhoods.
Now, the hard part is making it work.
Mayor Jerry Jennings on Thursday appointed a task force to sort out the details of the complicated legislation, which will require motorists to have a residential permit to park on many streets within three-quarters of a mile of Empire State Plaza.
The panel will be led by Common Councilman Richard Conti, who represents several neighborhoods adjacent to the massive government complex, hardest hit by the daily rush by state workers for free on-street parking that the law is intended to ease.
Along with Conti, Jennings appointed three other city lawmakers -- councilmen Ron Bailey, Anton Konev and Dominick Calsolaro -- to the task force.
They will work with Michael Klein, executive director of the Albany Parking Authority; Douglas Melnick, the city's planning director; William Trudeau, head of the city's traffic engineering department; and Assistant Corporation Counsel Patrick Jordan to draft legislation that will ultimately be put before the full council for approval.
That process alone is expected to take several months, with one of the first tasks being the drafting of a detailed map delineating which streets and which parking spaces are in play.
For years, state worker unions fought bitterly against the permit system, saying it would unfairly punish them without solving the underlying lack of parking.
The enabling state legislation comes with numerous restrictions that became necessary to win passage, including that the state authorization expires two years after the system goes into effect.
Among the others are that permits cannot be required on streets -- such as Lark Street -- adjacent to commercially zoned property, and at least 20 percent of the spaces in the permit area must be available for short-term visitor parking of no less than 90 minutes.
In all, permits can be required in no more than 2,750 of the roughly 9,000 spaces in the radius.
Yet another key question the task force will have to resolve, Conti said, is where exactly that radius starts -- in the center of the nearly 100-acre complex or, perhaps, somewhere on Swan Street on its western border, nearer to the Center Square and Hudson/Park neighborhoods.
The task force also will have to establish how much the permits will cost and how they will be administered.
Once the legislation is in draft form, it will be introduced before the council. As with all local laws, the council will have to hold at least one public hearing.
Conti said the cost of the permits "should only be what is necessary to cover the costs of the administration" of the system and not a money-maker for the city.
Once adopted by the council, still more time will be needed to produce the permits and allow for a period of education about how the system works, Conti said.
"I fully expect that the process will be open and that all aspects of the proposals will be fully vetted -- and that all of this will be done in a timely fashion," Jennings said in a statement.
Conti said he hopes to have documents submitted to the council by year's end.
"My desire is to have something in place as soon as reasonably possible," he said. "We'll have a better sense once we get into the nitty-gritty."
Other areas that could be partially affected are the Mansion Neighborhood, the Ten Broeck Triangle, Park South, Arbor Hill and the South End.
In 1986, the city imposed a permit-parking system without state permission only to see it struck down two years later when the state's highest court ruled Albany was illegally restricting access to public roads.
Seattle kicked off its new e-Park sign network Thursday, letting drivers know how many spaces are open at some downtown garages and pointing them toward available options.
These six garages now have a total of 10 signs listing the number of available spaces:
• Stewart Street at Third Avenue
• Washington State Convention Center, off Eighth Avenue
• Pike Place Market, off Western Avenue
• Puget Sound Plaza, 315 Union St.
• Pacific Place, 600 Pine St.
• Washington Athletic Club, 1409 Sixth Ave.
There also are three signs to give drivers the big picture, listing multiple garage sites ahead. These are on Stewart Street near Eighth Avenue, northbound Sixth Avenue at Union Street, and westbound Union at Sixth. Another 21 smaller signs lead drivers toward the garages.
So if Pacific Place fills with holiday shoppers, drivers can notice that the convention center, about three blocks away, has room, said Charles Bookman, city traffic director.
Seattle has spent about $2.5 million, and a state grant provides $255,000 for marketing and commute-reduction programs, said program manager Meghan Shepard.
Despite his pro-bike, anti-driving instincts, Mayor Mike McGinn released city money for parking help. "A significant amount of congestion downtown is people driving around in circles, looking for parking," McGinn said, while hosting an opening ceremony just before noon. Therefore, e-Park would make existing roads more efficient, he said.
Meanwhile, the mayor this summer has advocated steep hikes in the commercial parking tax, rankling businesses and some City Council members.
And he will probably seek a boost in the cost of city on-street parking spaces, now $2.50 per hour. McGinn said that would be part of a general increase in city fees, to cope with recession-related budget shortages. But McGinn said meter fees would still be less than the market rate, estimated at $7 per hour in private garages.
There are an estimated 55,000 off-street parking spots downtown. Along with e-Park signs, the city is providing an online map to give people an overview of downtown parking conditions before they get behind the wheel.
The city intends to expand e-Park to Pioneer Square and the waterfront in the next few years.
A more developed version of the controversial Hornby Street bike lane was unveiled to the public Wednesday.
But the changes that have become part of the pilot project still aren't good enough for at least one business, the company that owns the parking garage at 550 Hornby.
Anastase Maragos, whose family has an interest in the parking garage, said prospective parkers have to go out of their way to get to the facility, which has several hundred spaces.
"We've noticed a marked downturn in business," said Maragos, who estimated there has been a loss of more than 10 per cent in the 10 weeks since the change was instituted.
He's still talking with staff about the plan, which goes to Vancouver City Council this month. If approved, construction would start immediately.
The budget for the separated bike lanes on Dunsmuir and Hornby is $3 million, with Dunsmuir having cost $800,000 to $900,000.
About 10 weeks ago, right turns from Dunsmuir to Hornby were banned and the ban would continue as part of the bike-lane project.
The city's director of transportation, Jerry Dobrovolny, said key right turns were retained at Hastings, Pender, Georgia, Nelson and Davie streets.
Loss of parking was behind the initial protest over the lane, which connects separated bike lanes on the Burrard bridge on the west with the Dunsmuir Viaduct on the east.
But Dobrovolny said the 158 parking spaces lost on Hornby have been replaced with 162 spots on Howe and Seymour that were freed up when buses returned to Granville Street.
"There are also 10,000 off-street parking spaces within a block of the Hornby corridor," said Dobrovolny.
Loading and drop-off access, driveway access and the right turns were also big concerns.
City staff say they have altered the plan to deal with those issues. All the details are available online at http://vancouver.ca/engsvcs/transport/cycling/.
Sharon Jones, who bikes to work on Hornby "rain or shine," thinks the changes work. "I'm a huge advocate of a greener way of travelling," she said. "I think the city is building a great pathway for bicyclists. That makes me really happy."
Also supportive was Rick Jones, who owns a rental property on Hornby. He's glad to see bikes replace cars downtown.
"We need to step up and do what's necessary," said Jones. "Every other big city in the world recognizes bicyclists for their contribution."
University of Illinois parking now offers the option of paying parking meters by phone at select parking lots across campus.
The program, provided by Canadian company Verrus Mobile Technologies, Inc., originated in 2001 and today serves many cities throughout North America and Europe, according to the company's website.
Notable cities in the U.S. that use Verrus' Pay By Phone service include Miami, New Orleans, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, said Chris Morisawa, marketing coordinator of Verrus.
"Pay By Phone is all about convenience; drivers never have to worry about having the correct change on them for the parking meter," Morisawa said. "One short phone call is all it takes."
The University launched the program on Aug. 27 as part of a pilot program, said Andy Blacker, publicity promotions specialist of University Facilities and Services. The Pay By Phone program is currently serving only lots B1, C7, D22 and E3.
Blacker added that the program is quick and easy to use. According to a recent Facilities and Services news release, the first step is to set up an account on paybyphone.com. The user is then eligible to use the Pay By Phone option at any participating location. Users can then receive text messages informing them of time expiring on their meters. Users are charged University parking rates as well as a convenience fee.
"We are providing another convenience to our customers," Blacker said. "If it's raining or snowing, you can literally sit in your car and pay for your parking."
Users only need a mobile phone number, an eligible credit card and the license plate number of their automobile.
Cesar Figueroa, senior in Business, said the new payment options intrigue him. Figueroa said he has not used Verrus' Pay By Phone option yet, but he sees it as an option in the future.
"In case you forget your money it's a great way to pay off your meter," Figueroa said. "I would definitely use it to get out of a ticket."
Seong Jeon, senior in LAS, said while he thinks paying parking meters by phone is a great idea, he prefers the traditional payment method only because it helps him out with the change he accumulates.
"There's not many ways to use coins out here," Jeon said, "and parking is the best way to use them."
Lauren Lavan lives less than three miles from campus in an apartment in The Lofts, and according to mapquest.com, the drive should take her about five minutes.
However, the junior finance major leaves about an hour before her class starts, not to grab a coffee or a snack, and not to meet up with a classmate to review for a quiz, but to find a parking spot.
It's no mystery that finding a parking spot at UCF might be a harder task than acing a biology test or getting a perfect score on an English paper, but construction on a new parking garage that students were hoping would soon be ready is running behind schedule.
"Construction is always behind schedule," Lavan said.
The construction of the new parking garage, which is being built between the Fairwinds Alumni Center and the Psychology building, was supposed to begin during the spring semester, but did not start until June.
The reason for the holdup, said Christine Dellert of UCF News & Information, was a delay in obtaining permits and finalizing contract details.
Garage J, as the new parking garage will be known, will have more than 1,400 parking spaces.
According to the UCF Parking Services website, there are 5,226 parking spaces available in the garages. With the completion of Garage J there will be more than 6,626 available parking spaces in the garages on the main campus. There will also be a parking light added on the east entrance and exit of the garage.
Although construction is expected to be complete in the spring of next year, Lavan and many of UCF's other 53,000-plus students continue to have a difficult time finding a parking spot without hassle.
"There are no spots, ever," said senior communications disorder major Aubrey Weaver. "In the summer, I could leave my apartment 10 minutes before class, and now I have to leave 30 minutes before."
Like Lavan, Weaver also questions the pace of construction on campus and why the parking garages were designed as they are.
"I don't know why they didn't make the parking garages taller to add more spots," Weaver said.
Though there are plenty of students, like Lavan and Weaver, who regularly experience issues in finding a parking space on campus, some students get lucky and know how to avoid the chaos and traffic into the garages.
Sophomore micro and molecular biology major Alex Serrao has developed a strategy for finding a parking spot at one of the largest schools in the nation.
"I don't have a problem," Serrao said. "I've got a trick. I pull up to a stairwell and wait for someone to come out. I always get a spot quickly."
Even though she does find herself having to leave for class an hour before it starts, Lavan is trying to keep her chin up about the situation.
To be on the positive side, she said, at least they're putting it up.
If there's one waitlist in Wayne you can't pass sitting at the bar, it's the list to get a parking permit in one of three township-run parking lots.
Most of the oversold spaces are bought by local companies, retail stores and restaurants that don't have enough parking for their workers. What they pay in a year is a deal - or steal - compared with parking in the many long-term metered spaces the township provides in Wayne.
A growing waitlist for permits may indicate positive economic growth for the town in the form of new businesses and expanded staff, but it is also one indicator of an imperfect parking arrangement and perhaps an impossible human expectation that prefers four wheels to two feet.
Frequent visitors to downtown Wayne would find that, on an average day, lunchtime sees the most cars and crowds. Many of those come in and leave, but some of those crowds are employees who stay all day.
"The system as it was originally intended was to create a way to allow businesses that provide a lot in mercantile taxes and revenue to thrive," Lt. A.J. Antonini of the Radnor Police Department said of the permit parking.
The whole permitting system is under review, he added.
There are waiting lists for the three downtown Wayne permit parking lots - Bellevue, Waynewood and Louella, all named after the roads they are on.
Recently, at least in the summer, the parking problem had been one more of perception, said Antonini, who often drives through downtown Wayne during the day.
The South Wayne municipal parking lot was almost never filled, he said. And there's free parking everywhere at night, when Wayne can be crowded.
But you'll always have some people who just want to park in front of where they're going, he said.
Sometimes parking is not immediately available. But "generally parking is available if you want to look for it," Antonini said.
In an effort to provide parking for shoppers (who support the businesses, whose business taxes are relied upon by the township), recently more long-term parking was added on the periphery of the main blocks for those parking a long time during the day. Some people might not know about the spaces added to the municipal lot along South Wayne Avenue and spaces added on West Wayne Avenue, he said.
Antonini said he has also encouraged Radnor Middle School teachers to park on Runnymede Avenue across from the school by putting their permit parking there, which in turn opens up spaces in the South Wayne parking lot.
The school district holds 25 parking permits, which it got as part of a 1995 land swap when the new Radnor firehouse was being built, he said. The district is not the only one to hold free permits.
Wayne Presbyterian Church, which owns a parking lot behind it that it leases to the township for metered parking, is also entitled to free permits, a certain percentage of the revenue brought in from those parking spaces, and a certain amount of days per year to use the parking for its own special occasions, according to the township's 2009 parking meter and revenue study.
The Radnor Memorial Library holds a dozen permits but can only park in nine particular spaces, according to its director.
Residents of Glenbrook Avenue and County Line Road in Bryn Mawr are also granted free permits from the township, according to the study. Those without driveways can get two permits, and those who have enough space for one car can get one, according to Antonini.
According to the parking study, there are 774 meters in the township: 603 in Wayne, 95 on Glenbrook Avenue in Bryn Mawr and 76 on Old Matsonford Road (Radnor train station).
The three downtown-Wayne permit-parking lots have 136 spaces, according to the report, and help to provide long-term parking away from storefronts where turnover is desired.
Parking at long-term meters five days a week for one year will cost about $1,000. An annual permit space in one of the lots is $216.
The Bellevue lot has allowed restaurants opening in Wayne to lease spots in order to comply with current zoning laws.
According to the township, 13 people are on the waiting list for 38 spaces in the Bellevue lot, the largest lot of the three. Five are waiting for seven spaces on Louella Avenue, and 18 people are waiting for 24 spaces in the Waynewood lot.
With desire to buy permits growing, why not find more space or change more metered to permit parking?
The permit lots reduce the net revenue available to the township because they bring in a lot less money. And, historically, the money from the parking permits has been transferred to the Radnor Enhancement Community Trust, a separate entity from the township that earmarks the money for infrastructure projects in downtown Wayne.
The process of funneling money to the trust is being reviewed by the township, but the Board of Commissioners has voted to continue to spend the permit-parking revenue from Wayne in downtown Wayne.
According to the 2009 study, at the time there were 211 long-term permits issued that brought in $47,916.
In 2008 coin-meter revenue was $294,725, down slightly from the $305,124 reported the year prior.
There is a finite amount of parking spaces, and there needs to be a balance between permit parking, long-term metered and short-term metered, said Matt Baumann, director of community development for Radnor Township.
"It's always a challenge to find other avenues for parking - it's something we're always taking a look at," he said. "We've pursued grant opportunities for a parking structure; that hasn't gotten anywhere and parking spaces are very expensive."
That is why when the township was rewriting the zoning for downtown Wayne in 2007 it included three spots where height and other restrictions would allow for a mixed-use building on top of a parking structure. The idea was to integrate the parking with residential or retail so that some of the costs of the structure would be wrapped in the development project.
While there was interest and plans for this concept at the time, the recession put an end to them.
Baumann has also engaged with AT&T about leasing more of its empty parking spaces (AT&T owns the property the Bellevue parking lot is on). The company's lot on West Avenue appears vastly underused on any given weekday, but the powers that be there decline to lease any more space. Baumann said the reasons have to do with liability and the company keeping its own options open.
After 24 years working for Radnor's police force, Antonini says that over that time parking needs have proved to be fluid. And changes are often made.
Like a few weeks ago, after he saw a consistent number of open parking spaces in lots, he added five more permit-holders to Bellevue and three more to the one on Waynewood Avenue.
Still, he asked, "What happens if everyone shows up?"
Tuesday marked the opening of the Chestnut Street Garage, a 689-space, $12.2 million parking facility at the corner of East Chestnut and North Walnut streets.
Borough Council members, the mayor and other local officials met at the garage at noon to celebrate the opening. The facility, they said, will improve life in downtown West Chester by relieving the borough's notorious parking congestion.
"We all know it's the little things that can make or break our day - and at the top of almost everyone's list is finding a parking space in the borough," Comitta said. "Therefore, I believe that for all of us who have been working hard over the last few years to make this project a reality, the thrill-o-meter is pointing to high today."
Comitta said that the project reflects the borough's "dedication to infill development that is compatible with our town's historic character" and its "strong commitment to green building and energy conservation practices."
She was referring to the garage's soon-to-be-installed solar panels and its pre-cast brick exterior - local business leaders and historic preservationists lobbied for this feature, preferring it to the concrete exteriors of traditional parking garages.
Also at the ceremony were Borough Council President Holly Brown; state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th, of West Whiteland; state Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith, D-156th, of West Chester; and other officials.
The Chestnut Street Garage replaces the Mosteller Garage, a 414-space parking facility built on the site in 1973 that remained standing until summer 2009.
An inspection conducted in 2005 revealed the Mosteller Garage needed significant renovations. Borough Council then decided to replace the garage rather than spending several million dollars on a renovation that officials said might only have prolonged the garage's life for 10 years.
The battles to win more than $330 million in public money set aside for the new Broward County Courthouse have started as some of Fort Lauderdale's power players and their lobbyists fight it out over who will build a 1,000-space public garage.
The garage, with an estimated price tag of $35 million, is the first part of the courthouse project to go up for bid and a prelude to the main event - who wins the contract to build the 20-story courthouse tower itself. If the contest over the garage contract is any indication, competition will be fierce for the county's largest public building project going.
"This is an abnormal [economic] environment and people are reacting - if there is something out there to grab, people are trying as hard as they can to get it," said Pat Sessions, development manager for Kygo LLC, one of three groups bidding for the garage project.
The garage project is pitting board members of the Fort Lauderdale's Downtown Development Authority against one another. Four of the seven board members of the independent taxing district have financial stakes in where the new parking garage goes.
The authority is charged with maintaining and redeveloping the downtown. City commissioners appoint the authority's board members, who must either own land in Fort Lauderdale's central core or run a company that owns land there.
One of the board members, lawyer and developer William Scherer, is proposing to add three stories to the 2,300-space courthouse parking garage in accordance with a lease he already has with the county. Scherer's group of companies currently has exclusive use of 243 spaces in the garage for the adjacent New River Village developments and controls the garage on nights and weekends.
Scherer wants to take over the parking garage's management and contract it out to fellow authority member Bill Bodenhamer's company, USA Parking.
Another board member, Fred Fazio, and the authority's former chairman Jack Loos have submitted a competing bid to build a six-story garage on land they own on the 600 block of South Andrews Avenue. Construction at the location - the old Coca-Cola bottling plant site - would be done by Fort Lauderdale-based Stiles Corp., which has executive Denny O'Shea sitting on the authority's board.
The third bid is from Kygo LLC, which owns the land just north of the Publix supermarket at 601 S. Andrews Ave. Kygo - a group of investors led by Tennessee developer-builder Fred Kern - has proposed a seven-floor parking garage but wants the option to build higher.
Kygo has plans to build a 37-story tower on the site with 15 floors of office space and 13 floors for a hotel. Kern said the courthouse parking garage would be incorporated in it.
All three bidders have said they would be able to complete their proposals by the county's September 2012 deadline.
Jockeying for the new garage started months ago after an earlier bidding process was cut short for technical reasons. Scherer has lined up prominent Hollywood lobbyist Bernie Friedman and lobbyist and Republican fundraiser James Blosser to promote his cause.
Fazio, Loos and Stiles Corp. have well-known lobbyist Ron Book on their side along with the authority's attorney, John Milledge, lobbying on their behalf.
"It does seem like there's been a lot of pushing behind the scenes," Kern said. Kygo LLC doesn't have any lobbyists registered with the county, but its development team on the project has met with most of the eight county commissioners.
Scherer said the goal of his lobbying efforts is to make sure officials are educated about the pluses of his bid.
"The whole purpose is to be able to communicate the strengths of your project and that's hard to do at the county level, getting through to the decision makers in a short window of time," he said.
The lobbying under way prompted Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein to quit the Courthouse Task Force Advisory Committee, the panel created to make recommendations to the County Commission on what was needed at the new courthouse.
Finkelstein said he received calls from two of the three rival bidders on the same day. That's when he said he became worried that politics could contaminate the task force's recommendations.
"I think in Broward County it is common knowledge that if you want a contract, you start calling the individuals and you do the dance with them," Finkelstein said. "It defies coincidence the same people always are getting the same contracts. It's not an accident. They are all feeding at the same trough."
The selection process for the winning garage bid will be one of the first under Broward's new ethics law. Before those guidelines went into effect last month, seven county commissioners were part of the selection committee that is supposed to recommend which bid the commission should approve.
Now, no county commissioner can sit on the committee.
The new selection committee consists of Court Administrator Carol Lee Ortman, Clerk of Courts Howard Forman, Public Works Director Thomas Hutka, Port Director Phil Allen and Deputy Chief Financial Officer Melissa Heller. The committee is scheduled to hear the competing proposals Oct. 14 and then make its recommendation to the County Commission, which could vote by late October.
The two most common complaints about the existing parking garage are traffic backups on Mondays and the cost of parking - $8 an hour. It's the most expensive garage in downtown Fort Lauderdale, and it costs six times more to park there than at the Palm Beach County Courthouse's garage.
A December 2008 study commissioned by the county graded the garage between a "D" and a "F", finding problems with signs and traffic flow, especially on Monday mornings when people report for jury duty. Cars sometimes back up 20 deep on the roads those mornings.
Scherer said it's the county that sets the parking prices and that the Monday snarls result from how the county handles traffic flow. Jurors only are allowed to enter through one entrance, causing the backup, he said.
In addition to opening more entrances, Scherer's team has suggested treating Monday traffic like parking at a major event with flag men directing traffic.
Scherer argues that his proposal, which calls for closing no more than 250 parking spaces at a time while new floors are added, has a clear cost advantage. The county would not have to buy new land and take prime real estate near the new courthouse off the tax rolls. That's ultimately a savings of $30 million, according to Scherer's team.
Milledge, who represents the Fazio-Stiles plan, argues there would be a series of unknowns created by adding floors to the existing garage - especially doing major construction while the garage is in operation. The appeal of the old Coca-Cola bottling site is there would be minimal risks in problems developing and it's much closer to the entrance of the new courthouse tower, he says.
David Lowery, Stiles Construction's director of public projects, said that under Scherer's plan, the current garage's ramping and congestion problems would continue.
Sessions, Kygo's development manager, said his group's proposed garage would be the closest to the tower and questions whether the Fazio-Stiles plan would clog Andrews Avenue with traffic. The Kygo garage would be accessible from side streets, he said.
But the Kygo team has told the county that its proposed price to buy the land - $60 per square foot - is not enough and seriously undervalues the property. The other two proposals have indicated they can meet the county's projected costs.
While the estimated cost for the parking garage hovers at $35 million, that does not factor in what has been described by some courthouse personnel as a critical component - a covered walkway to avoid the rain.
Scherer said the existing garage has one, so this isn't an issue with his proposal. His two competitors have said they believe they could utilize the public right-of-way to build a walkway to the new courthouse's entrance, but that it will cost extra.
Clerk of Courts Forman said he thinks a walkway is a vital component for a new garage, to be considered along with cost, location and traffic.
"There's not a whole lot of properties to be considered and there is a lot of competition between them," Forman said. "Just like many issues in Broward County, it's going to get to be a hot one."
The Springfield Parking Authority is negotiating with a sole bidder interested in buying the Civic Center parking garage in the downtown after the price submitted failed to meet the set minimum.
Demetrios N. Panteleakis, chairman of the Parking Authority, said Monday that unless an agreement can be reached with the company within approximately 45 days, the authority will seek proposals again for the garage, located at Harrison Avenue, Dwight Street and East Court Street (Falcons Way). The sole proposal was submitted by an August deadline.
The identity of the bidder is not being released because the sole proposal did not meet the minimum price of $6 million, Panteleakis said. The authority is conducting confidential negotiations with the bidder as legally allowed, and within guidelines set by the state Inspector General's office, he said.
Any price negotiated between the company and Panteleakis would have to be approved by the authority's board of directors. The authority owns five garages and five lots in support of economic development efforts in the downtown area.
Panteleakis said he is disappointed that the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, which owns the adjacent MassMutual Center on Main Street, chose not to bid on the six-level, 1,232-space garage. The garage, built in 1971, provides parking for approximately 750 monthly parkers, and for events at the MassMutual Center and other downtown venues.
"I was not only disappointed," Panteleakis said of the no-bid by the state authority. "I believe it would have been in their best interest."
James E. Rooney, executive director of the state's convention center authority, said the agency is "hopeful that a private sector solution is developed that works best for all."
"After a substantial engineering review of the facility and parking market analysis, we believe that this would be a financially difficult project for us to execute at this time," Rooney said in a prepared statement. "It appears to us that the best course of action is to demolish this facility and start over and we are just not in a position to consider that right now."
Panteleakis said the local parking authority believes there is still life left for the parking garage.
Panteleakis said, as part of negotiations, he cannot reveal the original bid price .
A garage, new or revitalized, is needed at that location, Panteleakis said. The garage is the largest and busiest parking garage in the downtown but is under-utilized, he said.
There have been some repairs done to the garage in the past including a $300,000 corrosion control program in 2001. However, a consultant in 2008 estimated renovations totaling $3.8 million are needed, mostly for the roof deck.
Parking was the main source of discussion during Wednesday evening's police and public safety committee meeting, where several ideas were pitched on how to make the situation better along East Philadelphia Avenue.
An idea brought before the committee was from Building a Better Boyertown, who would like to see two-hour parking put into place in the borough, eliminating the need for meters.
Adrianne Blank, BBB board member and volunteer on its design committee, has talked to officials at the Kutztown Community Partnership, where they have successfully implemented two-hour parking over the past 20 years. Their proposal is to add two-hour parking with the streetscape renovations because it would potentially bring more business downtown because it allows patrons to spend more time in each shop without fear of receiving a ticket.
Borough manager Patricia A. Spaide said the borough generates approximately $14,000 a year from parking meters, so if the board decides to go with BBB's proposal, it would eliminate that revenue stream, causing the borough to search for that money in other places, such as taxes.
Boyertown Police Chief Barry Leatherman said some of the lost income would be made up because tickets would be issued to violators who stay parked longer than two hours, but the money would not come close to what the meters bring in.
Leatherman added the police department would not be able to enforce two-hour parking because they do not have the manpower. Currently, the department's office secretary doubles as the parking enforcement officer. He explained if the borough were to change parking regulations, police services would suffer because they would have to assign officers and personnel to check parking and issue citations.
"It can't be done," he stated.
Committee members also discussed removing or limiting parking to one side of the street on East Philadelphia Avenue because of safety issues, such as vehicles being sideswiped and the constant flow of traffic.
Leatherman said it would be counterproductive to remove the parking spaces because it would deter customers from visiting downtown businesses, prompting them to shop elsewhere because they have to walk farther to park.
Committee member Patrick Maloney said he supports the idea of two-hour parking, but wants parking on East Philadelphia Avenue to stay because it is convenient for customers visiting local merchants.
Committee member Gene Gabel echoed the comments of Maloney and Leatherman, citing that removing parking would not be good for the businesses.
"I've always have had mixed feelings about Philadelphia Avenue and one sided parking, but not if that means we're taking parking away from our businesses," said Gabel.
At this time, the board will leave parking as is, looking to replace the existing parking meters with decorative fixtures that will serve multiple spaces.
Could the city be on the path to removing the downtown parking meters?
Survey says: Maybe.
The idea is certainly on the table, according to Chief Development Officer Bill Wiet, particularly after a group of downtown business owners unanimously recommended it earlier this year.
But downtown parking is a vast and complex issue, Wiet said, and anything the city does will have to be part of a comprehensive strategy.
That strategy, he said, could be in front of the City Council by Jan. 1. And it very well may include a plan to get rid of the meters.
Aurora Downtown, an organization made up of downtown property and business owners, has been discussing parking solutions for years. But it took until this spring for the 24-member board of directors to make official recommendations to the city.
Among them: Make the Stolp Avenue garage a 24-hour free facility, improve parking signs downtown and raise the fines for getting a parking ticket. But the one every member of the board agreed on, according to Parking Committee Chairman Dan Hites, was the removal of the meters.
"They drive customers away from downtown," he said. "It puts downtown at a competitive disadvantage to everywhere else. If you want to open a business two blocks from downtown, where there are no meters, that's better than opening one downtown."
Shirley Flaherty, another member of the committee, has been working with Aurora Downtown on parking issues for more than 10 years, and she said she expected some resistance to the idea of removing the meters.
"I was ready to fight for it," she said. "But there was no discussion. Everyone was for it."
Flaherty has been against the meters for as long as she's been downtown -- she's owned 79 S. LaSalle St. since 1994. In 2003, she was part of the group that convinced the city to cut parking enforcement after 5 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends. She believes the meters aren't friendly and discourage people from shopping downtown.
She said the members of the parking committee spoke with engineers in other cities -- Flaherty took Joliet -- to hear their recommendations. Everyone, she said, told them the meters should go.
David Dorgan, chief development consultant with economic development group Seize the Future, said he was consulted on the meters and recommended removing them. While he described the meters as a "slight deterrent" to economic growth downtown, he said no business owners have told him they're a deal-breaker. But Dorgan would still like to see them gone.
"They are antiquated and unfriendly," he said. "Not everyone carries change these days."
The problem with removing the meters, according to Wiet, is turnover. Even without them, time limits will need to be enforced, to prevent people from grabbing prime parking spaces and holding on to them throughout the day.
He said the city is considering options, including chalking tires, but also including utilizing new hand-held scanners that read license plates and can tell enforcers how long a car has been parked.
Wiet is also considering how to pay for that without the revenue-generating meters. He said it costs more to operate the parking system downtown than the city brings in through meters, fines and permit fees, and the city has subsidized that system for years with other tax dollars.
One possible solution, Wiet said, is a sticker system, which is in place in some areas of Chicago. He said the city could install sticker dispensers on each block which take debit cards. The stickers would show when the sticker was purchased and how much time was bought. Drivers would then affix those stickers to their cars and could park anywhere downtown until their time limit runs out.
If the city does do away with the meters, it will be as part of a larger parking strategy, one that has been in the works for years, Wiet said. He knows a new system will need to be in place by fall 2011, when Waubonsee Community College opens its new downtown campus, and part of it includes demolishing the YWCA building on River Street to build a temporary lot for students.
A separate parking agreement with Waubonsee is in the works, Wiet said, and would probably be presented at the same time as the overall strategy. He said the first of the year is a feasible target date, but city staff would take the time to make sure the plan put forth is the best one.
"Parking is a complex issue, and we're trying to do it right," he said.
Parking tickets in Lansdale Borough could soon be more costly for violators, and less costly for the borough to process.
A proposal from borough council's Public Safety committee could raise parking fines from the current $3 to $15 as soon as Sept. 15, committee chair Mike Sobel said.
"It costs us roughly $10 to have a parking ticket processed, so for every parking ticket we wrote, we've been losing almost $10. Now we're hoping to make a little on that," Sobel said.
Council has to be granted authority to raise parking fees by the borough's Parking Authority, but according to borough Manager Timi Kirchner, that was done "several years ago" without any followup from council.
"Now council will finally address the Parking Authority's recommendation of several years ago, should the motion pass on the 15th," Kirchner said.
That borough council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and be held at Borough Hall, located at 1 Vine Street; an agenda will be available online beforehand at the borough's Web site Lansdale.org.
While the estimated revenues from the parking fines are still unknown, they could combine with a debt restructuring earlier this year to help the fund switch from a net drain on the borough's general fund to at least a break-even level.
The working draft of Lansdale's 2011 budget reviewed by council and its committees Wednesday night showed more than $516,000 in expenses related to debt service for 2010 (covered by a transfer of $500,000 from the borough's general fund), but with those expenses off the books, the parking fund currently shows budgeted expenditures of only $65,500 for next year.
"This upcoming motion, if approved by council at our business meeting, is just another small step to make our borough more fiscally responsible to our residents and taxpayers," Sobel said.