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Gregory Coley is working up to it but can't bring himself to rat out his best friend - at least not yet. The friend's crime? He is still using his father's handicapped-parking placard even though the father died years ago.
Coley, 52, of Columbia Heights, says he feels conflicted because in a few weeks, he too will have his own blue handicapped-parking pass, legitimately obtained after he had a heart attack last year. "I would rat on anybody else," he said as he rested on the curb at 12th Street and New York Avenue NW. "That's not fair to the handicapped person who needs that parking space. There aren't but so many spaces."
In commuter-clogged Washington, where 25 cents buys only eight minutes at a parking meter, handicapped placards are a prized commodity. Families have been known to pass them down as if they were heirlooms. Thieves covet them: Last year, a Temple Hills man, Thais Miller, 19, was arrested for stealing placards from cars - ignoring global positioning systems and stereos - so he could sell them for $50 each.
The blue card allows users not only to park in choice spots, but also to park at meters for free for double the maximum time allowed, up to a limit of four hours in Maryland and Virginia.
Anger over abuse of handicapped-parking placards boiled over last week when Martena Clinton, a Maryland woman whose Lexus went missing for 24 hours after the Secret Service moved it during an appearance by President Obama at the Washington Convention Center, said she had parked the car in a handicapped space using her husband's placard.
Under D.C. as well as Maryland rules, Clinton is not supposed to use a handicapped pass unless the person to whom the card was issued - her husband - is present. She said he was not with her that day. Regulations also prohibit a placard holder from allowing someone else to use their placard. Fines for misuse run up to $250 in the District and up to $500 in Maryland and Virginia.
But enforcement of the rules is sporadic at best. Police say they are reluctant to demand proof of a disability, even when a driver gets out and starts sprinting across the street. "Asking them if they have a disability is not appropriate," D.C. police Lt. Nicholas Bruel said. "It's dicey." In Virginia, 16 handicapped placards or license tags have been revoked this year.
When police do crack down on disabled-parking violators, they find easy pickings. On Wednesday, Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration and Howard County police did a sweep targeting placard abuse for the second time this year, issuing a dozen tickets for as much as $350 to people in Ellicott City and Columbia who used placards issued in other people's names.
If the experience of other major cities is any guide, placard abuse is probably rampant. A 2007 investigation by the Massachusetts inspector general in three commercial areas of Boston found that out of nearly 1,000 placards observed, about a third appeared to be in use by someone other than the handicapped driver. Forty-nine were registered to people who had since died, including nine that were renewed after the person's death. A 2004 sampling by Seattle officials found that more than 75 percent of disabled placards were being used improperly.
Applicants for a handicapped placard or license plate must submit a doctor's note attesting to a disability such as lost use of a limb, need for a wheelchair, poor vision or conditions that make it difficult to walk long distances.
Regulations require those who get placards to return them when they expire or are no longer needed. But Virginia, Maryland and the District don't keep track of how many people turn in placards.
Officials do know that they are issuing far more placards than they used to. In Maryland, the number of handicapped placards jumped from 129,044 last year to 179,420 this year.
With so many placards in circulation, policing how people use them is tricky at best. Although Maryland requires anyone with a placard to carry a copy of medical certification and Virginia issues an ID card with each placard, police and parking enforcement officers generally don't have access to records that would let them check whether a driver is approved for parking privileges.
Police say they can't issue a violation unless an officer witnesses the placard being used by someone to whom it doesn't belong. Police also say they don't patrol for parking violations on private property, such as in shopping mall parking lots.
The lack of enforcement has led to the rise of handicapped-parking vigilantes. At one Web site, self-appointed enforcers can order blue Post-it notes to leave on violators' cars that read: "You've been reported at HandicappedFraud.org."
Mike and Maureen Birdsall, Web designers in Lafayette, Calif., started the site four years ago after Maureen became frustrated over not being able to find parking for her brother, who has cerebral palsy, and her grandfather, who was suffering from macular degeneration and dementia. Mike Birdsall said the site gets about 5,000 hits a month; about 50 reports of handicapped-parking misdeeds are posted each week.
"We started it so we could feel a little bit empowered about this," Mike Birdsall said. "I'm not happy with the response from the government agencies."
Disabled residents and their caregivers in the Washington area said some of the worst spots for handicapped-parking violations are at Metro stations, around government buildings and at big-box outlets such as Target, Wal-Mart and Costco, where the combination of tight parking and unwieldy 36-roll packages of toilet paper seems to intensify the temptation to park illegally.
Bobby Coward, a quadriplegic and co-founder of DIRECT Action, a Washington area disability rights group, was not able to park in a handicapped space at Costco in Pentagon City two months ago because the spot was occupied by a car with no handicapped placard or tags. His mother was at the wheel; he cannot drive. When he complained to a store manager, he was told the lot was managed by a separate company. Then, Coward said, a parking enforcement officer said he didn't have his ticketing book with him.
Residents near the Metrobus barn on 44th Street NW say that an unusually large number of cars parked at meters in front of the depot have handicapped placards. On Friday morning, 10 of 30 cars parked on the depot's block sported them. Asked whether a lot of his colleagues were disabled, a Metro employee getting out of a red Toyota with a handicapped placard said the culprit was an office building across the street that housed services for seniors. But no such services were listed in the building's directory.
Many apparent scofflaws say they are accidental violators. At a metered spot on a downtown Washington street Wednesday, a reporter saw Mark Anthony of Hyattsville getting into a gray Volkswagen with a Maryland handicapped placard hanging from the rearview mirror. Anthony said the car and placard belonged to his mother, a diabetic whom he often shuttles around, especially at night because she can't see well in the dark.
That morning, however, he was alone. Anthony said he was using his mother's car because his was in the shop. "I forget it's in there," he said of the placard.
Asked whether he has ever used his mother's placard to park in a handicapped space when he is alone, he shook his head. "I don't think [people] should park there if they're not handicapped," he said.
Need to find parking in downtown Orlando? Now there's an app for that.
If you plan to head to the new Amway Center once it opens Oct. 1, you can now find a convenient parking spot with the touch of a button.
The city has unveiled a new "Orlando parkIN'" application for the iPhone and other Apple mobile devices, designed to direct you to the most convenient parking area.
The app is linked to almost two dozen parking garages within a 10-minute walk of the Amway Center, with pictures of each garage.
It uses Google Maps, and includes real-time traffic information.
Orlando parkIN' features
Parking locations sorted by price or distance to Amway Center.
Directions to the parking facility from the user's current location.
Detailed information on each location, including hours of operation, price and number of spaces.
Real-time traffic views through Google Maps.
Images to aid in identifying parking locations.
A feedback form for users to provide recommendations or comments about their parking experience.
"Tips" section with information about downtown Orlando.
Some downtown employees and business owners recently might have noticed chalk lines behind their tires or even tickets on their windshields.
Officer Michael Trotter was drawing chalk lines behind tires parked downtown Thursday to ensure residents were obeying the three-hour parking limits.
Parking enforcement has been a contentious issue for Newark city government for as long as most city officials can remember.
But in 2009, Newark had to make several layoffs to balance the city budget.
Two of the employees cut were parking enforcement personnel. Since then, Newark police have taken on the added responsibility of enforcing parking time limits.
That has drawn concern from several downtown business owners who say without the visibility of the parking enforcement personnel, drivers again are abusing the free parking around the Licking County Courthouse Square and in other downtown areas.
Without enforcement, individuals can park in one spot all day, preventing open parking spots for customers or deliveries.
But several months ago, a downtown district officer was created to not only issue tickets, but also watch for other concerns in the downtown area, Newark Safety Director Roger Stollard said.
Sgt. Scott Snow said that as one of two members of the traffic enforcement unit, parking enforcement is now part of Trotter's duties.
"We are trying to assist the downtown merchants in the best way we can," Snow said. "Those are not Trotter's only duties. He has to incorporate those duties with other things he has to do, (but) we hear people's complaints and we understand them."
Residents might see the effect as a ticket on their windshields if their tires still abut the chalk line three hours after it first was marked.
"Obviously, we would love to have parking enforcement officials back, (but) we are trying to react to the concerns of the downtown business people," Snow said.
Newark City Council Safety Committee also will discuss a change to accessible parking regulations Monday.
Currently, people with a disability are permitted an extra two hours, but Stollard has proposed allowing individuals with a placard to park all day in the downtown district.
That would allow at least one business owner with a disability to get to his business even if the designated accessible parking space is full.
"That's a minor change that in my mind makes sense," Stollard said.
York city's parking garages are being renovated to make them safer and more attractive to monthly customers, and to solve complaints from downtown businesses that there is not enough parking. To make that happen, two entities, the city's General Authority, which oversees the garages, and the city Parking Bureau, which is paid nearly $1 annually by the authority to run them, will have to make some decisions:
When will the garages close? How much will parking at night cost? Who gets discounted rates? And how can the garages cooperate with businesses to encourage people to come downtown?
But right now, those problems aren't being solved. That's because the two groups aren't talking to each other.
Michael O'Rourke, the city's business administrator who oversees the Parking Bureau and acts as a liaison with the authority, hasn't attended an authority meeting in more than a month at the mayor's request.
It hasn't always been that way, said Eric Menzer, York's former economic director, who lobbied to create the authority in 1995.
The authority allows the city to take advantage of lower interest rates on loans that can fund projects in the city. And its existence guarantees that revenue from the city's parking system is reinvested in the parking system for the benefit of the customers that pay into it.
The renovations wouldn't have happened without an authority, Menzer said.
"If (they) let the relationship and management system degrade to the point that they're spending their time fighting with each other rather than focusing on the parking system and the customer, that's bad for downtown," he said.
The trouble began with the Market Street Garage. The authority recently completed a $4 million renovation of the facility that updated the façade, created new security measures and added gates. But since it reopened in August, no one could agree on how late it should be open or how much people should pay to park there.
The authority initially voted to close at 6:30 p.m., but members changed their minds after several downtown business owners petitioned for a change. The garage was to remain open until 2 a.m. but charge full price, said Joshua George, chairman of the authority.
Shortly after, the city's Parking Bureau opened the garage for free at night -- disregarding the wishes of the authority, George said. The authority voted to collect data about how many people are parking in the garages at night, but the bureau ignored that too, he said. That data is necessary to make a final decision on hours and pricing for the garage, George said.
But those types of changes can't be implemented immediately, O'Rourke said. When the garage is open, an attendant must be available in case the machinery malfunctions, he said. A financial analysis, which O'Rourke is preparing, is needed before making a decision, he said.
"This is the first time I ever saw the General Authority board have someone come in and say, 'We want you to do this,' and (the authority) take a vote immediately," he said. "Most of the time they chew and chew. (The Parking Bureau) needed more time. They know that."
O'Rourke's disappearance from the meetings was York Mayor Kim Bracey's decision, he said. According to O'Rourke, she was offended by discussion at an August authority meeting about whether to hire a new, professional parking administrator to run the garages, as recommended by Downtown Inc.
"One of the board members made a big speech about how we've been without any professional management for years," O'Rourke said. "It peeved me for sure. I'm the one who's been in charge for those years."
But Bracey and O'Rourke misinterpreted that conversation, said the Rev. Patrick Rooney, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in York and a member of the authority. The authority was considering hiring a professional with experience managing a parking system, he said.
"Michael is a professional and very competent professional in many ways," Rooney said. "But to ask him to be responsible for the parking authority on top of his other responsibilities doesn't seem to be the best use of his time."
During the authority's most recent meeting, conversation stalled without information O'Rourke could have provided.
"We need to have the representative of the city attend the meeting," George said. "If we're asking about operation and there's no one there to answer, it becomes difficult to provide good direction."
Bracey said in an e-mail Friday that she received a request from the authority to send an alternative representative, but hasn't decided anything yet.
Dissatisfied members of the authority could hire a new management company for the parking garages, but some people, including previous Mayor John Brenner and O'Rourke, have suggested that the authority could be abolished if it did that. Bracey said Saturday in an e-mail that she would consider all options.
The city can run the garages, and as a former authority member, Bracey knows parking better than anyone else, O'Rourke said.
"She is intimately knowledgeable with the authority board, the parking system, the relationship with the city parking system to the city," he said. "It's not like she just marched out of a cave and started swinging a club at people."
But abolishing the authority would be throwing out the baby with the bath water, Menzer said. Seventy-five percent of what the authority was created to do has happened, he said.
"Why we think a mayor and city council are going to be able to spend more time and make better decisions on the parking system is puzzling to me even if I disagree with some of what the general authority has done," Menzer said. "City government is perfectly capable of screwing up a parking system, too."
Most members of the authority aren't interested in picking a fight with the mayor and her administration anyway, said George, noting that the authority has requested a meeting with Bracey to discuss existing contracts. Authority members Rooney and Sonia Huntzinger, executive director of Downtown Inc, as well as O'Rourke said they would attend, but no meeting has been scheduled.
Something has to give eventually, and that's going to require better communication, Huntzinger said.
"There are a lot of layers to this, and I think the only way to peel back the layers and get to the root of any problem, is to sit down and talk to each other,"she said.
Levying of hefty road tax, introduction of congestion charge and putting high premium on parking are some of the measures the Centre for Science and Environment has suggested to Delhi Government to check growth of private vehicles and overcome the traffic mess in the city.
In a letter to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, CSE citing examples of various cities including London, Stockholm and Tokyo, said experience from across the world showed that parking controls, parking pricing along with taxes top the list as first generation car restraint measures.
"With hidden subsidies like low charges for road usage and parking, cars have completely taken over the road space," the CSE said adding Indian cities charge a "pittance" for road usage and for parking as compared to many other world cities which must reverse.
According to statistics, there are nearly 65 lakh vehicles registered in the city while the total number of vehicles in Delhi is more than the total number of vehicles in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. On an average over 1,000 vehicles are added to the city roads everyday.
Favouring massive spending in further scaling up public transport system, the CSE said a part of the funding can be met if the cars are made to pay for the externalities.
"For instance, Stockholm expects to generate equivalent to Rs 366 crore from congestion charges annually from this year that will be used for transit development," the CSE said also analysing the situation in major Indian cities.
Noting that Delhi must tap the revenue streams from "congestion charges and restraint taxes", the prominent environmental NGO said cars cannot continue to enjoy direct and hidden subsidy and privileges on roads.
Holding that the growing car volume has resulted in increase in pollution level in the city, the CSE said right price tag on cars and its usages will make a difference and encourage people to move to public transport.
The letter said despite having a high car ownership of 350 cars per 1,000 people, Tokyo provides less parking slots --only 0.5 slots per 100 square metres in commercial buildings. But Delhi with 85 cars per 1,000 people provides 2 to 3 parking slots per 100 square metres.
"With congestion tax and good public transport, central London has reduced traffic volume by 25 per cent, congestion by 30 per cent. Singapore with ownership restrictions has kept the annual car growth rate well within 3 per cent as opposed to more than 10 per cent in Delhi," the CSE said.
"Indian cities including Delhi have begun to prepare parking policy but this must include parking controls and pricing to dampen car usage," it said.
The relative worth of building a new five-story parking garage on the city-owned Worth Parking Lot was among the topics discussed Monday when the City Council reviewed a number of proposals aimed at improving downtown parking.
Members of the council were presented with the findings of a July report that saw a parking focus group reviewing the existing parking situation in the city and suggesting seven ideas how it might change to better accommodate future needs.
City Planning Director Rick Taintor led a work-session discussion where city officials painted a picture of a downtown area whose parking spaces are at a premium with outlying lots seeing far less frequent usage.
Officials have provided the City Council with a number of options for improving the use of existing spaces, but have also set a course that has them looking to make sure the heart of the downtown has adequate parking for shoppers and workers.
Among the ideas considered is building a new five-level parking garage at the site of the existing Worth Parking Lot - an area off Maplewood Avenue that currently provides 110 parking spaces and the "Whale Wall" mural.
Public Works Director Steve Parkinson said the city first looked into constructing a new garage at the Worth Lot in 2003 and found the proposal would be feasible despite being a "tight" site close to neighboring buildings.
The 2003 inquiry into a new garage indicated it would cost the city approximately $16,000-$20,000 per parking space to construct the structure with more up-to-date estimates pegging that number at between $20,000 and $25,000 per spot.
Parkinson discussed three possible configurations for a new five-story garage with the Council on Monday noting that one would see the construction of a garage solely dedicated to accommodating vehicles. He said such a design would produce about 440 spaces.
A second configuration would see the first four levels of the garage providing about 320 spaces with the top floor accommodating development on the top floor. A third option would allow 375 parking spaces with a portion of the first floor offering retail space facing the existing Vaughn Mall area.
Those pitching ideas to the council said a parking garage could be built to match the character of the historic downtown with some design ideas even calling for "green" elements. One example showed a parking garage whose top floor featured a park with trees and walkways.
Parkinson said current estimates show it would take upward of 16 months to finish such a project.
While no decision has been made on a new parking garage, officials informed the council that if they gave the project the go-ahead immediately, it would be completed by April 2013.
Other parking options discussed Monday included a proposal calling for the possible elimination of parking impact fees currently assigned to incoming businesses that don't have adequate off-street spaces.
Some have argued the impact fees are detrimental to businesses looking to locate in the city.
Other proposals weighed would provide "variable" parking rates/durations in different portions of the city, create new off-street parking and one option called for the city to provide limited free or low-cost parking.
The City Council is also considering creating a "parking enterprise fund" that would be used exclusively to fund parking enhancements with parking revenues going into the fund and debt service being drawn from it.
Officials said such a fund wouldn't be unlike existing dedicated water and sewer funds.
City Councilor Esther Kennedy said she was not prepared to make any decision on a parking garage proposal and asked if the parking study had investigated whether public transportation might eliminate some of the downtown parking concerns.
Study leaders responded by saying most people are more inclined to park close to downtown than take trolleys from outlying parking lots.
Other members of the council said they wanted to take more time to digest the parking recommendations.
The City Council will continue to weigh the options as the city staff looks closer at the details of the options.
"We have a fair amount of work to do," said Mayor Tom Ferrini.
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl released a $453 million preliminary city budget Wednesday that assumes the approval of a controversial proposal to lease the city's parking garages and meters to outside investors.
The move surprised city council members and union leaders, who had expected Mr. Ravenstahl to release a 2011 budget with nearly $30 million in service cuts. Instead, the budget lists no major tax hikes, no additional borrowing and no mass layoffs.
"It seems to me that the mayor -- despite what he said earlier -- has made the choice to ensure that the budget at least closer reflects reality," said Councilman Patrick Dowd. "I'm not suggesting that we go with the parking plan, but extra cuts and taxes are not going to be necessary."
Mr. Ravenstahl had previously said he planned to present a budget reflecting the gloom that would descend on the city without the $452 million parking lease, putting significant pressure on city council to vote for the contract.
Before council reviews Mr. Ravenstahl's budget, the document must be accepted by the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, the state board that oversees the city's finances.
Last year, Mr. Ravenstahl also presented a budget assuming the use of not-yet-approved funds: His proposed college tuition tax, which met fierce opposition and was never enacted. The ICA sent that budget back for revision.
Unlike the tuition tax, the parking lease would not directly contribute to the city's general fund, but it would enable the city to free up money that would otherwise be needed to boost the flagging pension fund.
State legislation would allow the city to increase parking taxes from 37.5 percent to 40 percent, but again, assuming that a parking lease is approved by the city. That parking tax increase is also reflected in the preliminary budget, bringing the city an extra $5.6 million in revenue.
Monday, a group led by J.P. Morgan Asset Management and LAZ Parking bid $452 million for the 50-year parking lease, an amount Mr. Ravenstahl said greatly exceeded his expectations.
The contract must first be approved by council, which has until November to do so. It faces an uncertain future; a majority of council members -- President Darlene Harris, Mr. Dowd, Bruce Kraus, Bill Peduto, Natalia Rudiak and Doug Shields -- have expressed deep concerns about the lease. Council is to receive a report Friday on the value of the contract that they commissioned for $250,000 from an outside consultant.
Also in the next week or so, city Controller Michael Lamb plans to float an alternative proposal to the lease. He has claimed that the city could take in more than $1 billion by continuing to operate garages on its own, but the mayor's office has dismissed such alternatives, saying they would not generate the large, upfront payment needed to prop up the pension fund.
Mr. Ravenstahl has long warned that the pension fund could be taken over by the state in 2011, triggering new payments from the city and necessitating higher taxes, service cuts or both.
The pension fund is currently about 27.5 percent funded. Under a state law enacted in 2009, it must be 50 percent funded by the end of this year.
The ICA has 30 days to approve or reject Mr. Ravenstahl's budget. If they reject it, the city must submit a revised budget within 15 days. If they approve it, the budget moves to city council, which must also approve it.
Mr. Ravenstahl's budget lists $453.4 million in revenue and $447.4 million in expenditures, including about $133 million in pension payments and $88 million in debt service.
It does not include the 10 percent across-the-board cuts Mr. Ravenstahl had previously talked about, but it does include modest reductions in allotted funds for nearly every city department and a 3 percent budget cut for the Bureau of Police.
In a news release, Mr. Ravenstahl said the reductions in the operating budget came from eliminating vacancies and inefficiencies.
Included in the budget is $120 million in "net parking lease proceeds," kept in reserve.
Parking revenue has dipped significantly since the city stopped doing dedicated parking enforcement in April 2009. Collections declined from an average of $27,000 per month in fiscal year 2008, the last full year of meter enforcement, to an average of $19,400 per month in fiscal year 2010, which ended on June 30.
Parking revenue includes the money paid to street meters and in the city's surface lots and parking garage.
It also includes money from parking tickets, which range from $15 for parking more than a foot from the curb to $150 for parking in a handicapped space. Parking at an expired meter is a $20 ticket.
The city maintains 500 metered and un-metered parking spaces downtown, 900 spaces in 18 surface lots and 450 spaces in the parking garage.
When a motorist pays for parking in one of those spaces, that money goes to the parking authority to pay for administrative salaries, lighting and maintenance at the parking lots, structural repairs of the garage, and repaving and snow plowing of surface lots.
Money from the parking tickets will go into a special fund, most of which will go into the city's general fund after the expenses for running the meter enforcement operation are taken out.
The city took a first official baby step toward taking control of the downtown parking garage Wednesday.
The Community and Economic Development Committee of the Rutland Board of Aldermen voted to continue conversations with the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services on the subject, though the motion was specifically not an endorsement of any takeover.
"I don't think we're close to saying 'negotiate a lease,'" committee chairwoman Sharon Davis said. "We need more questions answered. We need the gaps filled in."
At the same time, the committee said Mayor Christopher Louras should discuss security at the deck with the city police and that the city needs to consider a comprehensive traffic study.
Buildings and General Services Commissioner Gerry Myers recently said he was considering closing the deck from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the week and all through the weekend if he could not reach an agreement with the city to take over management of the deck, which is operating at a loss and suffering from frequent vandalism.
"The message we send by having a parking deck that closes at 6 p.m. and on weekends is that there's nothing going on downtown, that downtown is dead," Alderman William Notte said. "It takes the revitalization of downtown and throws a brick at it."
Myers met with the committee Wednesday, saying he was open to all sorts of solutions but that the status quo at the deck was unacceptable. He said selling the deck to a private operator could also go on the table.
Most at the meeting were lukewarm to that idea. While Alderman Christopher Robinson said it sounded like it could be the best outcome for everyone, Downtown Rutland Partnership Executive Director Michael Coppinger and others argued the city would be better off with control of the deck's fees and hours.
Business owner Bonnie Hawley raised the possibility of a failed private operator abandoning the deck and letting it crumble.
Myers said if the state keeps the 225 spaces it leases for $45 a month, the city could cover operating costs if it filled the rest of the spaces at $30.11 a month - roughly $1.50 a day based on a 20-day work month.
"If people can't afford a buck fifty a day, then you're right, I can never sell this garage and we will never make it," he said.
If the city sold all the spaces at the same rate, Myers said, it could cover costs at a rate of $36.11 per space, per month. He also said most garage operators oversell on the theory that some users will always be absent.
Several aldermen said they were worried about the potential liability to taxpayers. Myers said he could guarantee that the city would have no liability in the first year by setting the first year's rent at the current revenue from private customers.
Much of the discussion dealt with the question of why the city would be expected to be able to sell more of the parking than the state. Myers said the city would have to take a big-picture look at parking in and around downtown, and that the garage would not be able to compete with 10-hour meters. Several people agreed the city needed to find ways to get downtown employees off the street and into the garage.
Davis also said there was nothing stopping the city from looking into security at the deck now and talking to police about patrolling it as part of their duties downtown.
Three weeks ago around two in the morning, a University of Tampa student found his car broken into and vandalized.
His car was parked in the commuter lot behind the abandoned Valencia Gardens Restaurant. It was pitch black. There were no cameras and no one in sight.
The roof of his soft-top convertible was slashed open and various items were missing. Immediately he went to the Safety and Security Office, where he reported the incident. The student was escorted back to his car by an officer, who took pictures and further questioned him according to protocol.
After all was said and done, the student was left with about $800 in damage and lost property with absolutely no leads.
It has been one year since the commuter lot was opened. With parking being a hot-button issue on campus for numerous students, many were relieved to hear that the administration was finally hearing their cries for more spaces to accommodate UT's growing population by opening the lot to commuters.
However, many students are now questioning whether or not the commuter lot is a safe place to park their vehicles.
"When I first heard about the new commuter lot, I was excited that there would be more parking options for commuter students. But when I saw the location, I was surprised that it was in such an open area. I mean anybody could just jump the fence and come in. It's [almost] on the outside of the campus," said a female commuter student.
The commuter lot at night is dark, there is barely any lighting, no cameras and although security officers make rounds every fifteen minutes, there still seems to be enough space and opportunity for a car to be broken into, stolen or robbed, leaving many students to deal with the consequences.
With all the initiatives and steps forward the administration and security are making to help keep students safe on and off campus, the question many are asking now is, "What is UT doing to help keep students' vehicles safe on campus?"
Statistically, according to the UT Annual Security Report, there have only been 13 motor vehicle thefts on campus in the last three years.
While numbers may seem low now, many are considering the fact that the UT campus resides in an urban area where crime rates are statistically higher.
From the sheer number of robberies, assaults and murders that have been committed against members of the UT community, it's no wonder that safety and security on- and off-campus is a top priority. In addition, UT is an open campus not guarded by gates or fences; it hosts weddings, soccer games and various other events, which leaves it vulnerable to the public.
Many students are wondering why all of our buildings, parking garages and lots go without video cameras.
"I pay way too much money here for the university not to have more cameras and stuff watching the open areas of campus," said a junior male student. "…before they built that chapel, they should have invested money in more security."
There have even been unconfirmed reports that the University may be spending more money making the campus look good, rather than funding its security efforts.
While officials in Safety and Security say that this is false and that they have in fact upgraded their security technology on campus, the facts have yet to be uncovered.
Some students believe that there is only so much the University can do to protect students from vehicle thefts and break-ins, and that it is the responsibility of the students to protect themselves.
The Safety and Security Office has outlined on their website the
following ways that students can help guard themselves:
* Don't leave your vehicle running or the keys in it, even for a minute.
* Always lock your vehicle.
* Use "The Club" or a similar device. It is a good visual theft deterrent.
* Remember to activate your vehicle alarm.
* Do not ignore a vehicle alarm - call campus security immediately.
* Do not leave valuables (cell phones, packages, etc.) in plain view inside your vehicle.
* Do not leave your vehicle unlocked when returning to your room.
*Do not leave unattended items in the hallway.
*If you have a bicycle, lock it to a solid, fixed object, or store it in the secured Thomas Parking Garage bicycle storage area.
Parking on Market Street Plaza will be the subject of additional debate after a vote of Wheeling City Council on Tuesday.
Enforcement of an existing parking ban for the plaza sparked heated discussion during council's regular meeting. Three business owners came forward to address their concerns about public safety and business development in the plaza at the 7 p.m. session.
Last week, police officers notified business owners in the plaza they would again begin enforcing a parking ban that would close the plaza, located at 11th and Market streets, to vehicular traffic and parking effective Monday. The notice said access would only be available to pedestrians and vehicles for commercial loading.
The policy change comes in the wake of numerous complaints by council members that the plaza is misused for parking and that a number of vehicles have been seen speeding through the area via 11th Street. Councilman Don Atkinson said the vehicular traffic is a safety issue for people walking there.
Fred Horne, owner of properties on11th Street between Market and Main streets, came forward first. He said his building, once deemed accessible to the public from the road, is now inaccessible, reducing the incentive for new tenants to move in.
He suggested the matter be sent to the proper committees for further discussion.
The owner of Gator Investments at 1061 Market St. and Heavenly Water at 2711 11th St., Challen Waychoff, spoke to council primarily about public safety on the plaza. Contrary to the views of council members, however, he said parking and vehicular traffic on the plaza would benefit public safety.
He shared a story about his daughter being mugged some time ago. Because of parking restrictions on the plaza, he said, she parked blocks away and walked to the site, where she incident occurred. He said if she had been able to park in the plaza, the mugging would never have occurred.
Agreeing with Horne that prohibiting traffic on the plaza hurts business, Roger Malone, co-owner of the new Mountain Mama's Kayak and Bike Rental at 1057 Market St., told council business at the plaza will soon come to a halt if the no-parking rule is enforced.
He supported his claim by saying there is no record of vehicle-pedestrian accidents in the plaza.
"I sat out there from 3:30 to 6:30 (p.m.) and I saw only 14 people walking through that plaza," he said. "If we continue doing the things that we're doing here today, we'll see a lot less people walking through that plaza."
"There have never been cars legally allowed on the plaza, and it needs to be understood that the plaza is not a road," Mayor Andy McKenzie responded. "We're not changing anything that exists, we're just enforcing it."
After further discussion and out-of-order debate regarding public safety in the plaza, Councilman James Tiu made a motion to forward the matter to the Public Safety Committee despite discouragement from the mayor and Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey. Tiu's motion passed on a 4-3 vote with McKenzie, Fahey and Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge opposing the motion and Tiu, Atkinson and Councilman Vernon Seals and Robert "Herk" Henry voting in favor.
It could cost Emmaus $5 million to build a parking deck in the busy commercial district, however a recent study shows the area has sufficient parking and the deck is not needed.
A parking deck feasibility study by Langan Engineering of Bethlehem was presented to Borough Council this week. The study showed there is sufficient on-street and off-street parking in private lots surrounding the downtown that a parking deck is unnecessary at this time.
The study examined the area surrounding Main Street from Second to Fourth and Railroad to Green streets during peak hours on a Friday afternoon and on Sunday.
Denis Molner of Langan said there are 395 parking spaces in that area, but that 273 of the spaces are in private lots. During Friday lunchtime, about 50 percent of the spaces are used, the study shows. About 76 percent of on- and off-street spaces are used during peak hours Sunday morning, when there is traffic from church services and the Emmaus Farmers Market.
"Overall there is sufficient supply in the study area to accommodate existing demand," Molner said.
Downtown shoppers use the lots of the stores they are patronizing and many farmers market visitors park at the Wachovia lot since the bank is closed on Sunday.
However, Molner said a 200-space parking deck could be built with grants or loans to handle growth and generate revenue for the borough.
"If things develop further, you will start to see a shortage," Molner said. "There will be a time, towns grow, at some point you will need a structure of some nature."
Molner proposes erecting a $5 million, three-story garage at Third and Broom streets, with entrances and exits from both roads.
Financial consultant Donna Taggart of Taggart Associates, Bethlehem, said 50 spaces in the garage could be rented for $40 a month, generating $24,000 a year. The remaining 150 spaces could be metered at $1 an hour, earning an average of $4 a day, and generating an estimated $180,000 a year. Total annual revenue on the garage could average $204,000. Taggart said the garage would cost the borough about $40,000 a year to operate and maintain.
The borough would likely qualify for $2.5 million in grants and $2.5 million in loans to undertake the project, the study shows.
Molner recommends that if the borough builds a garage, it should have commercial storefront space that would be leased to tenants, such as a restaurant and community center, to generate revenue. The tenants would likely use up to 150 of the spaces, leaving 50 spaces for business patrons, the study shows.
Borough Manager Craig Neely said in that case, the parking deck would be generating its own use and there would be very little added parking at the end of the project.
Councilman Brent Labenberg asked how many private properties would have to be acquired, at what cost, and by what methods, to secure a location for a garage. Molner said he did not know offhand.
Councilman Brian Holtzhafer asked if there were any other communities of similar size - roughly 11,300 residents - without a college or university presence that had parking decks like the one proposed. Molner said he was unaware but added that the quaint tourist town of New Hope, Bucks County, is considering a parking deck.
Molner said the borough could improve short-term parking conditions by adding signage directing motorists to existing lots and Emmaus could consider making agreements with private lot owners to allow public parking, especially on Sundays during the farmers market. Molner said local businesses should ask their employees to park off-site to free up spaces in their lots for customers. The borough should also consider metering its on-street parking spaces and establishing a parking authority to collect revenue and promote traffic flow, the study states.
Labenberg said the borough used to have parking meters and when they were removed in the mid-1980s business bloomed.
"I believe we got our answer," Councilman Nathan Brown said at the end of the presentation. "This settles some of those perceptions."
Who knew people were so passionate about parking meters?
What appeared to be an easy road to another privatization victory for Mayor Greg Ballard has suddenly turned into a political traffic jam. Many constituents seem as irritated by the parking meter proposal as they would be by a ticket tucked under their windshield wiper. Along the way, they've kicked off a good old-fashioned policy debate.
At stake is the mayor's proposal to sign a 50-year deal with a Dallas-based company that would upgrade and then manage the city's antiquated meters. The city would get $35 million upfront in return for infrastructure repairs, then collect millions each year for the life of the contract.
It sounds like a good deal -- at least to those of us who get weak in the knees over infrastructure spending, and who don't really care whether the city or a private vendor manages the meters. We're talking about parking meters, after all, and not public schools. But without question, reasonable critics of the deal have raised important questions.
Those questions have slowed the push to privatize and left many wondering whether the mayor will be able to win enough support to get the plan through the City-County Council. Fresh off his successful sale of the city's water and sewer utilities, but hobbled of late by police scandals, Ballard now faces serious doubts about whether this deal makes sense for the city.
Personally, I think it's wonderful that we're actually having this debate. In this year of partisan sniping and lowbrow congressional campaigns, isn't it nice to see the city debating a real policy issue -- one that will affect the city's future?
The debate involves not only finding a way to raise much-needed money for infrastructure but also exploring the issue of what functions government should perform and which should be turned over to private companies. People are asking why the city itself can't just upgrade the meter system, rather than allowing a private firm to make tens of millions of dollars from parking fees. They're asking whether the city will get a big enough check, and whether a 50-year deal could hurt the city if it wants to make dramatic changes to Broad Ripple or Downtown, say, in 2035.
Wonderful questions all.
It's up to the mayor to make his case. So far, his arguments largely make sense. First, he has insisted on a deal that provides money to the city in each year of the contract, rather than settling for a bigger upfront payment. The bigger check is enticing, but the continuing revenue stream will be useful as the years pass. Second, the private firm will pay the roughly $10 million cost of finally updating the city's outdated parking meters, a move that would, for instance, allow visitors to use credit cards. And that firm will take over the headache of repairing the meters and enforcing them.
Still, the nagging concerns persist. The length of the contract is worrisome, as nobody knows what Downtown's needs will be over the next 50 years. And ACS, the Dallas-based firm, won't tell anyone how much profit it expects to make off Indy's parking spaces. Without that information, it's hard to know how good the deal is for the city.
Supporters and critics both make good arguments, and it's unclear how the debate will end. But at least Ballard is tackling a real issue. At least critics are raising serious questions. And at least the city is having a real debate.
UH services and groups continuously attempt to find students a solution for the recurring parking issue.
Students spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more searching for open spaces, occasionally opting to park illegally rather than arriving late for class or missing it altogether.
"It takes me 30 to 40 minutes to park on Tuesdays and Thursdays," advertising student Christopher Boutte said. "I try to park as close as I can."
Many students like Boutte prefer to park as close as possible, rather than utilizing economy lots and walking or riding the campus shuttle. Most economy lots have open spaces, including lots 9C and 8A near the corner of Cullen and Wheeler.
Students can also follow Parking and Transportation Services on Twitter to receive updates on the availability of parking in lots all over campus.
"I follow UH Parking on Twitter," public relations student Claudia Hualde said. "When I'm on my way to school, I check the capacity of the lots and see where I can park."
In addition to the Twitter campaign, UH has a number of parking projects in progress, in an effort to alleviate parking stress.
While the construction of the Stadium Parking Garage has cost the university parking spaces, three temporary lots are under construction west of Cullen at Dennis, Leek and Anita Streets.
According to a Parking and Transportation Services press release, the Anita lot is scheduled to be completed by October, and the other two lots should be finished by January 2011. The three lots should provide approximately 240 parking spaces and will be equipped with lighting and security phones.
UH also announced the launch of the Connect by Hertz Program on Sept. 13. A continuation of the University's green initiative, the program allows UH students 18 and older to rent a car without leaving campus, an ideal arrangement for students living on campus. They can avoid paying for a parking permit and there will be more parking available for commuters.
The program will begin with four cars, including a Mazda 3, Mazda 6, Ford Fusion and Ford Escape, available through online reservations. Students, faculty and staff who enroll in the program by Dec. 31 will be able to waive the usual $50 annual membership fee and the $25 application fee. Additionally, the first 100 students to register will receive $35 in their account, equivalent to about four hours of drive time.
Another reason parking lots become jammed is because students all arrive at the same time. Those who arrive early enough are almost guaranteed a parking spot.
Psychology student Cindy Pachicano said she typically arrives to campus around 9 a.m.
"If you get here early, you get to park in front," she said. "But you have to plan on getting here earlier than your classes start."
After a three-month study using new parking meter technology at Downtown spots, city officials said they have already seen improvements.
Since July, in the 49 spots used in the study, enforcement by city officers has doubled and compliance from motorists using the spots has increased by 50 percent, officials said Monday during an Easton Parking Task Force meeting.
Though a final decision is far from determined, the city is considering whether to install the meter technology into Downtown spaces permanently.
Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said doing so would not only help enforcement and compliance, but improve vehicle turnover in the spots, generating more customer traffic and revenue for Downtown businesses.
Several residents and small business owners Monday feared the system would lead to more tickets, therefore harming business and creating an impression that Easton is not tourist-friendly.
Many of the two dozen attendees said rather than worry about new technology, the city should consider increasing two-hour Downtown parking limits and improving signage and communication so motorists better understand existing parking laws.
"Perhaps the first step should have been to get us all together and see what those changes should be, then get the meters," said Diane Bower, owner of Just Around the Corner gallery on 5 N. Bank Street.
But Panto said the meters would help the city gather better empirical data, which could then lead to such changes.
Another parking meeting will be held sometime in October, Panto said. During that time, business owners and city officials can work together to develop a plan for any changes that would be needed once meter systems are put into place.
In the meantime, no meter technology will be purchased or implemented until at least after that meeting, he said.
The new technology, which includes sensors in the pavement and computers in the meters, allows police to remotely monitor meter usage and become informed when a vehicle is in violation after a meter expires.
The technology can be customized at the city level. It can be used to prevent motorists from adding more time to the meter until the vehicle moves and erase any remaining time once a car pulls away.
Such measures are needed, Panto said, because Downtown employees have been parking for eight hours at a time in those two-hour spots and feeding the meters, thus taking parking away from customers.
The new system would pay for itself through the ticket revenue generated, said Mark Miller, sales manager with StreetSmart Technology, which implemented the system.
The system costs about $1 per spot per day. At $20 per citation, that means they will pay for themselves if they result in just 1.5 additional citations per spot each month, Miller said.
The system can also lead to more conveniences for motorists, city Administrator Glenn Steckman said.
This includes the use of credit cards or dollar bills when they don't have quarters, or a feature that would send the motorist a text message via phone when their time is about to run out.
In the 49 spaces used in the study, only about 4 percent of the reported violations were cited, according to the study.
When the city of Los Angeles quadrupled parking meter rates last year, paying $1 to park for an hour was only the half of it.
The new rates also required motorists to carry pockets full of quarters and other assorted change.
But while the pricey meter rates still bring plenty of complaints in downtown San Pedro, shoppers caught without spare change now have the option of using a debit or credit card.
The new solar-powered parking meters - being installed throughout the city of Los Angeles - made their debut in downtown San Pedro over the past week.
"I think it's a good thing because I'm always giving out change for customers," said Darka Klaric, owner of Drop-In Gifts on San Pedro's Sixth Street.
"It's an advantage to have this because a lot of people don't carry change," customer Tom Vinn of San Pedro said.
The meters, which take all coins except pennies and major credit cards, aren't as prone to breaking as much as the old meters and thus are expected to bring more revenue into the cash-strapped city.
"I was looking at one last night and when you put money in it tells you how much time you have, so that's a good feature," Juan Soto of Ron's Jewelers said of the new digital read-out machines.
Still, he said, the higher rates continue to hurt downtown business. Many in San Pedro's downtown, however, still haven't gotten over the sting of parking meters being raised from a quarter an hour to $1 an hour in March 2009.
"It's completely affected the area," he said. "When you think about it, 75 cents (the amount of the increase per hour) is not that much, in most instances it's pocket change. But it's just the fact that in a bad economy you really don't need another fee."
Elizabeth Bryant, owner of an antique and collectible shop up the street from Klaric, agreed.
"No one will come down here for $1 an hour," she said.
Downtown San Pedro customer Nancy Kalal of Seal Beach noted that using a credit card in the meters appeared to force motorists to buy the full two-hour time limit.
"They should leave this poor street alone," Kalal said of Sixth Street.
But Vinn, also shopping on Sixth Street, said buttons on the meters do give people the option of choosing "less time" after they swipe their credit cards and the two-hour lights up on the display.
A two-hour limit remains in place - no feeding the meters, either with coins or the same credit card. That remains a concern among restaurant and theater operators whose busiest times are in the late afternoons and evenings, straddling the meter shut-off time of 6 p.m.
Meters flash green when they are good and red when time runs out, making meter status easy to see for parking enforcement officers who cruise the area.
A new kind of parking meter that's already in use in several parts of our area, is coming to another.
Multi-space parking meters are coming to Alexandria, probably in a few months. They're the kind that look more like kiosks than meters, and are placed at a central location on a given block instead of at every space.
City Council has agreed to spend more than $1.2 million to buy the meters, which can be programmed to let you pay with coins, a credit card and even by phone.
In July, the city raised rates at its meters from $1 an hour to $1.75. That means pumping in seven quarters for one hour.
"I like to think of this as the "Death to Quarters Act," jokes Councilmember Rob Krupicka. "I am happy to see the council take steps to eliminate the need for all those quarters."
Some Old Town business owners say the new parking rates have hurt business by driving away customers, and one councilmember says he's sorry for that.
"I would like to apologize to all the business owners and the citizens in town, it's caused a lot of frustration over the past 2 and a half months. We maybe didn't think it through as quickly or as long as we should have," says Councilmember Frank Fannon.
The higher parking rates will stick around in Alexandria, but the new meters should be easier to use.
Some details regarding the new meters still need to be worked out, and council plans to tackle those remaining issues at a work session next month.
A store owner bursts from his business near Ninth and Tatnall streets and starts screaming at two city workers writing parking tickets.
Ivan Solero, owner of the Coin Loft, which offers co-working space for small businesses, was angry because an instructor from a nearby beauty school has a special city permit that allows students and teachers to park downtown all day for free. Her car, which had inspection stickers that expired in January 2009, was directly in front of his store.
"My customers need to park here," the business owner screamed. "But you ticket them every chance you get. I'm going to City Hall to take care of this today."
"Go for it," one of the ticket writers calmly said, adding that they don't make the rules and were only doing their jobs.
The ticket writers then tried to ticket Solero's car, which was
parked in a loading zone next to his store. He drove away
before they could get to it. The encounter is emblematic of a
growing dispute between the city and downtown merchants and
residents over enforcement of parking laws. It's a dispute the city
admits could get worse as it plans to put more limits on who can
park where and for how long.
Officials believe it's important to strictly enforce the laws to make sure there is turnover at parking spaces to accommodate a flow of downtown shoppers. Others, especially merchants, believe the aggressive enforcement is scaring customers away and making some businesses think about moving out of town.
That fear became real this week when the ticket writers walked across the street from Solero's store and tried to ticket Geoff Blake's minivan, which was being loaded because he's closing his Red Mohawk art gallery. He said he's shuttering the gallery because there's not enough foot traffic, which he attributes in part to the militant ways of the city's ticket writers.
"I literally had to stand there for 15 minutes telling them they weren't going to give me a ticket," he said. "They say only commercial vehicles can be in a loading zone, but the sign doesn't say that. We've been ticketed several times for parking there when we were clearly loading or unloading a vehicle."
Residents and merchants said they have seen ticket writers tag vehicles when there is still time on the meters. "Happens all the time," said Tatnall Street resident Mark Brown. "It's hard to live down here when the rules are so tough on poor local residents but they give students, many of them from out of town, a free ride to park wherever they want all day for free."
City admits problems
John Rago, the city's communications director, admits there is a problem but attributes it to "growing pains." "It's true that we've encouraged downtown living in recent years, but we've always said it has advantages and disadvantages," he said. "Parking is clearly one of its disadvantages. We know not everyone is happy now and won't be happy with the new ideas."
He said the ideas, proposed to take effect before the year ends,
•Eliminating a decade-old pilot program that gives downtown students and faculty free street parking.
•Ending the four-hour parking privilege granted to 500 downtown residential permit holders. They'll have to abide by whatever lengths of time are allowed at the meters or on signs.
•Reducing the time a motorist has to wait before parking on the same block. The return time is now two or four hours, but would be reduced to one hour.
The changes, which require City Council's approval, are designed to balance the needs of residents and retailers. "It's virtually impossible to accommodate all the needs of those who live downtown, which is why downtown residents usually look to parking garages or lots for their parking needs instead of taking chances trying to use on-street parking," Rago said.
He also said the city encourages ticket writers "to be courteous at all times and to use their common sense when issuing tickets."
Residents not satisfied
Most residents gathered on Tatnall Street on Wednesday said the proposed changes don't address the two main issues -- $40 is too much for a parking ticket and the ticket writers enforce laws too aggressively. Tickets were hiked to $40 and meter rates went up to $1 an hour in 2009 to increase city revenues.
Sean Redden, who operates Solutions barbershop on Tatnall between Eighth and Ninth streets, said he's paid several hundred dollars in tickets. It was so bad that he had to drive around with expired registration tags because the city, working with the state, passed a law prohibiting people from getting their vehicles registered until they paid their tickets.
The $40 price of a ticket also hurts business, he said. "If you
get a cut at my shop and also get a ticket, that's a $60 haircut,"
he said. "Why would someone ever come back after getting a $60
Redden and others said the ticket writers often wait and write tickets seconds after meters expire.
One patron of Solutions, North Side resident Joseph Collins, said he walks to the shop to get his hair cut.
"I've been ticketed too many times and seen too much that's wrong," he said. "I feel like I have to run outside to fill the meter every second, so I just walk here."
Blake, of the Red Mohawk, said he likes the plan to eliminate
free parking for students and faculty.
But Brown, the Tatnall Street resident, said reducing the four-hour privilege for residents will make things worse, not better. He, too, has gotten hundreds of dollars in tickets this year. "I feel oppressed," Brown said. "I think it's a way to get poor people to move from downtown."
Earlier this year, some ticket writers were told to step up
enforcement. The goal is to write 25 tickets a day, but some
were writing only one or two a day, officials said at the time. Not
meeting the daily goal was costing the financially strapped city
around $3 million a year, Finance Director James Jones said.
Jones said earlier in the year he would like to see each ticket writer write 30 to 33 tickets a day.
In fiscal 2007, 73,000 tickets were written, bringing in about
$2 million, Jones said. The next year, 85,000 tickets worth $2.4
million were issued. That declined in fiscal 2009 to 80,000
tickets, about $2.2 million.
The city has been criticized in recent years for focusing too much on collections and not enough on creating a business-friendly climate to increase its revenues. The downtown merchants say the parking tickets are a prime example.
"Who wants to park here when you get a ticket five minutes after the meter expires, or even before it expires?" Blake said. "I know the city needs money, but there's got to be another way."
Seems everything is going green these days at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln -- the college has built what is says is an environmentally friendly parking garage.
The new garage at 19th and Vine streets is designed to meet internationally recognized green-building standards.
"The new parking structure was an opportunity to really build in some sustainable measures," Dan Carpenter, director of Parking and Transit Services, said in a news release.
The 1,040-stall garage, used primarily by students, and a parking lot to the north are designed to make use of rainwater. The garage uses pervious concrete that allows rainwater to percolate through it and into the soil, Carpenter said.
Water that runs off the garage's top deck drains into a landscaping area on the east side, and drains from three other decks funnel water into a device that separates debris from the water.
The new garage also uses a geothermal system to heat and cool a bus stop and stair towers. The ventilation system uses wind- and solar-powered turbines, and the garage uses LED lighting.
UNL expects to see a nearly 35 percent savings, or $17,500 a year, in energy as a result of the LED lighting alone, Carpenter said.
Sensors that detect activity and light levels further enhance the lighting system. During the day, the sensors turn interior lights on and off depending on the amount of sunshine inside. In the evening, lights dim to 50 percent when motion isn't detected.
The university plans to replace incandescent fixtures in other parking structures with LED lights.
The university installed columns that could eventually support solar panels and incorporated green measures in selecting building materials for the garage.
Concrete came from a plant less than a mile away, and brick panels were made by a Lincoln company.
"Really, building a green parking garage is a new way of thinking," Carpenter said. "And it's pretty exciting to be a part of that."
Even before they start class in the morning, many students at Moraine Valley Community College face one of their toughest daily lessons: finding a parking spot.
The jammed lots at the Palos Hills school sometimes reach full capacity by early morning, forcing many to circle and wait for others to leave their space.
"Sometimes students are running late (for a test) and they panic and leave their cars in fire zones, blocking entrances or next to buildings," said Moraine Valley Community College Police Chief Pat O'Connor. "We can't have them just ditching their cars like that."
There are 4,400 parking spots available for 20,000 students and a staff of 1,100. Not all of them are arriving and leaving at the same time, but sometimes it seems that way, some students say. September can be especially frustrating because students are more conscientious about attending classes at the beginning of the semester. Or it's their first semester and they're new to campus.
"Right by the most commonly used buildings, it really gets crowded," said Ryan Kniefer, a 19-year-old student from Burbank. The lots are less jammed later in the semester, Kniefer said, but he takes the bus to school to avoid parking headaches altogether.
Important visitors have taken note, too. When accreditations officials of the Academic Quality Improvement Program visited Moraine Valley this year for a check-up visit, they found parking lacking and reported it to the Higher Learning Commission, officials said.
But trying to address the overflow has created new challenges for school officials.
A makeshift parking lot with 220 parking spots opened at 86th Avenue and 109th Street in August, 2009. When it opened, school board trustee Sandra Wagner said she was concerned about safety at the remote lot because students who park there could then run across the street without traffic signals to guide them.
A police squad and community safety traffic police have been stationed there for safety purposes. Neighbors who live nearby have criticized its aesthetics, but college officials said the lot is needed as enrollment continues to increase due in large part to a weak economy.
At the start of the semester, an e-mail was sent to all students advising them to arrive 30 minutes early for parking, said spokesman Mark Horstmeyer. Administrators also encourage students to ride PACE buses. Cy-Rides, a carpool program that started at the college in February 2009, uses Facebook and e-mail to organize shared rides.
"It is ideal to arrive early so you have plenty of time to park and get to class, but that usually goes with any type of commuter school," said Jillena Mosna, 20, of Homer Glen. Mosna, a student ambassador, said the only time she's heard a complaint about parking was from a student who arrived late to class and couldn't get a front row spot.
On the plus side, officials point out that parking is free for students and no parking permits are required.
Students who park in faculty permit-only locations are subject to a $25 fine. Parking in a disabled parking spot can land students a $250 fine. Moraine Valley police issue about 1,000 parking tickets per year, O'Connor said.
Faculty are asked to pay $20 each for parking passes, sales of which raised $4,000 in funds for scholarships this fall.
According to one Moraine Valley graduate, the school's parking woes are nothing new.
In a collection of alumni memories on the college's Web site, James Grant said his father drove him on his first campus visit in 1975. "I can remember us coming to the campus and we couldn't find a parking spot so my dad pulled into the president's spot," Grant wrote. "Then he turned to me and said, 'If Ford shows up, we'll move.' All I could say was, 'I think they mean a different president, Dad.'"
Other south suburban colleges have seen a jump in enrollment and an uptick in parking headaches.
South Suburban College in South Holland, with 6,600 students, has 1,953 parking places. Of those, 305 spots are reserved for staff.
"We seem to be near that capacity this semester," said South Suburban College spokesman Patrick Rush. But when the spots are filled, students can use the overflow gravel lot or Lot E, which is typically not used because it is a greater distance away from campus, he said.
Joliet Junior College has 3,722 spaces on its main campus, up from 3,248 spots at this time last year, for the 14,000 student college, said spokeswoman Kelly Rohder. Rohder said she has never seen the parking lot completely full, but students often wish for closer spots to park.
"In their first couple weeks or first month, it's crowded and people are trying to find their way," Rohder said. "After that, it usually slows down."
A plan is taking shape to replace the city's parking meters next
year with a solar-powered model that accepts credit and smart
cards, as well as coins.
Director of General Services Roy Peterson said collecting change from the city's 10-year-old parking meters is labor-intensive and will become more so after the manufacturer, Duncan Solutions, stops servicing the city's model, which Peterson said will happen next year.
But the main objective is to adapt to changing customer behavior, Peterson said.
"It's really about customer convenience," he said. "You don't carry $1.80 around in your pocket all the time,"
City Manager Ron LeBlanc said the new meters could be included in the 2011 budget, which he'll present to the City Council Sept. 28.
"We're not making any promises, but it is something we are considering," LeBlanc said.
The city hasn't settled on a new meter model yet, but Peterson expects to spend between $300 and $500 a piece.
The city of Seattle recently installed solar-powered meters. Eva and Jerry Goralski, visiting Durango from the Northwest, said the system has worked great in Seattle.
"A lot of people say they really like them," Eva Goralski said Wednesday from a bench on Main Avenue, "because how many times do you ever have a handful of change?"
Said Jerry Goralski, "People are saying once you get used to it,it's fine."
Code-enforcement officers collect coins from the city's approximately 1,050 parking meters four times a week using a lockbox-laden handcart with a funnel attachment.
Peterson said it's too early to project parking-meter revenue for this year, but the total has fallen between $400,000 and $600,000 each of the last five years.
All money raised through parking goes to support transit operations. Each year, parking-meter revenue represents about half of Durango Transit's budget.
The other half is federal money, supplied through grants from the Federal Transit Administration.
Meters are set to charge three different rates in Durango. Those on Main Avenue charge 60 cents an hour for up to three hours. Meters on East Second Avenue and Main Avenue side streets charge 30 cents an hour for up to two hours.
And several meters near Main Avenue charge drivers 30 cents an hour for up to 10 hours.
Drivers can purchase $20 "cash keys" for use on the meters. The cash-key system will be converted to a smart-card system with the new machines, Peterson said.
The current meters are each powered by a 9-volt battery and are replaced once a year.
This wouldn't be the city's first foray into solar power.The city already maintains three solar-powered trash compactors on Main Avenue, one on the southeast corner of Main Avenue and College Drive, and two on opposite sides of Main in the 700 block.
Assistant City Manager Greg Caton said the compactors need to be emptied every third day, rather than every day, like other Main Avenue receptacles.
And a $225,000 solar-thermal project at the Durango Community Recreation Center was completed in July after delays caused by a general contractor that went out of business during installation and faulty solar panels.
The panels are now operational, said Gary Roseberry of Roseberry Plumbing and Heating of Durango, which completed the project for the city. The only work remaining involves tracking energy savings, he said.
Code Enforcement Officer Harry Lewis sees another possible upside to new meters.
He said he's been called all kinds of names by drivers and even had his parentage questioned.
"All I see is their unhappiness," he said Wednesday as he checked meters on Main. "I don't think it matters what kind of meter it is. But if it means they get less citations, I think people would really like that option."
The University of Toledo is helping promote healthly lifestyles and eco-friendly practices with the addition of a new bicycle pad on their Main Campus.
The new area, near the west parking garage between MacKinnon and Wolfe Halls, holds secured parking space for 65 bicycles and includes lockers and benches. "We wanted to provide a private, protected area for our students and staff to park their bikes, secure their helmets and other supplies and take a rest before they make their way to work or class," said UT chief of police, Jeff Newton.
The new space is secured by surveillance cameras, card-reader access and enclosed fencing.
An official green ribbon-cutting will take place Thursday afternoon. Additional bicycle pads may be installed on both the Main Campus and Health Science Campus.