Davenport, IA…A classic parking study.
I share reader Marks concerns (below) about the city of Davenport that is removing its parking meters. The city council has yielded to a vocal merchants group and is accepting 100K from them to pay for the removal. The idea is that the defenseless meters are “destroying” their downtown. So they are moving to a “two hour maximum” program. There are a couple of quotes from the article
The meter issue was at the center of a lengthy and animated budget discussion earlier this winter. Free parking downtown – which was instituted as a pilot program in late 2009 – exacerbated a revenue problem facing the parking program. Between lost meter revenue, fewer people leasing ramp spaces because they can park on the street for free and fewer tickets being issued for overtime parking, the city is bringing in a half-million dollars less in parking revenue.
Plus let’s talk enforcement:
Eric West, the city’s parking supervisor, said enforcing the two-hour limit likely won’t change much. The current ordinance allows people to be parked for only 120 minutes on any “block face” – defined as the two parallel sides of any given block. “Having meters there doesn’t really make a difference,” he said. “We use hand-held devices and keep track of the vehicles on a block face. The particular space they are in doesn’t really matter.”
They stopped charging a year ago as a pilot program. Revenue of course has dropped off the map. Naturally people aren’t using the parking ramps since they can park for free on street (see above). Do they think this is going to stop?
I sympathize with Eric. He is moving from enforcement of meters with a little red tag telling his crew to write a ticket, to electronic chalking. Somehow I don’t think that is going to be easier. His crew will be making two passes every so often but how do they know? Let’s say they go by and check at 11AM. At 1102 I park. They come back again at 1 PM. I am now in his system. At 259 I leave. I have been there four hours but will not get a ticket. I know that there are ways to make my problem more difficult, however Eric’s crew is going to have to be pretty cagy to keep his numbers up. In fact, we note again above that fewer tickets have been issued for overtime parking, even though folks are using the streets like a long term parking ramp.
From the article it sounds to me like much of this is cosmetic. The local association wants to clean up the streetscape (those pesky meters aren’t really very pretty) and a very vocal local merchant sees himself vindicated with the decision (I would chain one to my pickup and pull it out to speed up the process.)
Ten bucks says within the next few months the headline will be something about not enough parking on the street and/or that overly aggressive parking enforcement is killing downtown. Then we’ll read about the issue of employees taking up all the parking spots and the garages that are underutilized.
I won’t take that bet.