A few blog posts below, I talk about the city of Tacoma and their trials and tribulations in installing a new pay and display system. You can read about it here? I asked Brandy for a response – here it is:
I’ve never been a big fan of expired meter warnings. We have 115 spaces on the busiest stretch of our main street. During the day, there are about 15,000 people working, living, eating, shopping and going to school along that stretch of road. Translate that at a 30% drive rate to 4,500 cars, all of which would prefer to park in one of these 115 spaces. If I give each one of these cars a first warning and only 1% of those cars get warnings each day, that takes up 45 spaces all day, every day. That’s almost 40% of the spaces in the highest demand area. Don’t forget also that many business owners are going to tell their customers NOT to pay the meter or worry about the time limit since they know they won’t get a ticket. That’s an occupancy problem as well.
In terms of the business owner’s complaints, I suspect Tacoma is going through a learning curve. We went through the same things here when we installed P&Ds. We discovered that some people don’t buy enough time and then immediately go back and get another receipt. After this happened enough times, we changed our policy so now the PCOs are required to add the time together before giving a ticket.
If someone goes in to get change and comes right back out, the PCO should still be there or at least be in sight – they are authorized to take the ticket back, and are expected to. When I personally get these complaints, the customer is usually “fibbing” about how long they were inside, since they were in there so long that the PCO wasn’t anywhere around when they came out and they had to come see me.
We gave up on the curbside dashboard enforcement even before the P&Ds were installed. It’s printed on the receipt in big bold letters and included on the instructions and most people comply, but enforcing that was a losing battle from the get. Plus, during the winter when there are snowbanks on the curbside, we enforce from the street side, so how is a customer supposed to guess which side to put their receipt? As Keith said, after a number of years, it would be much less painful. Our receipts have the expiration in large enough lettering that most of the time they can be read from the curb even if it’s on the wrong side of the dashboard.
So the bottom line is that I agree with Keith that Tacoma had a lot of challenges in starting a paid parking operation from scratch and as is evident from your post, they are in the process of fixing what doesn’t work. That indicates that they are proactive, open to change, and willing to backtrack if needed. Isn’t that what JVH thinks us government workers should be doing more of?
And my response to Brandy:
Brandy — I understand, but shouldn’t cities learn from the growing pains of others. Isn’t that what this blog and the like are all about? Above, you have presented a primer in how to begin a program and what mistakes a city like Tacoma could potentially make. It took you some time to adjust your rules to fit the situation (add two tickets, where to put your p and d receipt, etc)
What JVH thinks is that cities should learn from others. There is no reason why each city has to start from scratch and make all the mistakes another makes and in doing so, piss off the population. What would it take for them to contact a city that had installed new meters (mayhaps ask the vendor) and get some pointers. It sounds to me like they (and you) slapped in those meters and then learned from what happened.
I agree that the PCO should be in sight when a short time ticket is written, and you have a good policy that the PCO can void such citations — but what about the vast majority of cities where the PCO cannot void tickets? I know John Q. Public can misrepresent the amount of time spent getting coins, (and probably their coffee and dry cleaning). I know you do a great job of handling it on a case by case basis.
The problem with warnings in Tacoma is that I don’t think they were tracked. They were just handed out. In your case, it would seem that in three or four months, a typical break in period, most cars would have received warnings and that would be that. Doesn’t seem like such an imposition. As for the merchants telling people to skip paying the first time, seems to me you have a “teachable moment” here. Don’t the merchants need some kind of input as to how and why you need to pay for parking? And what happens when you don’t?