Tacoma Cranks Up Enforcement Good or Bad?

I had to read this article three times to determine what good ole Tacoma was doing with their parking program. Finally I got it.

Kurtis Kingsolver, the city’s engineering division manager, walked through a presentation of the latest enforcement numbers. From January through March, parking enforcers wrote 5,095 tickets for nonpayment, up from 1,368 between October and December (the city launched the enforcement program Sept. 20).

Tickets for expired parking receipts quadrupled in the same span – from 678 to 2,735. Conversely, warnings dropped by more than half – from 11,179 to 4,283.

“We’re trying not to be what people perceive us as being,” Kingsolver said Tuesday. “We’re backing off. The idea is not to go out there and give citations because we can.”

The idea behind the parking program is improving access for customers of local businesses and discouraging all-day parking by employees. On that front, Kingsolver said, the program is paying dividends. Citations for “continuous” parking have dropped, leaving more space for customers, who typically pay 75 cents per hour for parking.

Hmmm – I don’t understand how these numbers are considered “backing off” but oh well… I am also concerned a tad about one merchant’s reaction and the issue of “fair and consistent enforcement:”

There is no listing for “failures” on July’s scheduled overview. Madison Leago, owner of Vamp Salon and Spa on 1117 Broadway downtown, could provide some examples from the past few days. Leago’s mother visited the salon last week and got a ticket for putting a valid parking sticker on her dashboard instead of the driver’s window. One salon customer, frustrated by a parking meter that wouldn’t read a bank card after multiple attempts, stepped into the salon to get change for the meter, walked back outside and found a ticket on her windshield. Another customer mistakenly paid for one hour of time instead of two, realized she needed to add time, bought another sticker and stuck it to the window, and got ticketed for having two stickers instead of one. “It’s that kind of stuff,” Leago said. “It’s just happening all the time.”

I support the concept of parking as an economic development tool – making it easier for customers to park in the business areas – but I still believe there has to be a happy medium. Everyone is happy that the number of citations written has increased four fold in a three month period and of course the “warnings” plummeted.

My guess is that most people were getting warnings up until the new policy started and those warnings turned into citations. Fair enough. I have been a proponent of warnings, but with a string attached. That is, the city should track the warnings and after the first one, the driver receives a citation. I believe that after the (pick a number) second, third, or fourth citation, the vehicle should be booted or towed.

A program of graduated fines could also be instituted, (First fine, $15, Second $50, Third $75 Fourth Tow).

It looks to me like Tacoma has moved from very light enforcement to “bring the hammer down” enforcement. I’m sure it will help change the way people park in the business areas, but I’m not too certain how it has affected the frame of mind of the customers when they enter the merchants establishment. Brandy?



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3 Responses to Tacoma Cranks Up Enforcement Good or Bad?

  1. Keith Ehrensing says:

    The issue of education and enforcement is important when new technology is brought in. As I understand it, Tacoma didn’t have paid parking until the pay stations came in. That might be a disadvantage they had to overcome, if the local population wasn’t used to paying. What we don’t know is what education process – including publicity and warnings – that Tacoma used. Of course, some folks are still challenged by single space, coin operated meters.
    In our city, we now have a citation for failure to properly display the receipt in the curb side window, but it was only instituted 6 YEARS after pay stations went in, so we were hardly rushing into an enforcement mode. It’s a safety issue, really, because we don’t want our foot patrol folks to walk into the street where they are at risk of oncoming traffic.

  2. Brandy Stanley says:

    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?

  3. JVH says:

    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 is all about. 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?
    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?
    Just sayin…JVH

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