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Separate the Money from the Enforcement

When I spoke at a recent regional parking event, I was riffing on the money involved in municipal parking – I told the story of a parking manager who said, when asked if he was there to protect the asset known as parking or collect money, he said “on the record or off the record.”

On the record he held forth on parking as an asset and protecting it for merchants, residents and the like. Off the record he said that of course he was under pressure to perform and generate revenue. Gotta balance that budget for the Mayor.

One of the folks in the audience, a very smart woman from a large metropolitan area commented that “you can’t separate parking/enforcement/and the money.”

Most of the people in the room agreed that they are under pressure to generate revenue either through citations or on street charges (meters).  Heads were nodding everywhere. Money is what the bean counters care about – and the politicos.

That got me to thinking. Can you separate the parking experience from the money?

We must live in the real world. We all report to someone, and they report to someone. And at each level there is pressure to perform – and performance is usually measured by money.

And of course, if we are to have some kind of control, to enforce the rules, there must be some sanction we can impose. The most relevant sanction is a fine. Hit em in the pocketbook.

Most cities have a large backlog in fines that are uncollected. Many people just can’t afford to pay them, and then we slap on penalties and they still can’t afford to pay them.

Is there any alternative?

How about “parking school” – people can go to ‘traffic school’ to get traffic tickets off their record, why not parking school in lieu of fines. It could be on line or in person. They could learn the rules and WHY we have them.

I’m a great proponent of giving cautionary citations – but when the PEO actually can talk to the offender and explain the rules and just why its important to obey them.  Track these and if a person gets more than one or two in a certain period of time, slap em with a ticket.

Clarity – parking signs can be very confusing – we should have a 10 year old rule. Show the sign to a 10 year old and if they can’t understand it, change it so they can.

I’m sure there are many more ideas out there to separate the money from the parking program.

I’m sure they won’t be popular with the powers at be.

JVH

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