My blog about 70% of onstreet revenue coming from citations brought a pretty strong response from Joe Sciulli and Clyde Wilson. I thought them important enough to bring them out into the light of day as a separate post.
Are people in general becoming more unhinged during these latter days? You bet: just listen to your local news for a few minutes every day.
Can conflict avoidance seminars for officers and better / clearer signs help? Maybe, but in reality, they miss the mark and don’t get at one of the main reasons for the problems related above.
Dig deeper and you’ll find the root cause lies in city government. That’s right: city government / the elected officials. Why? By adopting trendy mobility policies and shoving municipal budget goals down the throat of the parking agency, they’ve decreased the parking supply while increasing its price.
Sounds like bad economics to me.
Valid safety and traffic movement concerns aside, there simply are fewer on-street spaces today compared to ten years ago, especially in downtowns. That contention is part data and part personal experience. Prove me wrong.
Compare your on-street metered space inventory of today versus that of ten or twelve years ago. How many metered spaces have been removed for bike lanes, bus-only lanes, rental bike parking zones, restaurant seating, valet zones, authorized zones for city workers, etc. (“You know, the thing…”)
And quantifiable ticket projections based on surveyed turnover, violation and capture rates are NOT the problem. Unreasonable ticket fines in the face of a shrinking legal supply are.
Anybody who’s been in parking administration or consulting for those brave souls will tell you that “the number” comes down from on high (city hall) and ‘we’ve got to figure out a way to meet it.’ Sometimes the ways are reasonable and valid: expand coverage areas and times, and adjust meter rates and fines to incentivize compliance and the use of off-street parking. (Though we all know off-street prices have stood still over the years, right?)
But sometimes the ticket fines are not reasonable or justifiable, and ticket fines and penalties are pushed off course by that strong wind from above and they “depart controlled flight.” Clyde and other flyboys will get that reference. Translation for the ground-pounders: fines of all sorts may have a tendency to reach unreasonable and undefendable levels.
Cases in point: twenty years ago two famous cities infamously raised parking fines for the stated reasons of: 1) covering a budget deficit, and 2) building a new court house. Care to guess which ones? If you say “DC and LA”, then you’ve really been around for a while and may be joining me in retirement soon. If this was happening twenty years ago (and it WAS happening everywhere), then what’s going on these days, in your town?
So picture it: give too strong a kick in the pocket-book for somebody who’s tried and tried but couldn’t even find a legal parking space to begin with (sorry for the poor grammar, Barbara), and it might set off even the most mild-mannered parking customer.
Now that I’m no longer in the family business after 30+ years, I can say “you guys” have allowed your supply to be reduced while fines have escalated beyond the parking equilibrium price point, which effectively has put the parking customer in a bad space (pun intended), considering real-world economic and societal pressures. No wonder confrontations and assaults are up.
In the end, what we have here is a perfect storm, and maybe a ‘failure to communicate’ to city fathers – to borrow a line from a Paul Newman movie that opens with him cutting off meter poles – that it’s time to say ‘enough is enough’ and restore a bit of sanity to the curb by restoring some of the legal supply while taking a hard look at lowering some of the ticket prices.
As I was reading your blog I was formulating my thoughts on what might be my reply. Then I got to your comments and realized yours were the exact same as mine. If 50 to 70% of your revenue is coming from violations at some point you should maybe think we need to reevaluate our whole operation. I am not an onstreet expert, never ran an onstreet operation and only audited a few over the years so I’ve tended to stay away from discussions of on street meter operations except to say i believe they have out lived their usefulness.
After reading this I think maybe I’ve made a mistake because someone not that close to The on street meter business may need to take a look at this from a whole different perspective. The escalation training and a change in the signs is not what’s going to solve this problem.
Ginny and I were parking in downtown somewhere 6 months ago and the 1st meter we pulled up to Had a problem, I don’t remember what the problem was but We moved to another meter and had some additional problems but decided that we had enough quarters so we paid with quarters. The only problem was the meter only took 2 of the quarters it would not take the rest and we decided just to leave. She got a ticket, contested it and lost and was told she had to pay her $40 fine. Let’s see in this particular case we had 2 meters that were not working and an appeals process that didn’t work so maybe we need to rethink at the whole operation.
Pretty smart guys, Joe and Clyde.