I-Team: Parking ticket math adds up

(AP)

January 14, 2010 4:52:52 PM PST
A new Raleigh parking plan means to get tough on illegal parkers.

"Well it actually works out to five citations per officer per hour, said Raleigh Parking Administrator Gordon Dash.

On foot and even on horse, Raleigh police and parking officers already write 82,000 parking tickets a year. But the new plan plans to beef that up by 63%, to 134,000 tickets annually.

Working Monday through Friday from 8 to 5, excluding holidays, the meter math would add up to a parking ticket per minute. City officials said officers will work longer hours than that, so it won't be quite 60 a minute.

Still, some downtown workers see problems with the plan. Holly Strickland, manager of Bottega Salon on Glenwood does not think it makes good business sense.

"I think it's going to push patrons away," she told ABC11.

But across the street from Bottega, there's a restaurant owner who helped cook up the parking plan.

"Everybody talks about Raleigh being the next Atlanta. Well, you ever been to downtown Atlanta or downtown Philly? You pay to park," said Alex Amra.

Amra and the city say the bigger problem is downtown workers parking on the streets in spaces meant for shoppers.

"You get people parking, taking up spots. This is really the only way to help businesses turn over the cars in front of their businesses," he said.

So how will the city write so many more tickets? Not with a cavalry of meter maids - in fact, not with parking meters at all. For starters, paid parking will expand from 350 stalls to 1,200. Then, almost 200 pay stations will be installed. And then, enforcement goes hi-tech. The pay-station will send a radio signal to the officer telling them time is up.

Officers will also take three photographs of the car to help prove their case, and the city will track parking attendants by GPS.

Dash has been working on this plan for the last year.

"It is not my intention that the people wearing the yellow jackets are going to be perceived as a Gestapo," he said.

And Dash stresses, this is not a city scheme to make a quick buck.

"Absolutely not. I was given complete freedom to determine how many citations could be written," he explained.

Then why estimate 134,000 tickets per year?

"There is an expectation that a minimum standard has to be reached, otherwise just like anyone else that's being self-directed, working on their own, they have to be able to show what they are doing every day," said Dash.

With officers so many tickets, Dash estimates ticket revenues going up as well - from $2.2 a year to $3.3 million.

The program should more than pay for itself - with the extra money going to help pay off construction debt on downtown parking decks.

"There is significant debt that needs to be paid off from the decks," said Dash

Of course, all the meter math is based on estimates. Dash says, he hopes they do not add up.

"Ticket volumes may not be what they are projected. And I hope that's the case," he said.

But if people still think they can park on downtown Raleigh streets, all day, for free, a more efficient ticket system is coming.

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