Paul Walker calls parking in downtownan art form.
There’s looking for the person justabout to pull out. There’s knowing where there is convenientoff-street parking that no one ever uses. There are the areas thatparking czars never enforce.
“It’s almost like a dance,” hesaid.
The reason for Walker’s parkingballet is he doesn’t want to get a ticket, which range from $5 to$100, even with recent changes in how the city handles parkingmatters.
“You really get frustrated,” Walkeradmits. “Five dollars doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s more ofan aggravation.”
An aggravation on a downhill slope.
City parking officers are leaving 400fewer tickets a month underneath the windshield wipers of downtownvehicles, according to a Journal analysis of city records.
The city switched the control ofparking tickets from the police department to the parking servicesdivision in January to make the process more efficient, said JohnBrooks, city director of parking services.
Flagged motorists used to take theirparking tickets to the city courthouse, but as part of the switch allfines are paid directly to the parking division, which is located onthe ground floor of the Richardson Street Garage.
Parking has been the white-hot issue indowntown the last few years as drivers complain of too few freeparking spaces, business owners and residents complain about illegalparking and almost everyone complained about booting and towing ofcars.
The city, for its part, has done itsbest to remedy the situation by building more parking garages, addingon-street parking in areas and making two downtown garages free onthe weekend, Brooks said.
That has helped the decrease in ticketsin 2005, he said.
There have been 10,822 tickets issuedthrough the first nine months of 2005, according to the analysis.That is a 1,202 per-month average, which is down from the 1,670average in 2004 and 1,320 average in 2003.
In addition, there was only one personhanding out tickets in the early part of the year, which accountedfor some drops, Brooks said. Now there are four.
The biggest decrease in tickets comesin the city’s steepest fine area: parking in a reserved space,according to the analysis. The city issued 18 per month throughSeptember of the ticket that brings a $100 fine.
The city issued 140 per month in 2004and 118 per month in 2003, according to the analysis.
Brooks couldn’t explain that drop,but surmised people are more aware of where and where not to park sothere are less of those category tickets.
Tickets have dropped in a number ofother categories that tend to steam up drivers as well. Moving toavoid a citation, which is doing things such as moving up a spot toavoid a time violation, has dropped to 10 a month from 35 and 22 inthe previous two years. That is a $30 citation.
The city, though, is ticketing morepeople for violation of two-hour parking, which is the most prevalentform of parking spots in downtown. The city is averaging 678 ticketsa month up from 546 and 559 in the previous two years.
Walker said a lot of the parkingproblems are just a question of tendencies.
People want to park for free becausethey are accustomed to it when they go to the mall, church and home.They park illegally in Greenville so they don’t pay $5 in a garageeven though they know there is a risk of getting a much higher-pricedticket.
“It’s really just about how youfeel,” he said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Contact John Boyanoski at 679-1227 firstname.lastname@example.org.