December 10, 2009

Un-free parking

A brief history of the city’s big, bad parking authority

For years the city’s enforcement of on-street parking rules was lax, as were efforts to collect overdue fines. In the words of a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Abramson — it was a joke. In addition, parking enforcement was quite convoluted, with the police department overseeing meter maids, Public Works running the meters and the city Department of Finance collecting fines.

That changed in 2004 with the creation of the Parking Authority of River City, which brought all aspects of on-street parking enforcement under one umbrella. The agency, better known as PARC, also oversees 13 parking garages and 6 surface lots downtown. Through that hybrid agency the city has stepped up efforts to crack down on scofflaws who owe the city more than $8.5 million in unpaid parking tickets.

“Obviously, the city needed to collect revenue that is due to them. It was a clamp down, certainly,” says Cathy Duncan, executive administrator of PARC. “I do believe there is a lot more compliance as a result.”

Like other quasi-government agencies, PARC is a branch of Metro government, but one that employs a private contractor to carry out its work. The agency also has its own board of directors, with all but three of its members appointed by the mayor. The three board members who serve PARC by virtue of their position in city government include Jane Driskel, director of the Office of Management and Budget, Bruce Traughber, head of the city’s Economic Development Department, and Alan DeLisle, head of the Downtown Development Corp. (also a quasi-government agency).

For years the Parking Authority has been allowed to make most of its decisions without much oversight from Metro Council, due in large part to its quasi-government nature. This gray area of accountability is not lost on critics of PARC who are fighting the city’s parking crackdown and are troubled by its privatization.

“Part of the problem is (the city) sub-contracted a government service to a private contractor, which is a profit agency and they’re in it to make money,” says Louisville attorney David Mour, who has an upcoming hearing in Jefferson County Circuit Court challenging the city’s new program of booting cars. “I think this is making Louisville very unwelcoming to its own residents.”

Until recently, the agency’s operating and capital budget did not require review from the council. That changed earlier this year when council members amended the bond ordinance after city lawmakers voted to allow PARC to issue $39 million in bonds to pay for a parking garage under the new downtown arena. Proposed by Councilmen Jim King, D-10, and Hal Heiner, R-16, both candidates for mayor, the new provisions require PARC to have its annual budgets approved by the council.

In the grand scheme of things, however, it’s unlikely the council will take similar steps in putting more oversight on the city’s parking regulations.

It’s only been one day since LEO highlighted Louisville’s stepped-up parking enforcement and the resulting “Parking wars,” and already several readers have contacted us with their own stories. One consistent complaint (one LEO is not necessarily saying is legitimate) has been that drivers don’t carry around enough change to continually feed the meters.

In response, PARC officials suggest drivers use one of their many parking garages or surface lots, or buy a SmartCard, a pre-paid card that can be used at newer meters.

Though many Louisville drivers have not yet become accustomed to dealing with PARC’s new big-city enforcement tactics, it’s clear the Mayor’s Office believes the priority is netting overdue tickets.

“It’s amazing to me — and I’ve been with the mayor almost four years now — how people get so angry over parking tickets. It is almost unbelievable and laughable,” says Chris Poynter, a mayoral spokesman. “People get more upset over a goddamn $15 parking ticket, and I get them too, but I pay them. People unfortunately in this city have thought that parking is free.”

I'm happy for Chris Poynter

By crutnacker
The fact is that most of us in the suburbs of "Louisville" live in areas where we have multiple businesses that meet our needs that have abundant FREE parking. I have parked at a meter during hours of operation probably five times in my life. One of those times was at a meter with a poorly marked (No parking from 3 - 6 PM sign) that was obscured by trees. I fed two hour's worth of time into the meter even though I only planned to be there 30 minutes. I came out TEN minutes later and had a ticket, apparently one that would have resulted in an immediate tow if I had not returned when I did. The fact is that when I weigh visiting downtown or doing business downtown, I weigh the fact that I'm going to have to either pay too much to park at a garage that may or may not be near my destination or feed a meter in an open space that I may have to drive around for awhile to find. Frankly, neither is really worth it to me. So Louisville may be raking in the cash by having a more visible meter maid presence than police presence, but if Louisville truly wants a vibrant downtown, they need to realize that the parking situation is one that makes even locals avoid the downtown area.

Parking in Downtown

By chungkingchungking
Louisville likes to find a new racket now and again to take advantage of. If its not the parking thing, its going to be the water company or MSD. Guys like Chris Poynter like to talk about paying tickets and all that but when most of the community is struggling with finances and jobs at this point, its pretty lame. Of course, if you're one of Jerry's well paid hacks, those tickets etc won't matter much to you. As far as downtown goes, the best way to handle it is not to go there like so many Louisville residents. After all, its just another money pit to get money from your pocket to the city. Unless you work there or have official court business there, its not all that fascinating. I've been all over downtown and frankly you can only eat at so many places or peruse the few other cultural things there. Best thing is to keep your money in your pocket and not waste your time down there. When most of the real amenities are in the suburbs or outer areas of the county, why not? Seems that inner cities need to siphon off from the outlying areas. David Mour is correct about this entire problem. But again, the best way to let them know what you think is not to support their attempts at taking more money from the individual. Which means even doing business away from the core. A core which has spent billions of dollars while the rest of the city rots away at its foundation and the suburbs get little recompensation for its tax dollars. Ever see Jerry and his supporters ever want to put money into Dixie Hwy, Preston Hwy, or any other part of the city. They would rather see it fall into a sinkhole than actually doing anything. No wonder the city is consistently one of the worst performing metros from an economic standpoint.

Free parking

By bikeolounger
"Free" parking? Do you realize that you are paying for that parking when you patronize those businesses, and that everyone who patronizes that business pays for your free parking? What about those of us who don't need that "free" parking? We pay for your free parking as well, via tax collection (sales tax, property tax, income tax, etc.). Accepted, finding a parking place downtown requires a bit of patience, and sometimes some creativity. Face up to the fact that you can't park within a hundred feet of where you want to go, grab a legal slot (it's not hard to predict where the time-sensitive spots are, with a little looking around), pay the meter and do your thing. Or miss out on the good restaurants, shops, and other places to do stuff in town.