Local News

Downtown parking signs need fine print

Posted September 24, 2008 6:05 p.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2008 5:34 a.m. EDT

— Parking signs downtown don't spell out all of the restrictions for some spaces, which upsets some drivers who have been ticketed for illegal parking.

Many drivers who park in two-hour spaces downtown are under the assumption that they can simply move to a new space before the two hours are up to avoid a ticket. But city codes prohibit drivers from parking on one downtown block for more than two hours at a time.

"I think you have to post the regulations. There's no way that anybody would know that," said Eleanor Oakley, president and chief executive of the United Arts Council.

Oakley said she had lost her parking pass and parked on the street while waiting for a replacement. She said she was confused when she was ticketed after moving her car to the other side of Blount Street and said she plans to appeal the $15 citation out of principle.

"I don't have any problem with the regulation, but I think, (if) it's not posted, then it's sort of a gotcha game," she said.

Parking administrators said the same-block rule has been on the books for years, and the only exception is for vehicles that leave for more than 30 minutes before returning. They said time-limit spaces are meant for temporary – not all-day – parking.

Some downtown business owners said enforcement helps encourage turnover and deter people from occupying parking space s for hours on end.

"I've had people tell me they get really frustrated trying to find a place, and then they just give up and leave. So, it'd be nice to have more of it freed up for more people," merchant Mikhail Jannik said.

Still, Mayor Charles Meeker said he agreed with Oakley and other irate drivers.

"I thought, as long as you move within two hours, that's sufficient, but apparently that's not what the code says," Meeker said. "We either need to get the word out about the rule or change the rule or change the whole parking system, (which) is what I'd like to see."

A city task force is wrapping up its study of downtown parking and is expected to give some recommendations to City Council in the coming weeks. One idea on the table is to do away with free, time-limit parking spaces and make everything metered, which officials said would encourage people to use downtown parking decks.