published Sunday, March 25th, 2012

CARTA drawing close to taking parking duties


by Cliff Hightower
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Parking meters line Broad Street Wednesday afternoon.

PROPOSED SYSTEM


The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority is proposing to:

• Take over parking meter enforcement, fine collection and bagging of meters when parking isn't allowed.

• Set up a storefront to collect fines, issue parking passes and hear initial appeals of fines.

• Create a website with information about parking and fines.

• Develop a downtown ambassador program for tourists.

City Attorney Mike McMahan says a discussion about which agency should have responsibility for parking enforcement throughout the city could happen within a month.

The city attorney's office has drafted an ordinance that would hand over parking enforcement to the Chattanooga Area Regional Transit Authority, he said Thursday.

"It will probably be presented within the month of April," he said.

The ordinance will be presented to the City Council's Legal and Legislative Committee. Once it is vetted there, it will go before the council for a vote.

Mayor Ron Littlefield said Thursday he wanted to see CARTA take over parking enforcement by the summer. He said the city turned over parking meters to CARTA years ago and that has gone well. He said he thinks fines should be the responsibility of the transit authority as well, allowing city government to expand in other areas.

"I think they would do a better job at collecting [fines]," he said.

CARTA presented a plan to the council last June on taking over parking enforcement. The transportation authority said it planned to put up a storefront to help collect fines and man it with an employee who could help mitigate fines.

CARTA's employees would be responsible for patrolling and finding people parked illegally and fining them, a responsibility now being handled by police service technicians.

CARTA officials also have talked about having their own technicians act as city ambassadors, pointing tourists to different attractions throughout the city.

Tom Dugan, executive director of CARTA, has said he does not see any police service technicians being laid off because they also do other functions such as handle automobile accidents.

"It doesn't change anything that's existing," Dugan said Thursday.

He said he thought it would be better to set up the program sooner rather than later because the quicker the ordinance is changed, the quicker CARTA and other departments such as the police department could start accounting for it in next fiscal year's budget. The next fiscal year starts July 1.

"We'd like to get it done as quickly as we can," he said.

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