published Sunday, November 25th, 2012

CARTA cracks down on parking enforcement


by Cliff Hightower
Parking Ambassador Chris King works the area around the Chattanoogan in the new Republic parking enforcement vehicle Wednesday afternoon. The vehicle has cameras mounted on its top that record license plate numbers.
Parking Ambassador Chris King works the area around the Chattanoogan in the new Republic parking enforcement vehicle Wednesday afternoon. The vehicle has cameras mounted on its top that record license plate numbers.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
Poll
Are too many parking tickets being issued downtown?

BY THE NUMBERS

The Chattanooga Parking Authority took over downtown parking enforcement on Oct. 22. Through Nov. 21, that has resulted in these numbers:

* 4,800: Number of citations issued

* 2,282: Number of paid tickets

* $31,000: Revenue generated from parking tickets

Source: Chattanooga Parking Authority

Can you say "crackdown?"

The new CARTA-supervised Chattanooga Parking Authority has issued more than 4,800 parking tickets downtown since taking over enforcement responsibility from police a month ago, according to Brent Matthews, CARTA's director of parking.

Subtracting Saturdays and Sundays, when parking meters are not enforced, that averages out to just over 208 parking tickets issued every day.

"They are a lot more regular in their patrolling, while before it was hit and miss," said David Smotherman, owner of Winder Binder Art Gallery and Bookstore on the city's North Shore.

For years, he parked his scooter on the sidewalk while working in his store. But not any more.

Last week, a parking enforcer told him that violated the law and warned him to not park on the sidewalk anymore.

Smotherman obliged.

It was on Oct. 22 that the Chattanooga Parking Authority took control of downtown parking enforcement.

The authority, under the umbrella of the Chattanooga Area Regional Transit Authority, contracted with Republic Parking to provide manpower. Since then, 10 parking enforcers, called "ambassadors," armed with high-tech equipment to help them spot violations, have trained and taken to the streets.

Matthews promised stricter enforcement. And the authority has delivered.

The results have led to what the parking authority hoped: more places for tourists and visitors to park and shop.

"We're seeing more spaces opening up on the streets," Matthews said.

The city also is seeing revenue from the parking tickets: $31,000 through Wednesday, and that's with less than half of the 4,800 tickets paid thus far.

If the authority continues to issue tickets at the current pace and manages to collect on most of them, substantially more revenue could flow into city coffers than in recent years.

In 2011, the city took in $421,000 in parking fines and related fees, well below the nearly $800,000 in fiscal year 2008.

The parking authority also is expanding its technology to help find those who park more than two hours at a meter. CARTA spent $32,000 on a three-wheeled vehicle called the Firefly that has cameras mounted on top.

Matthews said the Firefly goes along different routes and records the license tags of vehicles. If the vehicles have been there longer than two hours, it alerts the operator, he said.

"This is a quicker way for two-hour enforcement," he said.

To help free up downtown parking meters, the parking authority also tried coaxing downtown workers to area parking garages with a monthly fee of $20.

So far, 79 employees have taken advantage of that feature, Matthews said.

Gary Sprague, manager at Sticky Fingers, said he has spoken to one of the parking enforcement staff and found him to be courteous.

Sprague said he has no problems with stricter enforcement.

"The meters are there to be paid and [the ambassadors] are doing their job," he said.

Smotherman said he thinks more enforcement should not come as a surprise.

"I think most people realize that's just part of life in a downtown area," he said.

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