This story is featured in today's TimesFreePress newscast.
The Chattanooga Parking Authority has issued 30,337 parking citations over the last six-and-a-half months:
• October 2012: 1,028
• November 2012: 5,007
• December 2012: 4,123
• January 2013: 4,342
• February 2013: 4,795
• March 2013: 4,697
• April 2013: 6,345
• Total: 30,337
The Chattanooga Parking Authority has collected $438,774* in parking fine revenue since taking over parking enforcement:
• October 2012: $1,400
• November 2012: $48,132
• December 2012: $72,555
• January 2013: $78,959
• February 2013: $70,529
• March 2013: $76,125
• April 2013: $91,074
• 7,341 tickets are outstanding as of April 30
THE BIG NUMBERS
$438,774: The total revenue collected by the Chattanooga Parking Authority in its first six months
$421,505: The amount of revenue collected by Chattanooga over the entire 2011-2012 fiscal year
30,337: Total number of citations over the last six months
203: Average number of citations issued daily
24: Average number of citations per hour
Source: Chattanooga Parking Authority
The city's new parking enforcers go about their work like a customer takes on one of street food vendor Jim Hubbard's hot dogs — with relish.
The Chattanooga Parking Authority has put the bite on Hubbard six times since it began enforcement duties in late October 2012, ticketing him mostly for parking too long in a space or parking in an illegal area.
Hubbard's tickets are among 30,337 issued in the first six months of the city's new downtown parking program.
Stricter enforcement of parking rules generated $438,774 in revenue in six months, more than was collected in all of the last fiscal year, records show. In fiscal year 2012, $421,505 in parking fines was collected.
The total amount collected over six months would be even higher if the 7,341 tickets outstanding through April 30 had been paid.
Parking enforcers average issuing 203 tickets a day, or 24 tickets an hour during their eight-and-a-half-hour day. That's a ticket every two-and-a-half minutes.
Brent Matthews, director of parking for the Chattanooga Parking Authority, said the authority is not on a money grab.
"We're enforcing the rules that are out there," he said. "It's more consistent enforcement."
Oversight of downtown parking changed when the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority assumed control from the city a year ago and formed the parking authority. In turn, the authority contracted with Republic Parking to provide parking staff.
Matthews said parking fine revenue goes into improvements for parking, such as the new meters that take credit cards, and the downtown shuttle service.
Parking fines are $7 the first 10 days and rise to $40 after 10 days.
Eight parking enforcers, also called "ambassadors," walk the streets patrolling assigned sections of downtown. It takes each of the enforcers about an hour to an hour and a half to circle their area.
But for some, it seems less than that.
Hubbard has sold hot dogs at his stand for two years during lunch hours, and never ran into problems until parking enforcers cracked down.
"People are generally unhappy" with tough enforcement, he said. "I can't tell you one single person who likes it."
Not everyone agrees.
Tom Maynard, general manager of Lupi's Pizza downtown, said he's not heard many complaints and the $20-a-month deal for garage parking is beneficial for his employees.
"All of our employees have taken advantage of that," he said.
He said there has not been any effect on business.
The parking authority has six parking garages downtown that 140 people have taken advantage of, Matthews said.
He said business owners like the enforcement because shoppers and downtown visitors are able to find parking more quickly.
"There's a lot more spaces on the street for customers," he said.
David Smotherman, owner of Winder Binder art gallery and book store on the North Shore, said his business has not suffered, and he hasn't heard a lot of complaints.
David Crane, 58, tickets a vehicle behind Warehouse Row. Crane is the oldest parking ambassador with his company and he travels an average of 18-miles a day on foot. It has been six months since the new parking ambassadors began patrolling the streets of Chattanooga cracking down on areas that were overlooked in the past.
THE MAN ON THE STREET
James Woodley, who lives and works downtown, said he's gotten two tickets in the last few months.
Once, he went into Starbucks downtown to grab a cup of coffee. He left his car for at the most five minutes, he said. He came back and found a parking ticket on his windshield.
"They must camp out around here," he said. "It's definitely inconvenient, but what are you going to do?"
Woodley said he knows friends and co-workers who have noticed stepped-up enforcement.
"They have to be making a killing," he said.
Matthews said there are no quotas for the enforcers.
"There's no incentive to write fewer or more [tickets]," he said.
Chris Swafford, who lives in Hixson, recently made a quick visit downtown. As he was parking, he saw a parking enforcer writing a ticket for a car next to his. He offered to put change in the meter so the person wouldn't get a ticket.
The enforcer told him he couldn't do that, he said.
"Those guys are looking for revenue," Swafford said.
Stricter parking enforcement, he said, might keep people out of downtown.
"It's a deterrent for me sometimes," he said.