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Published: Thursday, 10/7/2004

Study of downtown meters cites enforcement disparity

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Downtown Toledo Parking Authority spent $19,000 this summer to study metered street parking. The Downtown Toledo Parking Authority spent $19,000 this summer to study metered street parking.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

Melissa Blasingim, her daughter strapped in a safety seat, sat yesterday in downtown Toledo in her idling car.

The 24-year-old Davis College student waited for someone, but still fed the Adams Street parking meter, afraid she might get a ticket.

She found it hard to believe a recent parking study concluded enforcement at the 944 downtown meters was too lenient, in terms of the number of ParkSmart tickets issued. Some City Council members and business owners have complained downtown enforcement is too aggressive, a view that appears at odds with the $19,000 study that said 28.7 percent of those in violation from January to April were ticketed, short of the 33 percent to 40 percent to be effective, the study said.

"It seems like every time I've been here, I see [ticket writers] walking up and down," Ms. Blasingim said.

The study by The Consulting Engineers Group of Cincinnati was commissioned by the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority. It points out broken meters and discusses several ideas, such as eliminating free parking from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The team of private consultants walked the streets, counted meters, timed cars, and observed downtown parking habits this summer.

The resulting, 55-page report outlines $55,000 in suggested changes, including installing meters on St. Clair Street between Monroe and Washington streets and testing a "pay-and-display" system. Under the system, drivers buy time from a central ATM-like machine and display the printed receipts on their dashboards, eliminating the need for individual meters.

Clayton Johnston, parking authority president, said he'd first want to test the system around the courthouse. "Lawyers, often times, they don't know how long [they'll be in the courthouse]. Maybe we can set up zones of three hours," he said.

The study eventually will make its way to the council for review, Mr. Johnston said.

Councilman Bob McCloskey said questions among his colleagues could turn to real debate about downtown parking, which includes Toledo Police Department enforcement of non-metered parking.

"They've been ticketing people at the Mud Hens games," he said. "We're trying to do everything we can to keep people in Toledo."

Councilman Wilma Brown said she thought police should take a greater role in parking enforcement.

Mr. McCloskey and Councilman Michael Ashford, who represents downtown, said they have received complaints from residents about being ticketed during special events.

The study also concluded the type of meter had little effect on time violations, which could prompt changes, Mr. Johnston said.

At 60-minute spots, which make up the core of downtown meters, vehicles stayed an average of 94 minutes. At 120-minute spots, which are around the outer ring of downtown, vehicles stayed an average of 97 minutes. For the 15-minute meters, at various spots for quick retail, 92 minutes was the average stay.

As a result, the 120-minute meters should perhaps be extended to promote longer-term parking in those often-vacant spots, and the 60-minute meters could be extended to 90 minutes to better reflect the actual demand from most meter parkers, he said.

ParkSmart, which is operated by the parking authority, doesn't ticket on the weekends or approved holidays. Parking is free from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and after 5 p.m. until the next morning at 8.

Those ticketed while visiting retail in downtown might get one free pass or a "get out of jail free card" so they don't become soured on the experience, Mr. Johnston suggested.

The Coney Island Hot Dog, 430 North Superior St., has several 15-minute meters in front.

Owner Frixos Stylianides, who pays $195 a month for three employee spots in a lot across the street, said he liked the free pass idea.

Some customers pick up a $3 to-go meal and don't want to pay a quarter premium to park for less than a minute or two. Sometimes it means a $10 parking ticket, angering them and hurting his business, he said.

There also are not enough spots, he added. "They don't come back. They can't find spots, anyway. I wish I had two extra spots in front for takeout."

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick

at: ckirkpatrick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6077.



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