Be­fore rais­ing fines, Beth­le­hem con­sid­ers test­ing free park­ing

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Ni­cole Radzievich

Sev­eral Beth­le­hem City Coun­cil mem­bers agree that me­ter fines — the stick used to get mo­torists not to over­stay their wel­come at primo me­tered spots — are too low at $10.

But be­fore hik­ing the fines, a cou­ple of coun­cil mem­bers floated the idea of of­fer­ing mo­torists a car­rot — free park­ing.

At a com­mit­tee meet­ing Tues­day, Coun­cil­woman Paige Van Wirt asked that the Beth­le­hem Park­ing Author­ity con­sider a pi­lot study that would pro­vide free park­ing for a cou­ple of hours in sec­tions of the down­town and then dou­ble or triple the park­ing fines on those who vi­o­late the rules.

Her goal is to find a way to make the down­town friend­lier to vis­i­tors who were socked with a me­ter rate in­crease this year from $1 to $1.50.

Coun­cil­woman Olga Ne­gron agreed, sup­port­ing Van Wirt for the com­mit­tee to ta­ble the re­quest by the Beth­le­hem Park­ing Author­ity to in­crease park­ing fines un­til the author­ity can con­sider the pi­lot study. Then coun­cil could get feed­back from vis­i­tors, busi­nesses and other stake­hold­ers about how it worked. Par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dure al­lows a ma­jor­ity of coun­cil take the pro­posal back from the com­mit­tee and con­sider the pro­posal at a sub­se­quent coun­cil meet­ing be­fore that pi­lot study is done.

The Park­ing Author­ity’s pro­posal would add $5 to the me­ter fine, bring­ing it to $15. Other fines are pro­posed to in­crease from $10 to $20 for dou­ble park­ing; $10 to $20 for over­time park­ing in a one-, two-, three­and four-hour zone; and $50 to $100 for park­ing in a hand­i­cap spot.

Author­ity Chair­man Joe Hoffmeier said he wel­comed the con­sid­er­a­tion of a pi­lot pro­gram on free park­ing but said that study should not de­lay in­creas­ing the cur­rent fines, which of­fi­cials say aren’t de­ter­ring peo­ple from park­ing il­le­gally. A $10 ticket for a me­ter vi­o­la­tion is hardly enough to get peo­ple to move to a garage where the daily rate is $10, park­ing of­fi­cials say.

Mayor Robert Donchez, who was not at the meet­ing, said he would like to know more about Van Wirt’s pro­posal be­fore com­ment­ing. The mayor, who is re­spon­si­ble for set­ting me­ter rates, said he hasn’t got­ten com­plaints since the me­ter in­crease went into ef­fect this Jan­uary.

The goal of the fine in­crease, which City Coun­cil must ap­prove, was to move day­long vis­i­tors into the garages, where they get a bet­ter deal, free­ing up more on-street park­ing for peo­ple on short er­rands.

Des­man De­sign Man­age­ment, the author­ity’s con­sul­tants, say park­ing in­dus­try stan­dards call for the me­ter fines be at least 10-15 times the hourly park­ing rate. That would re­sult in Beth­le­hem as a fine be­tween $15-$22.50. Park­ing me­ter vi­o­la­tions in Eas­ton, which has a hourly me­ter rate of $1, is $25, and Al­len­town, which has an hourly me­ter rate $1-$2, is $10. Read­ing, which has an hourly rate of $1.50, is $20, ac­cord­ing to a list com­piled by Des­man.

The author­ity’s num­bers back that up. Com­par­ing the first six months of last year and this year, the num­ber of me­ter vi­o­la­tions jumped by 27% to 15,700 tick­ets. Over­all tick­ets dur­ing that time rose by 7% to 41,642. From 2014-2018, the park­ing tick­ets in­creased from 22,940 to 78,000 — a 240% in­crease.

Kevin Liv­ingston, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Beth­le­hem Park­ing Author­ity, said his staff could prob­a­bly write more if the author­ity added an­other three or four en­force­ment of­fi­cers.

“We are strug­gling to main­tain or­der on the street,” Liv­ingston said.

He said tick­et­ing too many mo­torists isn’t good for the city and he would rather im­prove com­pli­ance by mak­ing fines heftier.

If the fine hikes are im­ple­mented, Des­man projects a 20% re­duc­tion in the to­tal num­ber of tick­ets is­sued, a 40% re­duc­tion in me­ter vi­o­la­tions and 40% in over­time park­ing. As a re­sult of the fine in­crease, Des­man is fore­cast­ing that fine rev­enue will be flat or slightly re­duced the first year of the in­crease and the me­ter rev­enues will in­crease. That could re­sult in park­ing rev­enue of $75,000 to $100,000 a year, or about a 2-3% in­crease of ad­di­tional me­ter rev­enue.

Des­man rec­om­mends the author­ity con­tinue to as­sess me­ter park­ing vi­o­la­tions ev­ery three to five years.

RICK KINTZEL/THE MORNING CALL

A ve­hi­cle with two tick­ets, one for ex­pired in­spec­tion and park­ing sits on a wind­shield Tues­day on West Mar­ket Street in Beth­le­hem. .

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.