published Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Chattanooga parking sweep frees up meters on its first day


by Cliff Hightower
  • photo
    Parking ambassador Chris King makes notes on his computer while writing a citation for a vehicle sitting at an expired meter on Market Street on Monday. A new process of ticketing unpaid meters went into practice Monday, with CARTA contracting out the policing work to Republic Parking.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
    enlarge photo

Poll
Have you received a parking ticket downtown in the last 30 days?

The green shirts were out Monday, tucking hundreds of white warning tickets under windshield wipers.

Workers dressed in khaki pants and green polo shirts emblazoned with a Chattanooga Parking Authority patch swept through downtown streets to begin stricter enforcement of parking rules.

"I've noticed a lot of tickets being given out," said Gary Sprague, a manager at Sticky Fingers on Broad Street. "Some of my employees got some."

By noontime, the sweep appeared to have had its effect -- there were plenty of empty spaces along Market and Broad streets during the busiest time of day for restaurants and shops.

The City Council authorized the Chattanooga Area Regional Transit Authority to take over downtown parking enforcement. CARTA outsourced enforcement to Republic Parking Systems, which will be paid $20,000 annually, plus operational costs.

Over the last three weeks, 10 parking "ambassadors" have learned how to write citations and provide tourists with information about downtown Chattanooga.

Brent Matthews, CARTA's director of parking, said feedback on the first day was positive for the most part.

"We had some people on Chestnut [Street] saying they were glad we were out there," he said.

By noon, he had heard more than 200 warnings had been issued. He won't know the total figure until today.

Stricter parking enforcement may help stop downtown employees from feeding meters all day long, which prevents visitors from being able to find parking.

Sprague said the parking authority has created a program in which his workers will be able to drop their cars off in designated garages for $15 to $20 a month. The authority also is offering a free shuttle to take employees to their cars.

In a few weeks, motorists will begin getting tickets instead of warnings for parking violations. The cost of a parking ticket is $11 and increases to $41 after 10 days.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com /cliff.hightower.

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