published Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

CARTA's money grab deters city visitors

  • photo
    A parking meter shows no time remaining in downtown Chattanooga.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Apparently CARTA hates tourists, and the organization doesn't think a lot of Chattanooga residents, either.

Since the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority took over the management of downtown parking from the city, formed the Chattanooga Parking Authority and contracted with Republic Parking to provide parking enforcers, the agency has appeared hell-bent on squeezing every last dollar from downtown parkers through more than doubling the number of parking tickets written.

The deluge of parking tickets being handed out by Chattanooga's parking enforcers will ultimately push drivers away from downtown and harm area businesses.

Times Free Press reporter Cliff Hightower discovered the new downtown parking arrangement has resulted in $438,774 in revenue in just six months — more money than was collected from parking fines in all of the last fiscal year.

Downtown parking enforcers are writing parking tickets at a rate of a ticket every two-and-a-half minutes.

The impending summer tourist season will soon bring thousands of additional visitors to downtown Chattanooga and massively increase the already bloated number of parking tickets being written.

Most would agree that there's nothing wrong with parking meters, and parking tickets are a necessary evil resulting from convenient street parking. However, having visitors swear off downtown Chattanooga because overzealous parking enforcement workers are ticketing them for getting to their car just a minute or two after their time expired is absurd. So is forcing tourists to cut short their visits to the Chattanooga Aquarium or the Creative Discovery Museum in fear of a parking meter running out.

In the end, the rigid, excessive attitude of parking enforcement officers will deter Chattanoogans and visitors alike from coming downtown and patronizing local businesses and services — not that CARTA or Republic seem to care.

When CARTA took over the city's parking operations, the area transportation bureaucracy promised to give the city the revenues it was previously generating from parking fees and tickets — about $460,000 annually. CARTA pockets the rest.

As a result, CARTA and Republic have become money-crazed parking ticket-giving ogres more concerned with snatching money than working to make sure folks visiting downtown have a wonderful experience.

In a move rich with irony, CARTA decided to call their parking enforcers "ambassadors." Apparently, the bureaucracy was unaware that ambassadors are supposed to welcome people to a city, not send them fleeing in huff after being nickel-and-dimed to death by parking tickets.

There are a few easy steps that CARTA and Republic can take to make downtown parking a more pleasant experience.

First, they can follow the lead of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Rather than automatically ticketing visitors, parking enforcers in the Canadian city give cars with out-of-town tags a warning for their first parking violation. Printed on the warning is a note of appreciation for visiting the city and supporting local businesses, along with a reminder of the municipal parking regulations.

Second, CARTA and Republic should show mercy on those with Hamilton County plates by waiving the first parking ticket. The town of Woodstock, Vt., began the practice of throwing out each resident's first parking ticket. The move engendered good will in the city and resulted in more local visitors to downtown shops.

Downtown Chattanooga is a wonderful place to visit, but a terrible place to park. Let's hope that CARTA stops its ruthless money grab before summer tourists realize that parking downtown isn't worth the hassle.

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nucanuck said...

Most importantly, metered street parking offers short term parking convenience that is intended to increase accessibility to commerce. Those feeders needing longer term parking should be ferreted out and ticketed. Meter feeders defeat the purpose of metered parking. Neither should public vehicles nor handicapped drivers be given carte blanche free parking privileges.

The unmetered perimeter parking should also be regularly enforced.

With proper and courteous enforcement there will be more opportunity spaces for all, and a gentle push toward alternatives such as carpooling, biking, busing, and walking.

May 15, 2013 at 1:09 a.m.
Handleit said...

Why did Carta contract with Republic Parking to monitor parking in Chattanoooga? This move alone seems fishy to me. We have the fox guarding the hen house. I am sure that more parking tickets mean they make more money by increasing parking in the Republic lots. And don't forget the money they make from their cut of the tickets issued.

May 15, 2013 at 9:37 a.m.
LibDem said...

I always taught my kids that it's OK to break the rules a little bit.

May 15, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.
nowfedup said...

Now isn't the new push for "Privatizing Government" and moving to for profits (big ones but not discussed in article)) just grand? Seems an endless list of government the "should be privatized" and more on the way, which indicates more "for profit lobbyists visiting" our elected as more profits means more lobby "Contributions". or in IT talk, "Closed loop".

May 15, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.
MasterChefLen said...

With the city handing over parking enforcement to CARTA, only to then be handed off immediately to Repubilic had to be premeditated. Money definately changed hands (most likely "unofficially") somewhere in the loop. Republic has the monopoly on parking in this town both private and public. On this subject, both political sides should be outraged.

May 15, 2013 at 9:56 a.m.
lightkeeper said...

This is just another example of what privatization will do for you. Conservatives are always hollering about privatize this and privatize that. Funny how their crazy ideas always seems to come back and bit them in the rear end, and they still don't get it.

May 15, 2013 at 11:54 a.m.
Stewwie said...

[...the agency has appeared hell-bent on squeezing every last dollar from downtown parkers through more than doubling the number of parking tickets written.]

So they're doing a better job in enforcement and you're complaining? I think privatizing the service was a great idea, and to no surprise, the private company is much more efficient and effective than the government folks ever were. Again, you're complaining about this?

[The deluge of parking tickets being handed out by Chattanooga's parking enforcers will ultimately push drivers away from downtown and harm area businesses.]

Wrong. In fact, I'd be willing to bet just the opposite. Instead of being hogged by the meter feeders all day, parking spaces are now opening up more frequently for people who want to stop and shop. This is a great thing.

[In the end, the rigid, excessive attitude of parking enforcement officers will deter Chattanoogans and visitors alike from coming downtown and patronizing local businesses and services — not that CARTA or Republic seem to care.]

Excuse Republic for simply doing their job and doing it well. Why have rules if you're not going to enforce them? It's about time that someone actually got serious about enforcement.

[Apparently, the bureaucracy was unaware that ambassadors are supposed to welcome people to a city, not send them fleeing in huff after being nickel-and-dimed to death by parking tickets.]

You really don't get it, do you? You almost sound like a whining liberal. I have avoided downtown like the plague for a while now simply because of the limited parking. But now that I know that folks are being held more accountable for their actions, I might actually start going again and get to park somewhere reasonably close to where I want to patronize.

May 15, 2013 at 2:11 p.m.
NirvanaFallacy said...

I think the suggestions mentioned at the end of this article are a great idea, but I encourage enforcement. You pay for the amount of time you get to park at the meter and if you go over your time then you may get a ticket - Shocking! If you are worried about being 2 or 3 minutes late, then pay an extra dime and pretend like you didn't so you have a few minutes to spare. I mean this stuff isn't rocket science.

Furthermore, I welcome privatization(Whether in state or federal gov't). After this week's news, I don't see how anyone could not be for trying to limit the activities of government. The federal government has gotten way too big and has way too much power - it's past time to rein it in.

May 15, 2013 at 5 p.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

Those who don't get it are those like Stewwie who fail to notice that when you "privatize" you have to send a PROFIT to the company or individual you hired to do the job you could do yourself. So now I pay twice. I pay you (not to do your job)and I pay someone else to do the job AND make a profit. Brilliant. And then the company making the profits has plenty of money to line the pockets of the politicians who gave them this windfall. Further, there is now little accountability as who am I to complain too about clueless enforcement? Republic Parking? The politician who's getting his palms lined with profits from Republic?

May 18, 2013 at 10:07 a.m.
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