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Editorial: Parking boots ensure downtown visitors get bang for their buck

These boots were made for locking, and that’s just what they’ll do.

But if you’re not a repeat parking offender, you have nothing to worry about as the city begins affixing immobilization devices to vehicle wheels.

So who should worry about the re-emergence of the dreaded boots? That would be the 2,778 motorists with four or more citations who have demonstrated they aren’t budging when it comes to paying. Now their cars won’t budge if they’re caught parking downtown. The boots are removed when the tickets are paid off.

The city says the 27,785 outstanding tickets belonging to that group are worth $1.2 million, and that’s after it ran a well-publicized amnesty campaign that gave scofflaws an opportunity to pay off their tickets. Late fees were waived for the duration of the 60-day program, which ended on July 1.

However, the city got relatively few takers – 443 people paid off more than 2,000 tickets, for a total of about $89,000. So now it’s time to haul out the boots. Otherwise, why pay when there are no consequences?

It’s been 25 years since the city used parking boots, and they were controversial then. But there’s no reason to feel sorry for the truants. They’ve been issued repeated notices and warnings. They’ve also had two months to settle up without paying late fees. Nobody wins when they tie up downtown parking spots reserved for paying customers.

Downtown workers who park at meters also need to be aware that the new parking enforcement program includes the use of technology that can detect cars that have overstayed. Currently, some workers park at meters all day by replugging them before they expire. But the point of metered parking is to create turnover, so more people can park downtown and access businesses and entertainment venues.

The city’s parking enforcement department now has a high-tech vehicle that can “read” license plates and quickly determine whether a repeat offender has parked downtown. It also takes pictures of the tires’ valve stems to see whether cars moved after the time limit. If not, enforcers can issue a warning or citation.

City officials have spent a lot of time on downtown parking, which is the source of controversy in all cities. Free parking would mean first-come, first-served. Workers’ cars would stay all day; visitors would be shut out. Paid parking is the only option.

However, the city can make it more convenient and has done so. Visitors can now swipe credit cards, rather than fumble for correct change. Also, parking enforcement dollars are now being spent where they’re collected. That means upgraded lighting, sidewalks and landscaping downtown. It also means more security. Parking dollars fund two police officers downtown.

The wisdom of this arrangement is that downtown visitors can witness the bang they get for their bucks, as long as they can find a place to park. The boots will help ensure a spot is available.

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