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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane City Council to consider tougher enforcement of parking meter time limits

The Spokane City Council will ask downtown parking enforcement officers to more rigorously enforce time limits, if it approves a resolution on the agenda Monday.

The proposal from City Council members Breean Beggs and Lori Kinnear authorizes enforcement officers to use license plate-reading technology to identify vehicles that are illegally parking for longer than the limit at meters in the downtown core. The city has the technology but isn’t using it for enforcement.

The recommendation follows a study using the readers by the city’s Parking Services Department showing many parkers in the two-hour spots are flouting the time limit, which businesses say is needed to keep on-street traffic flowing downtown.

Beggs said more rigorous enforcement is better than the alternative proposal, to raise the on-street parking hourly rate from $1.20 to $2. An advisory committee made up of government officials and downtown interests had been considering the idea so that on-street parking would match the going rate at privately owned surface lots and garages, and get long-term parkers off the streets.

“I talked to business people, and they were not happy about that,” Beggs said of the $2 hourly rate proposal. “They said, why are you going to raise the rate for everybody just because some people are violating the law and feeding the meters?”

The resolution doesn’t change any city policies on parking, instead authorizing enforcement officers to use existing technology to enforce the time-limit policy that has been the law for years. Enforcement of the time limit had previously been conducted by officers on foot, but the council would approve the use of license plate readers on vehicles if the resolution is approved.

Andrew Rolwes, parking manager for the Downtown Spokane Partnership, said the resolution reflects the continued changes in philosophy regarding downtown parking.

“The community is becoming more and more comfortable with the idea that if you’re coming downtown you’ve got to pay to park,” Rolwes said. “Over time, I think people will understand that on-street parking is your most basic parking and shorter-term option.”

Beggs anticipated some resistance to the resolution, but said the goal is not to fill the city’s coffers but to establish a parking system that meets the needs of both businesses and drivers looking for convenient downtown parking.

“The purpose is not to get more money; otherwise we’d just raise the rate of all the meters,” Beggs said.

The council resolution puts the burden on the city’s Parking Services division to determine how to roll out the new enforcement. Beggs said ideally the city would adopt a plan like the school zone cameras, in which offenders would receive warning tickets before being fined for overstaying the limit at a meter.

“We don’t want the situation where someone’s getting a ticket because they just didn’t understand the law,” he said.

Time-limit enforcement isn’t the only measure addressed by the resolution, which is being branded as a “customer-friendly” provision by the council. The resolution would also:

    Encourage more angle parking downtown, mimicking the changes in design on Main Avenue between Browne and Division streets.

    Authorize the city to work with the Spokane Transit Authority on allowing vanpool vehicles to park at all-day meters downtown.

    Authorize the use of unbudgeted surplus money, which Beggs said totaled about $50,000, collected from meters this year to develop a new downtown parking plan by the end of 2017.

    Determine whether meters with shorter time limits, from 10 to 30 minutes, are feasible near businesses such as convenience stores and pharmacies where stays are much shorter than two hours.

The City Council will consider the resolution during its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall.