Phoenix parking changes could help drivers keep their change

January 02, 2012

Parking on the street in downtown Phoenix is going to get easier in 2012. The number of hours people have to pay to park could be reduced and more user-friendly parking meters could be in place a year from now.  From Phoenix, KJZZ’s Paul Atkinson reports.

 PAUL ATKINSON: Jim Jackson pulls into a parking spot on Adams Street east of Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix. Jackson delivers documents and has a couple rolls of quarters in his car to feed the parking meters.

Parking tickets on a car in Phoenix Despite parking fines increasing from $16 to $50, Phoenix took in less revenue from parking tickets in 2010. (Photo by Paul Atkinson/KJZZ)

 JIM JACKSON: “I’m downtown here every single day—five days a week.  And it’s a mammoth pain in the you-know-what.”

 PAUL ATKINSON: The cost to park on the street in downtown Phoenix went from 60 cents an hour to a $1.50 in March, 2009. Hours were also extended, until 8 at night and all day Saturday.  Phoenix city councilman Michael Johnson supported the change.  

 MICHAEL JOHNSON: “A lot of people and businesses were complaining in the downtown area that the people were parking on the meters and they were staying there all day.  And customers couldn’t get into their stores and wouldn’t go there because employees were also using up all the meters.”

 PAUL ATKINSON: The price hike amounted to a 150-percent increase in cost. But revenues only increased by 85-percent a year later. Meaning fewer people actually used metered parking after prices went up. Then there’s the matter of parking fines, something courier Jim Jackson knows all too well.

 JIM JACKSON: “Last year I got 8 parking tickets at 50 bucks a pop. Because you know like you put in 20 minutes worth and you get out here in 22 minutes. It’s no fun at all.”

 PAUL ATKINSON: The fine for an expired parking meter went from $16 to $50. But despite tripling in price, the city actually took in less money from fines then before the price hike. Assistant Phoenix city manager Rick Naimark says a bad economy and people using parking lots play a role.  But he suggests the debut of this…(sound of light rail horn beeping)…is a big reason why.

 RICK NAIMARK: “Lots and lots of people are choosing to ride the light rail, parking at some of our remote light rail lots instead of driving downtown and plunking quarters in the meter.”

 PAUL ATKINSON: John and Kathy Plunkett sell sandwiches, snacks and sodas at their shop on Adams Street west of First Avenue. Lots of folks come in, not to buy anything, but to get change for parking.

 KATHY PLUNKETT: “A lot of people don’t like it.  And we don’t like it as a business owner because people want quarters continually.”

 PAUL ATKINSON: It wasn’t the higher cost of parking meters, but the extended hours, until eight at night and all day Saturday, that upset many business owners.  It was enough to cause a city council subcommittee to recently recommend rolling back hours to 8 to 5 Monday through Friday.  Phoenix city councilman Michael Johnson.

 MICHAEL JOHNSON: “The reason we changed those meters really wasn’t for the city to make extra revenue, it was to support the businesses. So obviously if we made a decision and we found out that that decision had an adverse impact on the businesses, then it’s really our responsibility to change that.”

 PAUL ATKINSON: That won’t be the only change. The city will begin replacing coin operated parking meters with ones that also take plastic. People with cell phones could be notifed when their meter is about to expire and add more money. Assistant Phoenix city manager Rick Naimark says higher tech meters can also help with special events.

 RICK NAIMARK: “We have the ability to change meter timing and pricing to deal with those kinds of things. And other cities are beginning to experiment with that—including if a car pulls out of a space and there is still time on the meter—sometimes the meters go back to zero.”

 PAUL ATKINSON: Naimark says the new meters can also let parking attendants know when the time has expired. The new meters could be in use a year from now.

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City of Phoenix Parking Revenue

Fiscal Year      
Parking meter revenue     
Parking fine revenue      

Source: City of Phoenix