The decision to expand enforcement hours at downtown parking meters is an insane retreat from reality. The most irrational revenue-generating tactic ever is destined to be met with a backlash. Rather than deal with an army of aggressive ticket-happy meter maids, visitors will simply shun Detroit after business hours.
Under the new parking policy, visitors will no longer be able to park at a meter for free after 6 p.m. Rather the hours of enforcement on parking meters is extended until 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Enforcement kicks in at 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Municipal parking officials contend the ramped up enforcement period is in response to complaints that too many drivers park illegally on city streets — especially during sporting events. It took effect shortly after the parking regime ended an amnesty program for people who owed outstanding tickets. On the surface, it seems like an opportunity to raise $10 million of the $35 million the city had hoped to recoup in delinquent parking tickets and late fees.
But far from a windfall, visitors are likely to be discouraged rather than encouraged to make downtown a destination.
Dwayne, a professional who works downtown and enjoys stopping with friends and colleagues at local restaurants after hours, is typical of the adverse policy experience. He had the misfortune of parking outside a restaurant the first day after the new meter enforcement crackdown took effect.
“After inserting the correct change,” Dwayne said, “I noticed that the time on the meter didn’t reflect the amount of money I put in.
“It was broken. That meant I was going to be 13 minutes short of the time I planned to spend in the restaurant. Needless to say, I had a ticket was when I returned to the car.”
Another friend paid to park by credit card. She returned to her car to actually find time remaining on the meter — and a ticket. After calling to complain, she was given two options: the parking authority would send someone out to see if the meter was broken, or she could protest the ticket in court.
This visitor is convinced the ticket was issued to fill some kind of quota. Are parking officials betting victims will opt to pay the ticket rather than spend a day in court fighting it?
The perverseness of this parking edict is obvious. For example, men and women out to enjoy dinner or an adult beverage at one of the watering holes can’t relax if consumed with checking their watch, wondering whether they’ll win the rush to the meter. They may have to continuously run out to feed meters with a two hour limit. Running out after dark could expose them to danger.
Tougher enforcement might make sense if it resulted in turnover at a limited supply of metered spots. But parking spaces are never in high demand unless the Red Wings, the Lions or the Tigers are in town.
If the idea is to drive motorists into parking lots that charge as much as $30, that isn’t working either. Consumers, though, refuse to be gouged. On any given day or evening, no one is at the meters and the lots are virtually empty.
The policy might also make sense if parked cars impeded rush hour traffic. Anyone who comes downtown knows that traffic congestion is not a problem at any hour of the day. Downtown Detroit is pretty much a ghost town shortly after 5 p.m., except perhaps during the weekend when there are activities at Kennedy Square or Hart Plaza.
The parking ticket onslaught will ultimately mean lost revenue for the few bars, restaurants and other amenities that already are suffering from too few customers. Would be patrons will take the path of least resistance and mix and mingle in more visitor-friendly, more convenient, saner and safer locales in the suburbs.