I-Team investigation: Downtown parking not as clear as many think

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by Andy Treinen

WHAS11.com

Posted on January 31, 2014 at 12:48 AM

Updated Friday, Jan 31 at 12:51 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Paying to park is not a new idea. It is commonplace in nearly every downtown American city.

Parking meters in Louisville require payment every day, except Sunday, but a recent WHAS11 I-Team investigation uncovered that is not the way the meters are enforced.

The Parking Authority of River City, or PARC, is a self sustaining cash-cow for the city of Louisville that brought in more than $2.8 million in revenue from meters in 2013 and nearly $2 million in citation revenue.

During the investigation, the I-Team discovered that travelers in downtown Louisville seemed confused about when to pay the meter, even though the information is clearly listed on each meter.

“The meters are in operation from Monday to Saturday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” said Tiffany Smith, the new executive director of PARC.

Though the weekday hours seem clear, the weekend enforcement is a much more murky matter.

Some downtown commuters said you pay every day except Saturday, others said the whole weekend was free.

Nearly everyone was surprised that payment is also required on Saturday.

Tiffany Smith said the need to pay the meter on Saturday has been part of the law the entire time she has been a city employee, nearly 18 years.

“People that park on Saturdays need to pay the meters on Saturday,” she said.

According to findings in Open Records Requests filed with the city , 30,880 expired meter violations were distributed in 2013.  None of those were in relation to expired meters on Saturday, the I-Team reported.

“We do not enforce,” Smith said.

Reporters on the I-Team set out to find out just how necessary it is to pay for parking on Saturday in downtown Louisville and if it’s not a need, why are we being asked to pay.

From Main Street to Muhammad Ali and from Armory to 7th Street, directly in front of LMPD headquarters, the reporters let four cars sit in unpaid metered spots.

While the cars waited to be ticketed or not be ticketed, the reporters spoke with residents about the issue.

“We’re going to risk it,” Megan Cockrell said after she was told she actually needed to feed that meter on Saturday.

The four cars the I-Team parked downtown was not ticketed.

Two PARC employees are licensed to issue tickets along with 17 employees from Republic Parking.  These 19 individuals are out enforcing the law, Monday through Friday.  However, no one is scheduled for Saturdays.

So, the question is, if PARC isn’t enforcing the meters on Saturday, who is?

LMPD does have the jurisdiction to ticket, but officers said that rarely happens.

“First and foremost, that is clearly not our primary focus,” said Shawn Hensler, 1st Division Lt.  “Our Primary focus is crime prevention and a safe city environment.”

When the I-Team filed Open Records Requests to determine the amount of meter citations written by LMPD officers at downtown meters on Saturdays, the results were practically nonexistent.

“If that’s what you’re looking for I doubt you’ll find any citations to that affect because when they write their citations, even during the week days,  they’re usually outside of the perimeter of downtown,” Tiffany Smith said.

Downtown Louisville attracts nearly 22,000 to the KFC Yum! Center on UofL game days and hundreds more flock to downtown restaurants, museums and the Center for the Arts.  All of this translates into a lot of cars parked in expired meters on Saturdays.

“I think we all want people to come downtown,” said Hensler.  “I am kind of surprised to hear that they’re not enforcing it on Saturday.”

Hensler said the meter system on Saturday is reliant on the honor system.

The reporters met Tim Wiley, from West Virginia, on January 18, a Saturday.  Wiley was feeding the meter and when he was told the other cars were parked for free due to lack of enforcement, he was perplexed.

“It says except Sunday, every day except Sunday,” he said.

Wiley said if the city would promote free parking on Saturday it could be a draw to get residents downtown.

PARC is composed of 27 employees and are responsible for more than just meters.  They maintain 17 downtown garages, several parking lots and all metered parking in Metro Louisville.

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