It’s been a successful program, say Town staff, one worth continuing.
For two summers, a downtown parking ambassador has been providing information and issuing warnings to people ignoring or unaware of parking restrictions and no-parking zones in Huntsville’s downtown core.
The summer parking ambassador program is a partnership between the Town of Huntsville and the Downtown Huntsville BIA, who both contribute funds to the program. The Town of Huntsville’s portion has come from a combination of parking meter reserve funds, which have now been depleted, and parking fines.
In a report presented at the October General Committee meeting, Town staff noted that with “a fixed and limited number of public parking spaces over the summer months, ensuring that regular parking space turn over occurs so that residents and visitors can access the businesses is important to the local economy.” It was the role of the parking ambassador to encourage that turn over, as well as assist visitors and residents by providing information about businesses, events and alternative parking locations.
The parking ambassador had the ability to enforce the Town’s parking bylaw and could issue tickets for offences, although a three-strike graduated fine system was approved by council in the spring of 2018. For a first offence in a no-parking zone, a red warning card was left on the vehicle and its licence plate was recorded, while those parked too long in a two-hour parking zone received a yellow warning card. If a vehicle was caught in violation of the bylaw a second time, a warning ticket was issued. And for a third offence and each subsequent one, a parking ticket was issued. Vehicles parked in a loading zone, in a fire route, in a designated accessible parking space, or on a sidewalk received a ticket regardless of whether or not it was their first offence.
He also encouraged alternative parking locations in conjunction with the Town’s Healthy Huntsville challenge, in which participants took a pledge to park a few blocks away and walk to the Main Street area whenever they visited downtown to shop, eat, work or attend events.
In 2018, the parking ambassador worked Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from mid-June through the beginning of September. He issued 275 red warning cards of which 17 became repeat offenders, 204 yellow warning cards of which 24 became repeat offenders, and 24 warning tickets. A total of 143 parking tickets were issued, most after a vehicle reached its third strike.
According to the report, the parking ambassador issued 20 tickets to vehicles parked in a prohibited area and 60 per cent of those were on Dara Howell Way. Sixty-four tickets were issued for vehicles parked in excess of the two-hour time limit, almost half of which were in the Royal Bank parking lot with the remainder in the River Mill parking lot and on High Street. Only six tickets were issued on Main Street. Twenty-eight tickets were issued for vehicles parked outside a designated space, seven tickets were issued for vehicles parked the wrong way, two were issued for vehicles parked on a sidewalk and just one ticket was issued for parking in a designated accessible parking space.
Due to the three-strike system, the amount of fines collected in 2018 decreased. Each red warning card issued could have been a $40 parking fine and each yellow warning card could have been a $20 fine, noted the report, resulting in an approximately $15,000 loss in revenue. The amount of collected fines for 2018, as of the time of the report, was $7,813.
During presentation of the report to committee, Rebecca Francis, Policy and Project Coordinator for the Town, noted that Dara Howell Way is of particular concern due to narrow passage for emergency vehicles and safety concerns for pedestrians, and suggested that additional signage should be considered for that area.
Councillors agreed to consider approving the summer parking ambassador program for a third year in 2019, but removed the system that allows for three strikes before a ticket is issued. If approved during 2019 budget deliberations, $4,800 of the $7,300 cost for the program would be funded through parking fines revenue, provided that the Downtown Huntsville BIA contributes the remaining $2,500 to the program.
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