Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Parking ticket increase requested

Monday, October 8, 2018 by Douglas Graves Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

The Bethlehem Parking Authority asked the Bethlehem City Council to approve increased penalties for motorists who violate the city’s parking ordinance. The requested revision to the parking ordinance, with a few exceptions, would double the penalty for most infractions.

Bethlehem Parking Authority Executive Director Kevin Livingston’s letter to the Council President Adam Waldron didn’t give a reason for the proposed price hike, except to say that the Parking Authority board unanimously approves of it.

The best reason for the increase appears to be because other municipalities do it.

To back up his request, Livingston attached a memorandum from a consultant, Desman Design Management. “This analysis is presented to give the [Bethlehem] Authority a better idea of how its parking system compares with other towns in the region and to provide a guide for developing future parking violation fines and policies.”

Desman quotes “industry standards” that “suggest the fine for non-payment of a parking meter or other parking meter violations be priced at least 10–15 times the hourly parking rate.”

According to information provided, the Bethlehem Parking authority issued approximately 22,940 tickets in 2014 and had a 35 percent increase to 65,200 by the end of 2017. “The number of parking violations tickets issued over the past five years is expected to increase by more than 300 percent by the end of 2018,” according to Desman’s memo to Director Livingston.

The traffic consultant company mapped out a strategy of increasing fines “to encourage additional compliance with existing parking regulations and to ensure that, as parking rates increase in the future, the proper ratio of hourly parking rate-to fine is maintained.”

With few exceptions, the proposed increase in fines represents a doubling of the current fines: what was a $10 fine would become a $20 fine; what was a $50 fine, doubles to become $100.

Why the need for more cash? The documents filed with Livingston’s request explain that. the Bethlehem Parking Authority needs to ensure that its properties are properly maintained by generating “necessary user fees to cover operational costs and debt service.” Plus, the authority’s “costs have been budgeted at more than $6 million over the next 10 years, which will need to be funded through …parking revenues and resources. For these reasons the fine increases noted above are substantiated.”

Also, according to the consultant’s letter attached to the Parking Authority’s request, projects that the Parking Authority “may be initiating in the next several years.

“These include the demolition and reconstruction of the Walnut Street Garage and the construction of a new Polk Street Garage facility,” continues the Desman memo submitted by Bethlehem Parking Authority to justify the hike in parking penalties.

Raised parking penalties will cause parking violation income to be “flat from 2018 to 2019 should the fines be increased,” according to the Desman memo. But, according to the memo, the Parking Authority can also expect an increase in meter revenues from those who do not pay now but will pay in the future to avoid the higher parking fines.

The Bethlehem Parking Authority’s consultant also recommends that the city and Parking Authority “reassess the fines” every three to five years, “to ensure that the fines are having the desired effect of discouraging illegal parking behavior and that they are keeping up with inflation.”