Parking structure passes, fines could increase
By David Hohendorf
The Birmingham City Commission is expected to consider soon a recommendation from the Birmingham Advisory Parking Committee (APC) to raise the charge for monthly passes to the five parking structures in the city and an increase in the cost of expired parking meter tickets once a vehicle owner had passed a certain number of tickets in a year.
Proposed parking system increases were part of an update provided by APC member Richard Astrein to the Business Shopping District (BSD) board, of which he is also a member, at the BSD board monthly meeting on Thursday, May 4.
The APC had been discussing possible increases in some charges for the past several months to address the issue of better managing the parking in the downtown commercial area and with the upcoming major expenditures facing the city due to a five-year capital improvement plan to remedy issues at city parking structures, estimated to cost millions of dollars.
The issue of raising parking charges was most recently the topic at the February meeting of the APC at which time it was decided to ask the police department to do an analysis of whether increased fines on metered street parking violations would help with management of street parking in the city and act as an incentive for visitors to the city to use municipal parking structures.
Birmingham Police Captain Greg Wald responded on April 12 with a memorandum that included a comparison of Birmingham's parking fines with five other communities – Ferndale, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Royal Oak and Rochester.
Wald cautioned in the memo to APC members that although “revenue is a byproduct of parking violations, it is not the primary objective of the police department or this review.” He also noted that parking violation fines were last updated in 2010.
The police department review showed that with the exception of Birmingham and Rochester, which charge a $10 fine for expired parking meters, the remaining communities all charged a $20-$30 fine for an expired parking meter. Only Rochester levied a repeat offender fine of $100 on parking offenders who had more than six tickets in a year, as opposed to Birmingham which increases a parking meter violation to $30 if more than seven tickets are issued to a vehicle in one year.
Wald suggested that a “moderate” increase in some fines would help to better discourage parkers who were inclined to just pay the $10 fine rather than adhere to meter time limitations of one-two hours or park in a municipal structure.
The APC board on May 3 voted, according to Astrein in his update to the BSD board, to recommend to the city commission that the repeat offender fine be raised to $100 and that the increased ticket fine would apply to those who collect more than five tickets in a year, thereby lowering the current seven-ticket threshold.
APC members also voted to increase by $20 the monthly fee for parking passes at the city's parking structures, effective July 1. The board vote followed an April memo from parking system manager Aaron Ford who provided a breakdown of upcoming projected major expenses for maintenance to be done to the city parking structures. The Ford memo also included a recommendation for the parking pass monthly increases, the last of which took place in April of 2017.
Members of the BSD board raised concerns about the changes in the repeat offender fines, with one board member labeling the $100 ticket charge after five tickets in a given year as “ridiculous” and not “very business friendly.”
BSD board members also questioned the often promoted advantage of using the parking structures because the first two hours of parking were supposed to be free but with the installation of new equipment in some structures, a parker who stayed beyond two hours was charged for the supposed free first two hours. It was suggested that the issue was probably an error in equipment programming and would be rectified.