A month after new parking fees and fines went into effect in downtown Delaware, there’s been an increase in the purchase of monthly lot permits.
“It’s more than doubled,” said Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski. “In July of 2014, we sold 20 monthly passes, and we sold 47 in 2015. In August 2014, we sold 14, and August 2015 we sold 43. That’s more people parking in a long-term space, and not moving around downtown. The fact those monthly permits are up so much is encouraging to me.”
In response to downtown businesses’ concerns, City Hall formed a working group to improve turnover at non-metered spaces. The group’s recommendations, which were approved by City Council, included special prices for monthly permits; increased parking fines that were in line with other central Ohio communities; and the potential of having a locking boot placed on the front wheel of a persistent violator’s vehicle.
“There was a lot of buy-in right away from downtown merchants,” Pijanowski said. “I think the parking control officers heard complaints the first week or two with the enhanced ticket prices but overall I think the changes have been well-received.”
From July 8 to Aug. 17, city police have issued 255 parking tickets. “That number has dramatically increased over last year, because we have three times the ability to write tickets,” Pijanowski said.
Last year at this time, the city had one part-time parking control officer, who sometimes had other assignments instead of being on parking enforcement. In September 2014, another parking control officer was added, and a community service officer was added this year.
“The data is hard to compare, but when the two of them are working in tandem, you have coverage from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., instead of 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” Pijanowski said. “We noticed a difference in the downtown parking once the second officer was hired.”
When the new parking regulations went into effect on July 8, police essentially “wiped everyone’s slates clean,” Pijanowski said.
“We want to be fair,” he said. “Our goal is not to be really enforcement-heavy. We just want to get the word out. I’d rather have people voluntarily comply. It seems like many have, just based on the parking permits.”
Despite giving everyone a second chance, “some people are getting close” to receiving higher parking fines or having the boot applied, Pijanowski said.
“We haven’t booted anyone, don’t know of anyone who’s gotten an enhanced ticket. We’re being very cautious with how we handle that boot. If someone gets that boot, they’re really going to deserve it. My real wish is people knowing we have it is the value of the boot, and not actually using it.”
Pijanowski said it may take another month or two to truly understand the impact of the parking changes.
“We’re just trying to manage parking so it’s optimal for everyone downtown,” he said. “We want visitors to have a good experience, and we want merchants to have that turnover they need to survive.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.