Don’t call them ‘meter maids’ – the politically correct term is parking control officer.
In big cities like San Francisco, this breed of civil servant is fighting against a fine increase they say would lead to more verbal and physical abuse than they already receive from angry drivers, according to an Apr. 16 article in The San Francisco Chronicle.
Fortunately for parking control officers in Davis, people here seem to be a little calmer despite ongoing parking problems downtown.
“We don’t have a whole lot of [violence] here in town,” said Ton Phan, traffic sergeant with the Davis Police Department. “For the most part, people are pretty civilized – not like in New York or San Francisco.”
For years, the city has provided free parking downtown for up to two hours, but any longer than that and a $35 ticket will ensue.
“These guys do get yelled at a lot,” Phan said. “It’s not an easy job. No one is thanking you.”
While Davis doesn’t share the dramatic parking problems of higher density cities, parking downtown has been a concern for over a decade.
“Our downtown is very healthy and vibrant and as a result, parking can sometimes be a little tight,” said Ken Hiatt, deputy city manager. “We’ve been … trying for 10 to 15 years to manage the allocation of our parking supply to make sure the parking that we do have is most conveniently available for visitors and employees.”
As part of the long-running discussion about how to ease downtown parking problems, the city council voted last week to implement a pilot program to install pay parking meters downtown in the E Street Plaza lot.
“I think it’s a good experiment,” said Davis City Councilmember Don Saylor. “It’s a good thing to try – to see if we can make a difference in the parking situation.”
People have expressed concern that the two-hour parking limit is problematic for extended shopping trips or movies, Saylor said.
When the program rolls out in August, downtown visitors will have the option of paying $1 per hour to park up to four hours.
“We have avoided pay parking until this point because we want [downtown] to be hospitable,” he said. “But it’s possible that some paid parking will actually enhance the [downtown] experience and result in more people coming down without worrying about a parking ticket.”
Davis Downtown Business Association and the city of Davis will embark on a public outreach campaign at the beginning of the summer to educate people about downtown’s parking rules.
“I think it’s the surprise element that affects people’s emotions more than anything,” said Joy Cohan, administrator of downtown business association. “Hopefully we’re answering a need and not upsetting people.”
In the next few months, the Davis City Council will hold a workshop to discuss the comprehensive plan for downtown parking. The plan includes a proposal for a parking structure between E and F streets and between Third and Fourth streets.
“There is no single right answer for parking downtown,” Saylor said. “Any action that we take has some drawbacks.”
The lot’s usage will be monitored for the first six months after which the pilot program will be evaluated, Cohan said.
“We’re going to learn from this program and hopefully meet people’s needs,” she said.
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