Parking may cost more for residents in busy areas

Critical-area permits may be hiked for the first time in 30 years

The city is taking a fresh look at its critical-parking areas, including a proposed permit fee hike from $10 to $25 a year.

There are 24 critical-parking areas in the city, nine in Southwest. They are designed to give residents and their guest, an advantage in high-demand areas. The general public can park in these areas for an hour or two; those with permits can park longer.

These areas address local parking circumstances. In Southwest, Lowry Hill residents near the Walker Art Center and Guthrie Theater requested a critical-parking area to prevent commuters from parking all day for free on residential streets and walking to work downtown. High school neighbors seek permits because of student parking congestion, and residents near business nodes such as 50th and France get them because of shopper-related parking.

Jon Wertjes, Public Works' assistant director of transportation and parking services, said the city has issued approximately 4,500 permits but has not increased the fee since the program's 1976 inception. A hike is needed to cover administrative costs, he said.

Most cities charge in the $20-$40 range, Wertjes told a City Council Committee. (For example, Denver does not charge; St. Paul charges $10, Pittsburgh $20, Chicago $35 and Milwaukee $44, according to a Feb. 17 Wertjes memo.)

The Council's Transportation and Public Works Committee delayed a fee-increase vote to get more information on the cost of enforcing critical parking areas.

In 2003, the city wrote 15,000 critical-area tickets totaling $500,000 -- double the enforcement cost, said Pamela Selinski, supervisor of parking and traffic control.

However, courts reduce the city's take by reducing or waiving fines, Selinski added. She did not have bottom-line ticket revenue.

Wertjes and Selinski will report to the committee again in mid-March.

Four people spoke at a public hearing Feb. 17, including Michael Burns, who lives in a critical-parking area near Southwest High School, 3414 W. 47th St. He said he did not oppose a rate increase. However, Southwest High's neighbors are trying to expand their critical-parking area, and a fee hike could hurt the petition drive.

The city considers a critical-parking area request if people in 75 percent of the dwelling units in the area request it.

Richard Steele lives in an area near the 50th and France business node. He said the city should enforce the critical-parking area on Sundays -- when

residents are home and the retail area is busy.

New fees

Currently, each home in a critical-parking area can buy four permits: two for resident vehicles ($10 a year), one for guests ($10 every three years) and one for service providers ($5 every three years).

The proposal would increase resident permits to $25, require annual visitor- and service-permit renewal and increase service permits to $10.

The proposal also adds a one-time $10 fee to each permit in a new critical-parking area -- making it $35, not $25. It covers the area's startup costs, which Public Works Department estimates at $972. Proposals to expand existing critical parking areas, such as the one near Southwest High, would not pay the one-time fees.

The Transportation and Public Works Committee also asked staff for a systematic review of the three-decade-old program to see what if any boundary changes are needed.

Public Works Director Klara Fabry raised concerns that she did not have the staff for the added work. The Committee did not impose a deadline.