Parking meter plan floated
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Sunday, March 21, 2010
8/15/10 at 7:53 AM
Privatizing the ticketing and maintenance of the city's 1,133 parking meters not only would boost revenue but also help commercial businesses succeed in the revitalized downtown, Tulsa leaders said.
A formal request for proposals soon will be issued to possibly do just that, Economic Development Director Mike Bunney told the Tulsa World.
"While on-street parking is not my responsibility with the city, when businesses are being negatively affected because there's no turnover at the parking meters, it does become an issue for me," he said.
Bunney began looking into the matter and was surprised to discover that the city, due to past budget cuts, only has one employee dedicated to ticketing the parking meters.
The Working in Neighborhoods Department, which oversees the meter ticketing, has more important code enforcement issues, department director Dwain Midget said.
"Parking is not an imminent danger to anyone and so it is lower on the priority list," he said.
Also roughly a quarter of the meters aren't even operational, leaving many spaces where people park all day, Bunney said.
"I've seen some of them even put covers on their cars because they know they are going to be there for the duration," he said.
The ticketing employee writes up a weekly report of which parking meters need repair for two Public Works members to address.
"Obviously, what we have in place really isn't working," Bunney said, noting that only 9 percent of the available meter minutes are actually paid for. Some cities achieve as much as 85 percent.
"We have nowhere to go but up."
Outsourcing the effort, Bunney said, appears to be the way to go since the city doesn't have the funding to do a better job on its own.
Many private companies exist that can be contracted to take over the responsibility for a cut of the revenue.
The cut could be as much as 40 percent, he said, but given what the city is bringing in now, it would be a marked improvement.
The city could choose from several service-level scenarios, including going so far as to having a company upgrade all of the equipment as well, Bunney said.
"Basically, the city could let go of everything except the engineering of where the meters are located and the court function," he said.
Bunney said he will propose that the city start with privatizing the ticketing and possibly maintenance and let it grow from there. He hopes to have it accomplished by the start of the new fiscal year, July 1.
No one would lose his job, he said. The one city employee who tickets vehicles would focus instead on code enforcement and the two employees who maintain the meters have other functions.
Any changes first have to be discussed with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1180, the union that represents the employees, Bunney said.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett said he fully supports the idea.
"We have one person responsible for our parking meters, and that's simply not enough," he said. "We have to look at alternatives.
"If we can set up a better system with the help of a private company and share the revenue, that sounds like the best way to go."
1,133 total meters
1,057 are located
within the Inner Dispersal
1,044 are single-space
89 are multispace
That’s a lot
$239,093 in meter
revenue for fiscal year
$156,899 through February
for this fiscal year
17,416 issued in fiscal
and $397,487 due
11,717 issued to date for
this fiscal year
$211,283 collected and
Brian Barber 581-8322
Nick Kanneman, the city's only parking meter ticketer, checks one of the multispace meters near First Street and Boulder Avenue. The city is looking at privatizing his duties. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Several vehicles are parked at meters along Third Street near Boulder Avenue during a busy work day downtown. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World