Tulsa council delays downtown parking meter vote
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Friday, February 15, 2013
2/15/13 at 5:38 AM
Read continuing coverage of Tulsa’s City Council.
A proposal to raise downtown's parking meter rates to as much as $2 per hour as part of a deal to privatize the meters' maintenance is on hold.
City councilors agreed Thursday to postpone voting on the proposal indefinitely after several said they wanted more information about other options, including continuing to maintain the meters with city personnel.
"It sounds like there are still some outstanding questions," Councilor Blake Ewing said. "I definitely think we owe it to the public to not hurry this thing along if there's more research to be done and more conversations to be had."
Mayor Dewey Bartlett has asked the council to consider raising meter rates in most of downtown to $1 per hour and on some streets to 30 cents to $2 per hour - up from the current range of 20 to 50 cents per hour.
That would generate enough revenue to follow through with a city committee's recommendation in October to hire Tulsa-based American Parking to upgrade the meters and oversee their maintenance, officials have said.
Meanwhile, the higher rates would force downtown workers to leave the metered spaces for visitors, which would help the area's businesses, Bartlett has argued.
Ewing suggested creating a City Council working group to look into the proposal after councilors said at a committee meeting Thursday that they would like to explore whether the city could adequately improve its own maintenance or generate enough revenue for the American Parking deal with a smaller rate increase.
Parking meter revenue has fallen by 38 percent since 2006 as funding cuts have hampered repairs and enforcement, according to city data and officials.
Officials have argued that a private company could better maintain the system, which they say has always fallen far short of the 98 percent operational rate promised by American Parking.
Michael Brink, a city efficiency consultant, told councilors Thursday that trying to duplicate the American Parking work with in-house crews would cost about $667,000, or $3,000 less than the projected cost of the contract combined with increased enforcement.
The proposed contract's guaranteed maintenance standards would add accountability, though, and the city could pull out if the standards were not maintained, he said.
Under the proposed contract, American Parking would replace the city's 494 single-space meters with newer models within 120 days and update all 155 multispace meters to allow paying by debit or credit card.
Councilor Jeannie Cue said she still has reservations about privatization and would like a thorough written explanation of the argument.
She and Councilor Jack Henderson have indicated that they might not support the proposal if in-house maintenance could be effective.
Councilor Phil Lakin asked Brink to determine whether the city could break even in the deal with lower rate increases, and Councilor Skip Steele and Ewing asked whether the city could charge a fee to recoup what it would pay when a credit card is used at the meters.
Brink said he will return to the council after gathering the additional information.
Downtown parking meter proposal
Current: 10 to 25 cents per half hour
Proposed: Financial district (roughly Boulder to Boston avenues on Fifth Street, Fifth to Sixth streets on Main Street, and Fourth to Fifth streets on Boston) - 50 cents for the first 30 minutes, then $2 per hour; West, central and east areas - $1 per hour; Southern areas - 30 cents per hour.
Current: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays
Proposed: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays
Original Print Headline: Council parking meter vote stalled
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486