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State College Parking Study Finds Three Percent of Meter Violators Ticketed

on May 11, 2011 8:18 AM

State College parking officers catch about three percent of on-street meter violations, a borough parking study suggests.

That was the preliminary word Tuesday from borough parking Manager Charles DeBow, who spoke before the State College Transportation Commission.

Since late April, the borough has been using parking-sensor technology to monitor 47 parallel parking spaces on College Avenue between Hiester and Burrowes streets. The sensors, provided in a free trial by Georgia-based StreetSmart Technology, keep track of each instance a car enters or leaves one of those spaces.

They also monitor whether its meter was fed -- and whether it expired before the vehicle left.

The borough is using the sensors not to ramp up ticketing, but to understand better the parking patterns downtown, DeBow has said. He said the findings will help inform future parking rules, which could be revised to encourage more rapid turnover in the on-street spaces.

Ideally, the parking department wants to see 85 percent average occupancy in the on-street spaces -- a level that would assure steady downtown access for short-term visitors who stay about 90 minutes or fewer, DeBow said. The borough is encouraging longer-term visitors to use the public parking garages.

Thus far, the ongoing, 90-day study has yielded these details from the targeted, 47-space area:

  • The 47 spaces are used an average of 800 times a day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. About 40 percent of those parking during that period do not feed the meters. Those who do pay stay an average of 56 minutes; those who don't, an average of 24 minutes.
  • Before 4 p.m., the average stay in the 47 spaces is 32 minutes; after 4 p.m., three hours. Occupancy rates tend to jump over the 85 percent mark around midday, and then again between 5 and 10 p.m. "This is starting to show us that what we thought was happening is happening," DeBow said. He said he fields many complaints from would-be short-term visitors who give up while looking for street parking and just leave the downtown. Those complaints are on par -- in number -- with the complaints DeBow hears about parking tickets, he said.
  • Borough parking officers catch about three percent of motorists who let their meters expire or don't pay their meters at all. The 47 spaces in the study see an average of 5.7 meter violations apiece each day. (That includes instances when drivers feeds the meters, but not for enough time.)

"We just want to get to the point where people are using the system correctly," DeBow said. Too often, he said, when "drivers don't find a spot, they just keep on going."

Should the borough adopt use of the parking-sensor technology for the longer term, he said, the sensors could be connected to iPhone and Android smartphone applications and help guide motorists to open parking spaces downtown. Motorists also could use those applications to pay for parking.

"It saves a ton of time -- and a ton of gas-- to go (straight) to areas where you know you have the best chances of finding a spot," DeBow said. " ... There are a whole lot of different avenues we could go down at this point" with parking policy.

The parking analysis and discussions are expected to continue this year, including before the Borough Council.

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