Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pay to Park

Memphis drivers may be getting the boot.

City Court Clerk Thomas Long brought the City Council's economic development committee several recommendations this morning, among them electronic pay stations, doubled fines, and the dreaded "boot," which renders a car immobile.

Long told the council the city loses $1.5 to $2 million annually in unpaid parking tickets. Under state law, the statute of limitations for parking tickets is only one year. Because many residents know that fact, they choose not to pay city parking tickets.

"If I park my car downtown and get a ticket, then after that I'll take my car and hide it or do whatever I need to do," Long said. "After one year, why pay?"

Long asked the council to add changing the statute of limitations to its legislative agenda bound for Nashville.

"We need more than one year to collect non-moving violations. The city of New Orleans has 10 years," Long said.

Long was initially not supportive of booting cars but, after research on what other cities do, said he thinks automobiles ought to be subject to booting after 60 days of non-payment.

"Parking tickets are $20. If you don't pay within 30 days, I think it ought to go to $40. If you don't pay within 60 days, I think it should be $80," Long said.

After that time, the vehicle would get the boot for three days. If the owner didn't pay the fee in three days, the car would be taken to a downtown impound lot.

The only exception would be for vehicles that have more than $500 in fines attached to them. Those would get taken straight to impound.

"The 20, 40, 80 seems a little extreme to me," said councilmember Shea Flinn. "If it's too little, people are going to ignore it. If it's too much, people are going to ignore it. We've got to hit the sweet spot."

Long said he wasn't tied to the fee structure, but that he thinks it should be more than $20.

With budget season approaching, the committee asked Long to bring back his top three recommendations.

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