New parking ambassadors who begin patroling downtown parking meters on Oct. 22 will be checking on possible abuse of handicap placards, CARTA Executive Director Tom Dugan said.
He said he has been advised by some downtown business owners that some people who may not actually be the ones the handicap placard was issued for use the placard to park downtown for free all day.
State law says those with the placards cannot be charged a parking fee. But it also says that the person for whom the placard was issued must be with the vehicle at the time it is driven to the parking spot. They are not to be used by an able-bodied person who borrows the placard from the rightful owner.
He said the ambassadors will be asking those parking vehicles with handicap placards to demonstrate they are the person the placard was issued for.
Meanwhile, officials in the sheriff's office said they would crack down on some court officers using handicap placards to be able to park free next to the Courts Building during their full shifts.
Don Gorman said the officers were told that would no longer be allowed.
Concerning use of "the boot" on vehicles, CARTA's Jim Bowen told members of the Downtown Chamber of Commerce on Thursday morning that it will be utilized "only as a last resort for someone with multiple citations who continues to disobey the law."
The ambassadors will also be watching for those who "feed meters" all day. He said special parking lots have been set up for use by downtown workers at rates from $15-$20 per month. He said that is much cheaper than the cost of feeding a meter at 75 cents per hour. He said a shuttle will take downtown workers to the lots.
Mr. Bowen said the new system will include a streamlined process for contesting parking tickets. He said persons who want to appeal can go to a new parking office at Shuttle Park South next to the Chattanooga Choo Choo, where one of 10 volunteer attorneys will rule on their case. They can also do so online. The attorney will either uphold the ticket, change it to a warning or deny the appeal. A further appeal can be taken to City Court.
Mr. Bowen said eight ambassadors have gone through training about the city's history and hospitality industry. He said they also are being trained in the workings of the current meters and new ones being ordered. Part of their job also is to pick up litter.
On order are 40 new multi-space meters and 500 new single-head meters. All are solar powered and will accept credit cards.
Citizens can also buy smart cards at the parking office that will be accepted toward downtown parking charges.
All meters in downtown will still be monitored 8-4:30 Monday-Friday and 9:30-4:30 on the Riverfront and North Shore Monday-Saturday.