No One Has Yet Appealed To City Court From New Parking Program That Uses Volunteer Attorneys; More Paying Tickets By Credit Cards

Friday, June 21, 2013

No one has yet appealed to City Court from a new parking program that utilizes volunteer attorneys on parking ticket disputes, CARTA officials said.

Brent Matthews, who oversees the program, said only about four disgruntled citizens show up for the monthly hearings at the parking office at Shuttle Park South. The record number was five.

He said the attorneys rule about half the time for the citizen and about half the time for the Chattanooga Parking Authority, which is a unit of CARTA.

If the CPA loses, it is over. If the citizen loses, he or she can appeal on to City Court.

There were more applicants than spots available for the volunteer attorneys. And there is a waiting list.

Mr. Matthews said more and more people are paying to park by credit card using the new automated meters that have been set up throughout downtown in place of the old meters that only took coins. In February in the Aquarium District, 33 percent of parking customers were paying by credit card. That is up to 46 percent and is expected to keep climbing.

And more are choosing to pay using their smart phone.

He said the system is set up for those who pay with their phone to be notified by a text message 15 minutes before the meter runs out. They can use their phone to add time to the meter or to a space in a CARTA parking garage - except the maximum time in a space on the street is two hours.

Mr. Matthews said paying by credit card is especially popular near UTC. He said, "The students have found it's easy to pay using mom's or dad's credit card."

CARTA is planning to unveil a program that allows frequent downtown parkers to buy time on a pre-paid card. He said businesses, such as delivery firms, may want to take advantage of that program. 

Mr. Matthews said it is a myth that there is a shortage of places to park downtown. He said there are over 16,000 available spaces - not counting Unum and BlueCross garages that are for employees only.

CARTA has about a fourth of those.

He said stricter enforcement of meters under the CARTA oversight is freeing up spaces downtown, and merchants are pleased.  

Another factor freeing up the meters is the fact that over 160 downtown hospitality workers are no longer "feeding the meter." They are choosing to park at much-reduced rates in six lots set up for that purpose.

CARTA official said they have kept parking rates and hours of enforcement the same since taking over the program nine months ago.


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