They really do mean habitual.
As city commissioners consider whether to scale back a new $50 parking ticket given to habitual parking violators, a new report out of City Hall sheds light on how often some people get a parking ticket.
The study found that 85 people have received one of the new $50 fines since enforcement began in March. Those 85 people, according to the city’s data, had received 6,657 parking tickets in the previous two years — that’s a rate of about 40 per year.
Come to find out, most don’t just habitually overpark. They also are habitually forgetful when it comes to paying parking tickets. The report found that only six of the 85 people had paid all of their parking tickets over the last two years. The other 79 people owe the city about $25,000 in unpaid fines.
“Those numbers are huge,” said Mayor Mike Amyx.
Despite the big numbers from a few, some city commissioners said they believe the city ought to consider changes to the habitual parking provision, which has riled up downtown employees to the point that they submitted a petition with more than 700 names seeking its repeal.
“I just have a problem doing something that could discourage potential customers from coming downtown,” said Amyx, who owns a downtown barber shop. “I’m just not sure that this is good business.”
Commissioner Aron Cromwell also said he was leaning toward changing the system. Changes up for discussion include only charging the $50 fine to people who have five or more unpaid parking tickets in the last 30 days. Currently, the ordinance calls for the higher fine for anybody who has five or more parking tickets in the last 30 days, regardless of whether they have paid the previous tickets.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a really good answer here,” Cromwell said. “I just wish we could come up with something that would encourage people to park in the long-term lots. It just seems like nobody in this town wants to use those long-term lots.”
Commissioners will discuss the issue at their meeting on Tuesday, which begins at 6:35 p.m. at City Hall.
Commissioners at their meeting also will discuss a host of other downtown issues. They include:
• Possible approval of a request to allow street cart food vendors to operate until 2:30 a.m. in downtown. Currently, city ordinance requires street vendors to close by 9 p.m. The new ordinance also would add the corner of Sixth and New Hampshire streets as an approved location for street vendors. The changes have been requested by a pair of Kansas University students who want to begin selling hamburgers, hot dogs and other food items to the late-night bar crowd, which frequently congregates near Sixth and New Hampshire streets to catch a KU bus.
• A request to add up to four 15-minute parking meters per block on Massachusetts Street from Sixth to 11th streets. Several downtown merchants have asked for the meters to give customers a way to quickly enter and exit a business. Meters on Massachusetts Street now have a two-hour time limit. If approved, the meters will be painted yellow to alert motorists that they are short term. Exact locations of where the meters should be placed in each block will be up for discussion Tuesday.
• Discussion of changing the city’s regulations for sidewalk hospitality areas in downtown. Currently, bars are prohibited from having a sidewalk seating area, unless it has no room for a patio in the back portion of their property. But the owners of Louise’s Downtown, 1009 Mass., are asking commissioners to change that regulation. Louise’s has a large patio area behind its building, but owners said they want a sidewalk space to compete with other establishments that have one. City Hall staff members said if a change is made, it would need to be made for all bar businesses downtown, meaning that essentially any bar in the downtown area could have a sidewalk seating area.