Sympathy for downtown parkers only went so far at City Hall on Tuesday night.
City commissioners said they would look into concerns that a $50 ticket for habitual parking violators is too harsh, but they ordered staff to keep writing the tickets until a report can be prepared in late April.
Commissioners said they would consider some changes to the rules, but also urged downtown business owners to do more to stress the importance of employees not parking in prime Massachusetts Street spaces.
“I have seen employees with aprons on come out and plug a meter right in front of the restaurant,” said Commissioner Aron Cromwell. “Somebody is asleep at the switch there because I’m sure there are some customers going to other restaurants because they can’t get a nearby parking spot.”
The ordinance, which the city approved in July but began enforcing in early March, calls for a $50 fine for motorists who have at least five parking tickets in a 30-day period.
Among the changes commissioners said they would consider are:
• Charging only motorists who have five unpaid parking tickets in a 30-day period the $50 fine. Currently the ordinance makes no distinction between paid and unpaid tickets.
• Reserving the $50 tickets only for motorists who have multiple parking violations on Massachusetts Street. The current ordinance also applies to motorists who receive tickets in the two-hour and long-term lots downtown.
• Increasing the number of tickets needed to qualify as a habitual parking violator to an amount above five.
But commissioners said they wanted more data before making any changes. Commissioners asked for information on where the tickets were being issued and at what time of day. The city has issued 122 of the $50 tickets since March 10. Commissioners are expected to receive a report April 20.
Commissioners were presented with a petition signed by about 770 downtown employees and motorists urging a repeal of the $50 ticket provision.
“It is difficult to get employees in the downtown area, and it is even more difficult to keep good employees,” said Jeremy Furse, an owner of Britches, 843 Mass., and the organizer of the petition drive. “This is really detrimental to keeping employees.”
Four of the five commissioners work downtown, and several said they did not find it overly difficult to find parking spots on a regular basis.
“I’m willing to look at some changes, but what we have in place is not unfair,” Commissioner Mike Dever said. “It is only fair to try to encourage people to park in the appropriate place.”