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Editorial: It’s past time for council to approve stiffer parking fines

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Columbus City Council will soon consider whether violators of downtown parking rules will pay increased fines.

While a first offense would continue to generate only a warning, a committee proposal recommends that a parking ticket should be $50 for second and subsequent violations, up from a range of $10 to $30 today.

When decision time comes, the decision should be easy: Yes.

The city has been working on the parking issue for more than a year, and it’s time to move toward implementation. Increasing fines for second and subsequent offenses would be a significant step.

Columbus Redevelopment Commission agreed to an $85,000 contract with Boston-based consultant Nelson/Nygaard in May 2013 to analyze parking trends and regulations, and identify concerns and strategies to improve parking.

City leaders and business owners have been concerned about downtown parking shortages during the day. One of the main problems has been downtown business employees using the most sought-after spaces and moving their vehicles from space to space to avoid exceeding the three-hour timed limit and receiving a parking ticket.

Nelson/Nygaard made public its recommendations during a Nov. 4 special meeting with the Columbus City Council and Columbus Redevelopment Commission. Notably, the consultant recommended using parking meters downtown to increase parking space availability.

Mayor Kristen Brown did not favor the parking meter option and asked the consultant for an additional recommendation for options without parking meters. She also asked a committee evaluating Columbus’ options for improving downtown parking to review Nelson/Nygaard’s recommendations to see what changes could be made before resorting to the parking meter option.

The committee has recommended parking fines become stiffer, in addition to buying hand-held parking monitoring devices and adding staff to enforce time limits. First-time violators would receive a free warning, but fines would jump significantly for subsequent offenses.

Currently, a second violation in a calendar year is $10. Penalties increase modestly thereafter: $15 for a third violation, $20 for a fourth and $30 for a fifth. That’s not enough of a deterrent to prevent downtown business employees from playing hide-and-seek with their vehicles in spots intended for customers.

However, violators would suffer from sticker shock and pain in their pocketbooks if they have to fork over $50 for a second violation and any thereafter in a calendar year.

Installing parking meters would have impacted everyone who parked downtown. Stiffer parking fines penalize only those who are causing problems.

Such a change, though, would be significant enough to grab people’s attention and change parking habits.

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