On April 16, Fullerton City Council voted 3-2 (Whitaker and Zahra “no”) to approve a 180-day downtown nighttime paid parking pilot program, and a contract with the company SP+ for parking management services to implement the program. Though the program was initially intended to be 90 days, city staff believed it was necessary to lengthen it to better capture more data on parking patters. The program is targeted to begin on Thursday, June 6.
The pilot program will cost $34,770 to start up, plus $5,070 weekly for equipment, staffing and operations. A conservative estimate is that weekly revenue from paid parking will generate $7,125, for a net income of $2,055. For 2018-19, costs are $55,050 with projected revenues of $28,500.
Although, if the program continues into 2019-20, costs are projected at $101,400 with revenues of $142,500.
The pilot program includes 1,900 spaces in public parking lots and structures.
Parkers arriving at or after 9:00 PM in the paid lots will be subject to a $5 flat fee. Anyone parked prior to 9:00 PM will not be subject to the fee.
Patrons will park, enter their license plate number in a kiosk pay station located in the lot or structure in which they are parked, and pay the fee. Parkers will also have the option to pay by app. The city already has kiosks in the Soco structure, which will now be utilized for the first time.
During the first two weeks of the pilot program, enforcement personnel will provide courtesy warnings and information about the pilot program to vehicles identified for non-payment.
Beginning the third week and on-going through the remainder of the pilot program, enforcement personnel will monitor and issue citations to vehicles identified for non-payment. Both city parking enforcement and SP+ staff will be able to issue citations.
Part of the program includes a $60,000 purchase by the police department of two high-tech license plate readers (LPRs) “for use by City parking control officers and aides to increase the efficiency of citywide parking enforcement,” according to the staff report.
SP+ staff will utilize license plate recognition technology to quickly read the license plates of cars parked in the lots and structures. According to the staff report, “LPR technology provides for an efficient way to identify and cite those vehicles that do not pay the required fee. SP+ will provide two vehicles equipped with LPR systems for the duration of the pilot program…Unlike with manual chalking, license plates can be read digitally from either side of the car and at speeds up 160 mph.”
In addition to the daily count information from kiosk use, three broader parking counts will be taken on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for purposes of data collection.
During the pilot program, some short-term (no-fee) parking areas will be identified for pick-up and delivery in each surface lot that abuts certain businesses who claimed at an earlier council meeting that the paid parking would negatively impact their business.
This pilot program is part of a larger “Downtown Game Plan” which also includes new regulations for downtown bars.
The goals of the program, are to 1.) Collect data and feedback regarding parking behaviors in Downtown and any potential impacts to businesses and surrounding residential communities as a result of the introduction of paid parking, 2.) Demonstrate that parking fees have the potential to be a revenue source that can be reinvested in Downtown operations and maintenance and 3.) Inform and assist in determining the feasibility of a more permanent approach to paid parking on City-owned parking assets in Downtown.
Interestingly, although the pilot program only lasts 90 days, the Agreement with SP+ is for three years—should council decide to implement a permanent paid parking program.
During public comment, Joshua Ferguson expressed concern about privacy issues surrounding the license plate reader technology.
“I don’t think the city should be tracking the innocuous movements of people,” Ferguson said, “the government should do as much as possible to respect the privacy of the people.”
Jane Rands shared this privacy concern, and was also concerned that the paid parking would push late night parkers into neighborhoods to avoid the fee.
“There’s two incentives for people to not park in the [paid] public parking structures…people won’t want to pay for it, and they won’t want to give up their privacy,” Rands said.
Both council members Zahra and Whitaker shared this concern about privacy, and other potential problems the program could create.
“This is going to be an awful lot of inflicting pain and inconvenience for very little benefit, if any,” Whitaker said.
“I don’t see this as something that ultimately will succeed,” Zahra said, “I’m already dissuaded from going to my usual hangouts to punch in my license plate every time.”
A representative from SP+ assured them that the city would own the license plate data, not SP+ and “can do what they want with it.”
Council member Flory expressed concern about the inconvenience of having to scan her license plate every time she parked, including non-paid parking hours, just for the purposes of data collection.
Mayor Protem Fitzgerald supported the program. “In my mind, the app, the kiosks—it makes sense to me that we ask people to register their cars during the day…This will allow us to enforce our current regulations.”
Mayor Silva, who supported the program said, “This is a pilot program. If it doesn’t work, I won’t hesitate to pull it. I think it’s important for us to see what’s out there. I suggest we move forward with it, and give it a try,” Silva said.
Director of Community Development Ted White defended the program, including the license plate scanning “to give us data to help us better manage parking.”