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New parking system lets drivers pay via app

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

The City Council on Tuesday, July 28, voted unanimously to revise Detroit’s parking ordinance, a move that establishes varying parking zones — most with steeper rates — throughout the city.

The changes are tied to installation of a $3.5 million high-tech parking system that features about 500 “pay-by-plate” kiosks, rather than individual spaces.

“In the next two weeks, the city of Detroit will be home to the most comprehensive, customer-friendly and efficient on-street parking system in the entire country,” Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer Gary Brown said.

The first kiosks went up in recent weeks in the city’s Avenue of Fashion on Livernois between Seven Mile and Eight Mile.

The new system is designed to spur economic development and generate fewer parking tickets, Brown has said.

The ordinance establishes parking zones and corresponding rates. The system also will allow for “dynamic pricing” — raising meter prices during special programs, including concerts or sporting events.

Everyday rates will remain $1 an hour in metered neighborhoods. However, the hourly rate in Midtown and Eastern Market bumps to $1.50, and to $2 in the city’s central business district.

The department needed the council’s approval to change the rate structure. Without it, workers would have been unable to collect the fees as designed by the new system.

The council’s approval came hours after the city unveiled its ParkDetroit mobile application, which works as part of the new kiosk and zone parking system.

Drivers will walk up to a meter kiosk, enter their license plate number and park in any space within a specific zone, outlined on the kiosk, rather than a single spot. A motorist can move the vehicles within the zone without paying again, assuming the purchased time has not run out.

ParkDetroit is being piloted in city neighborhoods and in Midtown.

In addition to using the mobile app, customers can use coins, or credit or debit cards, or buy parking time by calling a toll-free number.

On Monday, officials will begin installing the final kiosks in the city’s downtown, Brown said.

Installation on Russell Street in Eastern Market will be delayed for now, he said.

In the initial weeks of a new kiosk being installed, Brown said the city will write only “courtesy tickets” to remind people to make parking payments.

Council members Mary Sheffield and Scott Benson argued that a portion of the existing parking code should be maintained.

The provision, they said, would ensure the council is given the final say if parking officials determine that metered parking should be added in areas where it does not currently exist.

“Once you take away current free parking spaces, you come talk to us,” Benson told parking and Law Department representatives in reference to the request.

But Brown warned that if council were to reject or delay implementation of the new rate structure, employees would not be able to enforce the parking meters. The predicament, he said, would be “disastrous to our revenues.”

“We have all of these employees. That’s their job to go out and enforce the parking meters,” Brown said. “If we can’t enforce, we have to lay off the employees. There would be no revenue coming in to pay them.”

He added that the new comprehensive system will yield some intended — and unintended — consequences. He urged members to approve the revised parking law as is, but then revisit the policy in the coming months.

As the new system moves through the neighborhoods and downtown, officials will engage business and community groups to address concerns, Brown has said.

As a revenue-generating initiative, former emergency manager Kevyn Orr last spring approved a new rate schedule for parking fines.

The increase — Detroit’s first in more than a decade — bumped tickets from $30, $50 and $80 to $45, $65 and $95, respectively, for parking violations and late fees. The new schedule also eliminated a $10 rate for early payment.

Detroit had been paying $32 to issue and process a $30 parking violation.

Brown says the department intends to come up with a $10 ticket if fines are paid within 48 hours, if revenue from the new system will support that option.

cferretti@detroitnews.com