Parking Profits: City should not exploit parking crunch

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published March 22, 2002

Ann Arbor is proposing to increase the number of parking tickets issued in the city. If its plan is enacted, the city will hire three more civilian parking enforcers, three additional traffic officers and a clerk to handle the paperwork from the increase in violations. The city aims to issue at least 170 extra tickets daily with the hope of generating $1.6 million in additional revenue; funds which would help ease a projected $3 million budget shortfall. The city has attempted to justify this proposal as a response to bad driving - an extremely disingenuous line of reasoning.

Ann Arbor's argument that the increased traffic enforcement is a safety measure conceals the true intentions of the proposal. Ann Arbor Police Chief Daniel Oates has acknowledged the actual motivations behind the city's plan. Oates told the Ann Arbor News, "Every time a ticket is issued, it is a potential moment of ill will between a citizen and police. I'm not crazy about that. But it will raise revenue."

Confronted with the pressures of a tight budget, the city has moved to increase revenues by taking advantage of its parking problem. The city's decision will particularly impact students, many of whom are dependent on street parking.

The attitude of the city toward students has become evident through other recent moves. When the city implemented a $124 fine for the violation of the emergency snow parking regulations, the new rule was scarcely publicized. There are reasonable complaints that the city was not interested in improving snow removal, but in opportunistically generating funds.

The city's approach toward the chronic parking shortage in Ann Arbor is extremely questionable. Instead of taking short-term budget hits for capital improvements to alleviate the problem, the city has shortsightedly relied on fines. The city had an opportunity to improve the situation with the planned State Street renovations, unfortunately a parking structure was not incorporated into the plan.

The city's foolish reactions to the parking situation may hurt the city's coffers in the long run.. In the past, local retailers have expressed their disapproval for the city's aggressive parking enforcement - which can discourage shopping and spending. The retail cores of South University, Main Street and State Street provide a large number of jobs and a significant amount of tax dollars which drive the city's economic engine.

The serious parking shortage that plagues the Ann Arbor should be addressed through well-thought out proposals. The knee-jerk reaction of expanding parking enforcement is both unfair to students and likely to generate unnecessary antagonism. While the city has the responsibility of enforcing parking violations it must strive to balance this role with long-term solutions that genuinely improve Ann Arbor.