By DENNIS WYATT
You may one day need to make sure you have pocket change — or an app that accesses your credit card — if you are heading to the 100 block of North Maple Avenue that is arguably the most bustling street downtown thanks to being anchored by the Post Office.
Parking meters — whether they are the standard coin only or newer models that accept electronic payments — could ultimately be installed. It all depends on whether the City Council Tuesday decides to go through with an effort they wanted to examine to improve parking along the block as well as step up downtown parking enforcement and how far that effort will be taken.
The discussion was sparked by ongoing concerns that a number of the on-street parking stalls are occupied all day by those living in nearby second floor efficiency apartments and sometimes employees of downtown concerns
One possible solution that Councilwoman Debby Moorhead said merchants have suggested is for the city to impose parking limits — perhaps an hour on one side and two hours on the other — to allow for customers to be able to have easier access to stores, the barber shop and hair salons. They also suggested the city should create at least one on-street space for handicapped parking.
City staff has indicated the ADA parking space is a no go due to restrictions imposed by the street width making it impossible to meet federal requirements. However the work involving two parking lots accessed at mid-block will create three ADA compliant stalls — two in the lot on the east side of the street and one in the lot on the west side.
In a report responding to the City Council request, Public Works Director Mark Houghton noted “the purpose of the controls (such as time limits) would be to limit parking to set times, preserve designated stalls for short term users or shoppers, and provide greater accessible parking opportunities downtown.”
Houghton noted if the council wants to proceed with establishing parking controls in the downtown area and making sure it is managed effectively six steps would be require:
uestablishing a staff parking task force with input from the public as well as Public Works, Community Development, and Manteca Police.
uidentifying candidate parking stalls and areas.
uhosting public workshops to gather input.
uupdating the city parking ordinance.
usecuring the funding for the installation of signs, meters, and striping modifications as well as parking enforcement staff for ongoing enforcement.
Houghton notes in his report to the council, “current parking controls are limited to safety restrictions which are enforced on a complaint basis. To be effective, hourly controls would need to be enforced by electronic devices or personnel. Either of which would require additional staff time. The approximate cost of staff time and facilities will depend upon the extent of parking controls and will vary exceedingly.”
Time limits would emphasize that the on-street spaces are intended for turnover traffic whether they are diners at restaurants, people getting haircuts or those shopping in stores and not second floor residents that tend to keep their vehicles parked on the street all day.
If the city does put in place time limits they no longer have a police department employee devoted to parking enforcement. Downtown streets routinely had tires of vehicles marked and those cars that were still there when the next round was made were ticketed until 1994 when the person retired and the city opted to eliminate the position. The parking enforcement also addressed parking issues in neighborhoods. The employee was a parking enforcement officer that drove the downtown area in a Cushman vehicle similar to what the Parks & Recreation maintenance crews use to spray for weeds along city streets.
It would not be a cheap proposition. Assuming a parking enforcement officer was hired fulltime to work eight hours a day Monday through Friday at $15 an hour, pay roll costs including benefits could kick the ongoing personnel costs to $40,000 a year. The Cushman vehicles typically used for parking enforcement cost between $11,000 and $15,000 depending upon how they are equipped.
An enforcement officer could either mark vehicle tires with chalk or — if the city ultimately went with meters — monitoring meters and issuing tickets. Meters would also involve the cost of buying, installing, servicing, and repairs if there is damage by vandals or thieves.
Some cities such as Stockton contract with a firm to manage and operate parking meters.
Stockton allows the use of credit cards to purchase time on parking meters using a cell phone mobile app. The app also sets a reminder with 15-minutes prior to expiration and the ability to increase time from a distance. The time indicator on the meter will not change; parking enforcement uses a hand-held device to check if the app has paid for parking at the metered location. Coins can still be used in meters.
The Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.