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Metered Parking: Downtown To Be Treated The Same As The Rest Of St. Louis Starting July 1st

June 20, 2013 Downtown, Featured, Parking 21 Comments

The free ride downtown will soon be over. Effective July 1st metered parking downtown will no longer be free, the Treasurer’s press release:

Effective July 1, 2013, the Parking Division will begin enforcing parking violations, including expired meters, in Downtown St. Louis on Saturdays. Accordingly, Downtown patrons will be required to pay for using parking meters on Saturdays from 8:00am-7:00pm. The Parking Commission of the City of St. Louis voted unanimously to change this policy during its monthly meeting held May 9, 2013. This change in policy is necessary in order to apply consistent enforcement policies across the city.

In order to adjust to the change, enforcement officers will issue warning notices during the first two weekends in July.

Downtown is currently the only area of the city without Saturday enforcement. 

The facts got a bit twisted in the local media:

For decades, flashing “expired” signs went unenforced in downtown parking meters on Saturdays. But City Treasurer Tishaura Jones announced on Tuesday that the city will end the long-standing policy and start requiring people to pay for street parking on Saturdays.

Starting on July 1, Jones said, downtown motorists will be required to pay for using parking meters on Saturdays, from 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. To help ease the change, violators will be issued warnings on the first two weekends of July. (stltoday)

7am? Went unenforced? To be fair to the paper this “violations” view came from the treasurer website:

Effective July 1, 2013, the Parking Division will begin enforcing parking violations, including expired meters, in Downtown St. Louis on Saturdays.  

Yesterday Jones replied to my email inquiry, indicating:  “The previous policy was the first two hours were free.”  However, Jones’ statement doesn’t jive with with the current meters:

For years downtown parking meters have been free on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays.
For years downtown parking meters have indicated parking was free on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays. No mention of only 2 hours being free

Jones indicated these “tags will be updated shortly. They be replaced before July 1.” Over downtown 3,275 meters need changing with only 7 business days remain before July 1st. As indicated, this decision was made on May 9th so it is reasonable to expect all to be updated in 7 weeks time. Still, I’m bothered by the apparent confusion as to what the policy has been.

Cover of the most recent Downtown Parking Guide from the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis reinforces the common understanding of the existing free weekends policy.
Cover of the most recent Downtown Parking Guide from the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis reinforces the common understanding of the existing free weekends policy.

Maggie Campbell, who recently resigned as President of the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, was an advocate for free parking seven days a week. I sat on a downtown parking committee with her a few years ago and we disagreed on this issue. I agree with parking experts like The High Cost of Free Parking author Donald Shoup (video) and Parking Management Best Practices author Todd Litman that pricing should not be free, but set to create turnover.

I think Jones may be confusing the 2-hour limit with free saturday parking. In theory the limit for most downtown spaces is two hours, after which the enforcement officials would drive around putting a chalk mark on tires and ticketing vehicles that hadn’t moved in two hours — regardless if the meter had been paid. It is this time limit that has never been enforced anywhere in the city. Two very different issues a banker might get confused.

A puzzling part of this change is who has authority to set policy, her or the Board of Aldermen. Jones directed me to Missouri statute RsMO 82.485:

It shall be the duty of the supervisor of parking meters to install parking meters, collect all parking meter fees, supervise the expenditures for repairs and maintenance, establish and supervise a parking enforcement division and a parking meter division to enforce any statute or ordinances now or hereafter established pertaining to the parking of motor vehicles, including automated zone parking and all other parking functions, and to make all disbursements on any parking contracts, including employment, consulting, legal services, capital improvement and purchase of equipment and real property which may hereafter be made by such cities, subject to audit in the manner provided by state statute.

The treasurer’s website also references RsMO 82.487, relating to the duties of the parking commission. Who is this parking commission anyway?

The Parking Commission consists of the following:

  • Tishaura Jones (Treasurer)
  • Carl Phillips (Parking Administrator)
  • Todd Waeltermann (Director of Streets)
  • Ald. Freeman Bosley, Sr (Chair of Streets Committee)
  • Elaine Spearmon (Comptroller’s Office representative)

Meetings of the CITY OF SAINT LOUIS PARKING COMMISSION are open to the general public and held every second Thursday of each month at 10:00 a.m. in Room 220 City Hall, 1200 Market Street, St. Louis, MO 63103.  Please call 314-622-4700 for more information.

Yet the Board of Aldermen has passed numerous ordinances related to parking, such as Parking in the Third Ward or Parking Meter Division Employees relating to pay scale of employees.   Hopefully Tishaura Jones will be successful in doing what she campaigned on, removing parking from the Treasurer’s office. Bankers should not determine parking policy.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "21 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Technically, there are two parts to this equation, the “free” part and the two hour limit. Apparently, neither half has been being enforced, when the two hour part should have been. The concept behind “free” is to encourage shoppers to come down and shop, but if the employees get there first, taking up most of the spots, you defeat the purpose of making it “free” in the first place. Obviously, with a meter, it’s also easier to enforce a time limit. Without a meter, enforcement usually relies on marking tires with chalk, then returning an hour or two later to see which vehicles have not moved – more labor intensive and less precise, but can still be an effective way to manage a scarce resource. Personally, I’m a big believer in consistency – the rules should apply consistently across the city. Confusion is a bigger issue than knowing that you need to bring a few quarters.

  2. Mark says:

    Someone has to manage “parking”. I heard that Todd Waeltermann and others at the Streets Department are not too fond of the idea .And why would they be? Managing and maintaining 6 or so parking garages and 10000 or so street meters is a full time effort. So I can understand why Ms. Jones has never been interested in becoming the next parking czar. But who gets the crown if Ms. Jones abdicates? Another existing city office or department? A previous or current long-term treasury parking-related manager who might be capable of developing a separate parking division outside the Treasurer’s office but within the City structure? Soon after Ms. Jones was granted the imperial headdress, she fired the two people responsible for on-street and off-street parking: A. Baker and T. Stooff. Doing so, she effectively eliminated the two individuals who knew that end of the business…which explains why Ms. Jones may have confused Saturday free-parking with something related to the 2-hr limit. In retrospect, it was probably not a good idea to sever both carotid arteries on the first day! I wonder if she may live to regret that decision? Maybe not! But I suspect that, if queried in detail about the specifics of running, maintaining parking structures and managing gobbs of parking meters, Ms. Jones may find herself similarly and embarrassingly uninformed….all the more reason to think before sharpening the ax! Oh well….lesser politicians in ST Louis have and ARE making similar mistakes, and being rewarded for it in the meantime!

    Since the city is already engaged in managing both a street-meter division and an off-street parking division,it probably needs to continue operating each in conjunction with and support of the other. Otherwise, one division could undercut the other and end up costing millions of $ in the interim. And besides, if the city somehow sold the garages and meters to a private firm, where would they employ the friends and families and suspected offspring of current and former politicians whose loved ones are nestled in and cozied-up to the warming fires behind the walls of City Hall?

    • JZ71 says:

      Partly agree, partly disagree. One, I don’t think anyone will undercutting anyone else to increase revenue – it’s a straight supply and demand calculation. Two, I don’t see a big reason for the city to be in the parking garage business – either privatize them or sell them to developers. Three, parking meters should be under the control of the Streets Dept. – they’re not there to maximize revenue, they’re there as a component to manage the public right-of-way and traffic. And four, I could care less about the loss of any patronage jobs.

      • Mafrk says:

        Don’t know how to read into your comments.
        1) Undercutting could happen if the meters are privatized and if the garages are privatized, with separate owners. I can envision the garage rates dropping to $1.00 per hour for evening events in a given area, just to compete with $1.00 per hour meter rates. Who wouldn’t park in a protected garage vs on the street, especially in certain areas, definitely during inclement weather? In this case, the garage usage would probably adversely affect meter usage. Now, under the present structure, one compliments the other.
        2) The city initially got into the garage business to give downtown office building owners a place for their tenants’ employees to park. And it worked. Taking advantage of better lending rates and other incentives available only to the public sector, the city was able to provide structured parking when private businessmen couldn’t make a deal work. Otherwise, private businessmen would have been the first at the table. The Fed. Reserve remained in downtown STL because the Treasurer was willing to sell his adjacent garage to the Feds. Otherwise, the FED Res. was looking for more property, outside the city.
        3) Ok, so if management of meters moves to the Streets Dept, will things automatically improve? Especially in light of the fact that the Streets Dept isn’t in love with the idea of managing on or off-street parking?
        4) Thanks for sharing about your take on patronage jobs. Your comment is totally out of context in my opinion. I was pointing out that Ms.Jones may have PREMATURELY severed the administrative arteries in her parking division, and that she probably should have given it more thought. My comment had nothing to do with patronage jobs, other than the fact that those two individuals who lost their patronage jobs were replaced by at least two more PATRONAGE jobholders!

        • JZ71 says:

          1. There are more off-street parking spaces than on-street parking spaces. Once the cheaper on-street spaces fill up, the only option is off-street (if you’re driving and not using transit). We already have that dynamic, along with the reality that when meters are being enforced, they need to be fed, while off-street parking is pay once for the entire stay. Add in that garage and surface parking lot rates are dynamic, and meter rates are non-dynamic, and I don’t see where things would ever change much with separate operations.

          2. Why should the city be in competition with private garage owners? What public good is served by undercutting the private sector’s efforts to make a profit and pay taxes?!

          3. The Streets Dept. may not be “in love with managing on-street” parking, but if they’re given that mission, I’m sure they’ll figure out how to make it work. SOMEONE needs to manage it, and we need to decide if it’s a law enforcement (Police), traffic flow (Streets) or a revenue (Treasury) issue / priority. I doubt that any department really “wants” the headaches, so privatizing may be the best way to go.

          4. I’m confused about your take on my take on your apparent description of patronage jobs – it sure did sound snarky when you said “where would they employ the friends and families and suspected offspring
          of current and former politicians whose loved ones are nestled in and
          cozied-up to the warming fires behind the walls of City Hall?” Government is there to deliver services to its citizens, not to provide employment to “the friends and families and suspected offspring
          of current and former politicians . . . “

          • Mark says:

            1)There are actually MORE on-street spaces than off-street spaces–spread out all over the city. There are 10,000+ METERED on-street spaces, and who knows how many un-metered on-street spaces?

            2)The only reason the city became a contender in the garage parking business is that private industry didn’t view it as a money-maker. The city got involved to provide parking for downtown workers, shoppers and visitors in an effort to make safe and convenient parking available to them, and in an effort to promote the city.

            3) Agree, maybe.

            4)I was being snarky. Unfortunately, though, the question isn’t all that off-base–if at all.

          • JZ71 says:

            OK, to clarify / split hairs, ” There are more off-street parking spaces than on-street parking spaces” DOWNTOWN – of course there are plenty of free on-street parking spots around the rest of the city . . . .

          • Eric says:

            There’s no need for quarter-fed meters. Instead, on every block there should be a vending machine (accepting cash and credit) where you get a receipt after paying and put it in your windshield. If done right, you can pay for arbitrary lengths of time up front (no need to feed the meter) and the rates can be adjusted just like in a garage.

          • JZ71 says:

            In theory, yes, but it’s already been tried on S. Grand and removed, replaced with traditional meters on posts. Why? One, because the customers didn’t like it, two, it’s harder to enforce*, and three, unless you paint spaces on the street, many times you’ll have fewer cars parked on each block, since most folks don’t want to or know how to truly parallel park and squeeze in.

            I don’t get the fascination with pay stations. Advocates like them either because they take forms of payment other than coins or because they view kiosks as creating less clutter in the streetscape than meters on posts. On the first point, individual meters with credit card readers are now available – http://www.pom.com/ParktelCC.htm . . On the second point, it boils down to personal preference – -s one bigger one actually less intrusive than one smaller one? Especially since you still need informational signage?

            *To enforce a receipt, one has to a) locate it on the dashboard, b) verify that it’s the current one, if there’s more than one showing [which ends up being the case with people who use metered parking a lot], and c) compare the expiration date and time with reality. With a meter, it’s either expired or not – quicker, less figuring and less thinking!

          • The previous treasurer, in office for three decades, had a test designed to show that St. Louisians aren’t smart enough to handle pay stations.

          • Timothy says:

            Now aren’t you a bit out of your area of expertise here, sonny? You’re making a statement that you cannot prove. You are making an assumption. And we all know what that makes you.

          • You’re right, I shouldn’t assume failure was the stated goal. It could’ve just happened due to incompetence.

          • JZ71 says:

            Incompetence on the part of the city or the users?! Just because the test was a “failure” based on your expectations doesn’t mean that it was either poorly designed or poorly administered. “New and improved” apparently failed to yield the desired results, compared to more traditional options. There’s an old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – it may be just that simple with the pay station option. Just because you want a different option doesn’t mean that everyone else does!

          • moe says:

            the implementation, communication, and follow-up was what was missing from the test market on Grand. Little notice to those outside of the immediate area were informed, therefore many did not know how to use the system. And to go to the central meter, and then back to the car is sometimes….well it’s a pain in the butt.

            But I find it ironic that some are saying these stations will clear the cutter but yet are ok with overhead wires from streetcars.

          • The goal in high-demand areas is for on-street parking to serve as short-term parking. Even though the technology allows someone to pay for 6-8 hours at a time, or extend their time via mobile phone, that is bad for local merchants. They need the spaces freed up for customers. Those wishing to park for more than 90 minutes or so need to fund a lot or garage, leaving the on-street spaces for those parking 15-90 minutes.

          • JZ71 says:

            Agree. However, the business(es) can also choose to locate in a shopping center or district that offers an adequate supply of “free”, surface or structured, parking for both their employees and customers.

  3. mark says:

    I believe that this is long overdue. There is a fair proportion of cars who park after 7 pm on Friday and stay there all weekend tying up parking spaces until 8 am on Monday. I am not
    sure where they go other times but I keep seeing the same cars every weekend. Metered
    parking was intended to keep people circulating through the area, but unfortunately this was not occurring, For those who want to stay longer there is an abundance of inexpensive lot parking.

    • As has been the case Monday-Friday, there doesn’t appear to be anything to prevent someone from parking 8am-7pm as long as they go out every 2 hours and drop quarters into the meters.

      • mark says:

        Why would you do that and not put your car in a lot for $5?

        • I see it all the time! The owner of the long-closed 10th Street Italian and his employees would park on 10th Street, continually feeding meters. Options for parking in a garage were next door and a lot was a block away. The owners of the dry cleaners at 15th & Washington do the same thing even though numerous lots exist nearby.

  4. gmichaud says:

    I just saw an old aerial picture of Sportman’s Park along Grand Ave, you can see the streetcars rolling down Grand and surprise, not a parking lot in sight. I think the auto’s get a free ride in many, many ways, not only street parking. The underlying problem is there are few alternatives to the auto as mass transit has been designed out of any potential solutions for moving people around in the city.
    Plugging quarters into meters on Saturdays wouldn’t even be an issue if there was a comprehensive and complimentary transit system in St. Louis.


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