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St. Louis Not Enforcing Short-Term Parking Limits

July 8, 2013 Downtown, Featured, Parking, Politics/Policy 3 Comments

As I posted last month, St. Louis will began charging to park at meters downtown on July 1, 2013.  For the first two Saturdays warning notices will be placed on vehicles. Because of this change of policy, those who wish to park at meters all day on Saturdays will go out and feed the meters every two like they have been Monday-Friday from 8am-7pm. In most cities re-feeding the meter to extend the time is illegal, presumably it is in St. Louis too — it just wasn’t enforced by the previous treasurer for 3 decades.

Two days ago, the first saturday of the month, warnings were placed on cars that hadn't fed the meters. The same will happen this coming Saturday.
Two days ago, the first saturday of the month, warnings were placed on cars that hadn’t fed the meters — where the days on the meters had been updated. The same will happen this coming Saturday, presumably all downtown meters will be updated by the 20th.

In the interest of trying to determine St. Louis’ policy regarding short-term parking I sent the following questions to Treasurer Tishaura Jones & her Chief of Staff Jared Boyd on the morning of June 20th:

  1. Is re-feeding the parking meter after the posted time limit is reached allowed or illegal in St. Louis?
  2. If illegal, what is the amount of the ticket? If allowed, why not set the meters to accept payment for more than 2 hours?
  3. What methodology is used to ensure a vehicle isn’t parked in a short-term space all day? If none, when might we expect expect enforcement to begin?
  4. Does your office enforce the 15 minute limit in front of Culinaria on 9th Street? (see photo attached) This is free parking daily but only for 15 minutes. If you don’t, does anyone?
This was the attached photo showing a 15-minute limit at non-metered angled spaces on 9th between Olive & Locust.
This was the attached photo showing a 15-minute limit at non-metered angled spaces on 9th between Olive & Locust.

An hour later I received the following reply from Jones:

Mr. Boyd and I appreciate your interest in urban affairs related to parking. However, we think it might be appropriate to direct your questions to those who have the day-to-day responsibility for parking administration. Please direct your future inquiries to either Carl Phillips or Lenny Freeman. They have been copied on this message.

Ok, that made sense. Jones ran on a platform of not wanting to be a “parking czar”, let the parking staff deal with these issues so she can handle more important matters. Within 10 minutes I emailed both Phillips & Freeman and reaffirmed the questions I wanted answered.


That afternoon Phillips replied with:

I want to address all of your questions properly. I’m out of town right now and won’t be back until Tuesday. We are researching your questions thoroughly and will have some answers for you Tuesday afternoon. 

I thought my questions were rather basic, not something worthy of prolonged research.  Tomorrow will be 2 weeks after the time I was told I’d get answers. Here’s what I believe is happening:

  1. Someone thought the 2 hour limit meant Saturdays were supposed to be free for the first two hours you park, and that you should pay after that. Thus, the decision was made to stop these “violations” from continuing by charging on Saturday. 
  2. Meanwhile I’ve already shown in the prior post the policy was in fact no charge for meters between 7pm Friday until 8am on Monday morning. This is confirmed the parking meters themselves, the downtown parking guide, and everyone who has spent time in downtown.  
  3. The concept of a time limit (meaning the car must physically be moved) remains a mystery to those in charge of parking in St. Louis.
  4. The Parking Commission solved a non-existant problem while ignoring a very real and ongoing problem.

I support charging on Saturdays, but more importantly we need smarter short-term parking policies. In some high-demand areas the time limit might be as short as 15-30 minutes, and up to 8-10 hours in areas less in demand. Though not popular with motorists who don’t want to park in an off-street lot all day, merchants need the on-street spaces to have time limits enforced so customers coming to their establishment can park for the duration of their visit (shopping, lunch, etc).

Here are some examples of such a policy from other cities:

Pasadena, CA:

In Pasadena, time limits are used to manage on-street parking in two general types of areas.  In residential areas adjacent to commercial areas, parking time limits are used to discourage long-term parking by employees of the businesses in the commercial areas.  The City allows a provision for daytime permits to residents in these time-limited areas who need to park on-street near their homes during the hours the time limits are in effect.  In commercial areas, generally by petition of the business/property owners, time limits are used to encourage the turnover of parking spaces to provide short-term parking for visitors to the commercial areas. (source)

Lenox, MA:

At a special meeting this past week, the Select Board voted 4-0 to authorize $3,000 for a 10-week program based on random, selectively scheduled ticketing by a Police Department parking enforcement officer, beginning around July 1. Warnings will be issued at first.

The immediate purpose is to free up on-street spaces for residents and visitors during the busy summer season. Because of the lack of enforcement, some of those spots are being occupied all day by employees or owners of local businesses, the Selectmen have said.

“Be warned, this is not popular,” declared Selectman Kenneth Fowler, a major proponent of the enforcement decision. “You’re going to hear a hue and cry. The biggest problem is that we had that lapse of so many years when we weren’t enforcing the parking.”

“No matter who gets the ticket, right or wrong, doesn’t matter, they’re angry about it and they yell,” observed Selectman John McNinch, noting that the parking officer is bound to be confronted by upset people.

The board directed Town Manager Gregory Federspiel to send a letter to downtown business owners advising them of the enforcement policy. The town bylaw limits downtown parking to two hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., seven days a week. (source)

Berkeley, CA:

Time Limits May Not Be Extended

Time limits are strictly enforced and may not be extended by adding more money after time has expired.  This applies to both single space and multi-space meters per BMC 14.52.060. (source)

Berkeley, CA
Berkeley, CA takes time limits very seriously

New Brunswick, NJ:

On-street parking at meters and time-limit areas is designed and regulated to promote turnover for commercial and retail use. If someone parks in a space all day, it is not available for other users – and this hurts local businesses who rely on having some amount of on-street parking available.

Meter feeding is prohibited! At all on-street metered parking, adding more money to the meter past the designated time limit is not allowed and violators are subject to a ticket. Also, in areas with time limit restrictions it is illegal to park beyond the posted time limit. (source)

When you obey the time limits on short-term parking spaces, you help make valuable parking spaces available to you when you need them. (source)

Portland, OR:


Leave the blockface when the time limit of a short-term meter is over. A short-term meter has a time limit of less than 4 hours.  Also see Re-parking below.


At a short-term meter (less than 4 hours), do not return sooner than 3 hours to the same blockface. (source)

Madison, WI:

Parking meters are intended for short-term parking.

  • The purpose of time limits on parking meters is to ensure that parking spaces regularly become available for customers of area businesses and visitors to the area.
  • It is illegal to deposit additional coins in the meter after the time limit has been reached.
  • You must leave a parking space when the time limit posted on the meter has been reached.
  • Vehicles parked longer than the posted time limit are subject to citation. (source)

Champaign, IL:

How long can I park?

Before 5 p.m., see the rate/time limit sticker on the meter. After 5 p.m., at meters with Blue labels, you can pay for up to 4 hours at one time.

Color coded meter labels help you determine where to park depending on your length of stay:

  • Red = 30 minutes or less to grab lunch or a cup of coffee to go
  • Blue = 2 hour maximum for lunch or some light shopping
  • Orange = 3 or 4 hour maximum for a movie or museum visit
  • Green = 10 hour maximum for a day-long meeting or outing downtown (source)
One of Champaign's blue labels I photographed on 8/9/2010
One of Champaign’s blue labels I photographed on 8/9/2010
And a meter in downtown Champaign IL on the same day nearly 3 years ago.
And a meter in downtown Champaign IL on the same day nearly 3 years ago.

Note that in downtown Champaign IL you must 8am-9pm (2 hours longer than St. Louis, with a 2 hour maximum time 8am-5pm. Someone can stay parked in the same spot from 5pm to 9pm as long as they pay the meter.

As you can see from these examples the idea of on-street spaces as being short-term is pretty common. They recognize the need to keep cars on the street moving. I shared the Champaign IL examples with the other members of the parking task force because we agreed the lack of enforcement was detrimental to downtown.

Even looking at our neighbor to the west, Clayton, we see they too enforce time limits:

Question :

When are the parking time limits enforced on parking meters?


 The parking meter time limits are enforced between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are not enforced on weekends and on these holidays: the first (1st) day of January, the last Monday in May, the fourth (4th) day of July, the first (1st) Monday in September, the fourth (4th) Thursday in November and the twenty-fifth (25th) day of December. (source

In Clayton, and the other cities listed, you’ll see parking enforcement putting a small chalk mark on car tires so when they come around again after the time limit those cars still parked in the same spot will be ticketed. This is likely why my simple questions from weeks ago had to be researched, because the answers are very likely:

  1. Gee, we don’t have a clue if refeeding the meters is illegal. We don’t care if someone parks all day long at a metered spot as long as they have an endless supply of quarters.
  2. We only ticket for not feeding the meter, that’s $10.
  3. Uh, huh?
  4. There’re no meters on that block of 9th so we have no way to enforce the 15 minute limit.

In 2009 the Treasurer’s office under Larry Williams commissioned a downtown study. Serving on the Downtown Parking Task Force in 2010 I had a draft copy of the report from September 2009. I dug through my archives and uploaded it to Scribd, you can read it here. One of the findings:

St. Louis’ current downtown parking enforcement program has several opportunities for improvement. The parking violation rates are low, thereby discouraging compliance. Enforcement coverage is limited to regular business hours, regardless of need. Enforcement is concentrated on traditional issues (e.g., expired meters), perhaps at the expense of more pressing compliance issues (e.g., overtime parking). Finally, this traditional focus has a real opportunity cost—by limiting enforcement to parking tickets, the CBD may miss opportunities to satisfy other stakeholder needs (e.g., patron assistance, merchant surveys and district security).

The next meeting of the parking commission is 10am Thursday in Room 220 of City Hall, weather permitting I’ll be there.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    You have my full support on this issue. Rules need to be either enforced consistently or they need to be changed or eliminated entirely. And when it comes to parking enforcement, it should be a no-brainer – more enforcement will generate more revenue that will more than cover the cost of hiring the additional staff required to do the enhanced (expected?) level of enforcement. It’s not like trying to get absentee owners to maintain their vacant property.

    A secondary issue here is that it’s usually really hard to read the various rules posted inside our parking meters. As your photos show, there are better, clearer ways to convey this information. While this costs money, again, more enforcement will provide the revenue needed to do this. Many people will try to play by the rules, they just need to know what they are!

  2. Margie Newman says:

    As a former business owner in downtown St. Louis (Gallery Urbis Orbis on Tenth Street), I can attest to the need to enforce these limits. We watched office employees feeding the meters on Tenth Street all day, while our customers couldn’t find street spots (and nearby parking garages stood empty, btw). The Treasurer’s office was unresponsive to our requests for enforcement, as were other civic entities at the time. Thank you for pursuing this issue — it’s the kind of thing that infuriates business owners and as the other commenter said, should be a no-brainer.

  3. moe says:

    I was in the CWE and noticed the new credit card/coin meters. The hours of operation are listed as part of the flashing display…which completely sucks if the sun hits the meter producing glare, which on some of the meters will be from 11ish am to about 4 pm. It was extremely hard to determine if I needed to place money in or not.


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