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The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Have thoughts on paid parking? Macon-Bibb UDA seeks public input

Park Macon’s new downtown advisory board will meet monthly to provide input and guidance
The+Urban+Development+Authority+installed+more+than+600+parking+meters+in+July+of+2018+to+better+manage+downtown+growth.
Liz Fabian
The Urban Development Authority installed more than 600 parking meters in July of 2018 to better manage downtown growth.

When parking meters returned to downtown Macon about six years ago, everyone seemed to have an opinion about it. 

The Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority struggled to get people to comply and embrace the parking management concept over the last half-dozen years. 

Scofflaws continue to be a problem. As of UDA’s meeting on June 13, $18,000 in outstanding citations lingered from May.

This summer, UDA invites the public to have regular input on parking policy through its new Downtown Macon Parking Advisory Board. 

Margaret Peth, a city planner and urbanist who started as UDA’s Operations Manager in February and oversees the Park Macon system, thought a citizen board would help with public acceptance. 

“I do want people to understand we’re looking for feedback on changes that we’re planning to make in the future and on existing policies, but it’s not a decision-making board, ultimately,” Peth explained to the UDA’s board last week. 

Applications for the seven-member volunteer advisory board are posted on the Park Macon website’s public engagement tab and Peth hopes to have the inaugural meeting on the first Friday in August at 10:30 a.m. The new board plans to meet monthly on that same day and time. 

While two of the board members will be citizens at large, there are specifications for the other positions. The board will include one member of the UDA board, a downtown business owner and downtown resident who are both located within the paid parking sector, a downtown employee and someone representing the disabled community. 

The UDA board will review all applications for the advisory panel and ultimately decide who will serve.

No one who has outstanding parking tickets will be eligible.

“I think we’ve got to be careful about it and you don’t just get somebody who’s got an ax to grind, but it needs to be people that are really concerned about improving the system,” UDA Board Chair Kay Gerhardt cautioned. 

Taking scofflaws to court

Before the UDA took on downtown parking and installed meters in 2018, patrons and visitors used to circle the blocks searching for empty spaces, often to no avail as workers and residents parked all day and night. 

Patrons of the Douglass Theatre and downtown Macon get free parking on Saturdays and Sundays in the deck at 440 Mulberry St. (Liz Fabian)

Now with the three-hour time limit, those living and working downtown are urged to rent spaces in the parking decks, including the UDA’s deck between the Douglass Theatre and Mulberry Street. 

Compliance in that deck has long been a problem as the attendant was not always present to take money. 

Earlier this year, Park Macon implemented new rules  and replaced the attendant with license plate readers, but technical glitches ensued. People were confused since there was no longer a time-stamped ticket to take upon entry and nowhere to pay except through the app or website.  

Most recently, Park Macon worked with its vendors to fine tune the citation process and erected more signs in the garage to alert motorists to pay upon parking. 

Going forward, anyone who does not pay to use the deck can expect to get a ticket mailed to them. 

Scofflaws also are on notice as Park Macon is preparing to take some of the worst offenders to court. The recent cyber attack on county computers delayed the process but notices are expected to go out soon, Peth said. 

UDA Executive Director Alex Morrision said the last time he checked, there were about 1,700 people who owed more than $50 in parking tickets, and about 200 people have fines totalling over $500 and into the thousands of dollars. 

“Getting those citations paid would really improve our revenue,” Peth said. 

Proceeds pay to maintain meters, pay contractors and run the parking system. Any additional money collected goes toward downtown improvements, which the advisory board could help identify. 

Statistics lag a little since violators have a 20-day window to pay, but Peth noted that May’s preliminary figure of $18,000 in outstanding fines is “still really significant.”

“That’s why we need to take some to court because the word will get out,” Gerhardt said.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.

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