Champaign council to discuss parking-fine changes

CHAMPAIGN — One-time offenders would go free, but parking-meter scofflaws would be hit harder under a new fine structure city administrators will propose this week.

In a memo to the city council, officials say the changes — which include an escalating fine structure for parking-meter violations and higher fines for illegally parked cars — are intended to encourage compliance and prompt payment of parking citations among frequent violators. It would also bring in $157,000 in new revenue for the city.

City council members will discuss the proposal when they meet in study session at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Champaign City Building.

Right now, drivers are fined $10 for each expired-meter violation, regardless of how many tickets a single driver racks up. Under the changes, anyone who hasn't had a meter violation in the past year would get off with a warning for the first violation, but more tickets would bring increasing fines.

A second parking ticket in a rolling 365-day period would cost you $15. Your third and fourth would run you $25 each, and a fifth ticket would cost you $35. It would be the first change to parking fines since 2007.

The new fine structure itself wouldn't produce any new money for the city, budgeters said in a memo to the city council. Officials think they'll be writing fewer tickets as people try to avoid higher fines.

And most people would get off free. Last year, about 18,000 people only got one parking ticket — they would all get off with a warning under the new system. Another 3,600 people got a second parking ticket, and they would get off $5 cheaper since they would only be paying one $15 fine instead of two $10 fines.

Only about 3,400 people who received three or more parking tickets would end up paying more.

Champaign's proposal is similar to the escalating fine structure that Urbana already employs. Drivers in downtown Urbana who let their meters run out get a warning on the first violation, a $10 ticket on the second and $15 for the third and beyond. The fines are each $5 more in the campus and hospital areas.

Where Champaign would make more money is in its proposal to apply a uniform $30 fine for a number of illegal parking practices and higher late fees for unpaid tickets.

Right now, drivers are charged $10 if they are parked illegally in a permit-only space, if they back in to a head-in-only spot, if they park at a bagged meter, if they are not within the lines or if they park facing against traffic. They are hit with a $20 ticket for parking overnight where none is allowed between 3 and 5 a.m.

All of those fines would increase to $30 under the proposed changes — an estimated $87,000 annually in new revenue based on the 4,800 tickets city officials wrote last year.

Wait seven days to pay that ticket, and it'll cost you an extra $5 — that's already in practice in Champaign. But under the new proposal, if you wait 30 days or more, you'll be hit with another $10 on top of that, for a total $15 late fee. The new late fee would add about $70,000 in annual revenue to the city budget.

All of that money would be rolled back into the city's parking fund, which pays for the operation of the parking system.

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Roanrider wrote on June 09, 2014 at 11:06 am

Why can't the cities get with the program and use the Pay by Phone app like the University does, so people aren't forced to carry change around with them? It's ridiculous in this day and age. Pay by Phone gives you a choice to either pay the meter or use your credit/debit card via the app, and you can also renew the time on your meter without having to physically go to it. IMO, the only reason for not doing it is that they want to soak people for more money for parking fees.

PWPIO wrote on June 09, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Roanrider - that's a great suggestion. We at the Public Works Department are also presenting to Council a proposal to introduce Pay By Cell parking at tomorrow night's meeting. We find it has many benefits to customers.  Stay tuned to find out what Council decided. Thank you for your input. - Kris K., Public Works spokesperson.

Don't Want to wrote on June 09, 2014 at 1:06 pm

It says it's going to bring in $157,000 of new revenue for the city but how much revenue is being lost from Lot J?   And all the empty spots for the on-street parking since the prices are so high already.   I remember years ago their was a waiting list for spaces on the street but as the years went by and the prices went up, the spaces are getting more and more left empty until after dark and the student's park for free.