Parking Fines to Increase in Ann Arbor?

And a look at what role, if any, the DDA might play

Ann Arbor city council work session (Nov. 9, 2009): At its work session on Monday, the council heard two presentations: (i) the financial impact of raising parking violation fines, and (ii) the use of social media by city staff in parks and recreation.

The parking presentation was given by Matthew Horning, the city’s treasurer. It included comparative data from other cities, and an analysis of the impact on total revenues that would result from raising fines. His presentation also looked at the impact of providing incentives for early payment across the 34 different categories of violations. For the expired meter fine, which accounts for 65% of all tickets issues, Horning’s analysis assumed a recommended increase from $15 to $20. The schedule of fines presented by Horning is projected to increase annual revenues by $875,287.

The social media presentation was given by Kim Mortson, who works in public relations for community services at the city. She described how she’d used social media like Twitter and Facebook to complement more traditional approaches to promote parks and recreation programs.

In our report, we focus exclusively on the parking violation fines.

Parking Violation Fines

We begin with a bit of historical context, then describe Horning’s presentation, summarize the council’s commentary, and set a possible context for the future discussion – which includes the city’s relationship with the Downtown Development Authority.

When and Why Were Parking Fines Last Raised?

The parking violation fine structure was last changed in Ann Arbor about five years ago. At its June 21, 2004 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved that systematic increase. Six years before that, in 1998, fines had also been increased.

At the June 2004 meeting, the resolution to increase parking violation fines included “Whereas” clauses that provided the rationale for the increase [emphasis added]:

Whereas, Safety Services has reviewed the parking violation fines as part of the FY 2004-2005 budget submittal;

Whereas, The City last increased parking violation fines in April 1998;

Whereas, The current parking violation fines were found to be inadequate to cover the costs of service and promote long-term parking at meters rather at the designated long-term parking areas;

City’s Presentation on Parking Fines

City treasurer Matthew Horning’s presentation to the council described the current analysis as stemming from a periodic review of the fine structure, which began nearly a year ago, in December 2008. It was based on the benchmarking of fine structures in communities with similar population densities with universities: Milwaukee, New Haven, Seattle, Austin, Boulder, Madison, Lansing, East Lansing, and Grand Rapids.

To illustrate the benchmarking, here’s just one of the categories – Expired Meter – that Horning presented, showing the dollar amounts for fines in the benchmarked cities. [.PDF file: All Benchmarked Categories in Parking Fine Presentation]:

Exp  Meter     Mil  NH   Sea  Aus  Bou  Mad  Lan ELan  GR   A2   A2 Prop
Early Discntd                 15              5   10        10    10
Fine Amount    20   20   35   30   15   20   15   15   20   15    20
After 14 D          40   60        30   30   25   25   40   30    40
After 30 D          60                  40   35                   60
Default                                 50             60   40    70


The final two columns show Ann Arbor’s current fine structure and proposed fine structure. The first row displays the fine that is assessed if it’s paid by the next business day. Under the proposal that the city is recommending, then, an expired meter fine would remain the same $10 as it is now – if paid within one business day.

Currently, the parking fine structure provides a early-payment discount only for expired meters. The recommended fine structure change would include an early-payment discount across all violation categories. The discount would be uniform across all those categories: $10 would be subtracted from the fine amount.

Other features of the staff recommendation on parking violation fines include an increase in Minor and Near Hazard fines from $25 to $35, as well as standardization of all Hazard fines at $50.

The recommendation also extends the payment schedule across all categories, to include a 30-day point before default.

The projected revenue increase is based on the following distribution of how quickly patrons would pay fines, which is based on actual 2008 fine payment data:

Next Bus.    42%
1-14D        32%
14-30D        7%
30+D         10%
Default       9%
Total Rev.    $3,427,994
Rev. Increase $  875,287


So the projections see almost three-quarters of the newly-structured fines being paid at the standard fine or the discounted rate. And overall, there would be a 34% increase in revenues.

That 34% overall increase in revenues tracks with the 33% increase in fine for expired meters – from $15 to $20.

Expired Meters account for 65% of all parking tickets. If Over Legal Limit and No Parking Anytime tickets are added to Expired Meter tickets, 83% of all parking tickets are accounted for.

The recommended new rate structure for those three categories, plus a category that city councilmember Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) whimsically suggested at the work session could be eliminated entirely [Derezinski is a Harley enthusiast.]:

                 Disc  Stnd  14D   30D   Deflt
1  Expired Meter
 Current         10    15    30          40
 Proposed        10    20    40    60    70                                  

2  Over Legal
 Current               25    35          45
 Proposed        25    35    55    75    85                                  

4  No Park Any
 Current               25    35          45
 Proposed        25    35    55    75    85                                  

32 Motorcycles
 Current               25    35          45
 Proposed        25    35    55    75    85


Council Comments and Questions On Parking Fines

There was some concern expressed about the benchmarking communities.

Margie Teall (Ward 4) wanted to know how fresh the data from the other comparable cities was, and Horning confirmed that it was current. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) asked for further clarification on how the cities were selected for comparison. Horning said that it was population density, and the technology available in those cities. [Ann Arbor has recently rolled out a wireless E-Park kiosk payment system to replace parking meters.] In addition, the benchmarking communities were selected based on their inclusion of a university.

Mayor John Hieftje said it might be possible to make the comparison to Grand Rapids because Grand Rapids was one of the other areas of the state where, like Ann Arbor, the economy was not performing as poorly as the rest of the state. But he expressed concern at the way the fines accelerated after the 14-day window. Is there any way to seek relief, he wondered, where ticketed motorists who found themselves in a tight financial spot could say, “I want to pay, but I can’t do it”?  Horning allowed that it was a good question, something that could be checked out.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) was interested in seeing comparisons to cities smaller than Milwaukee and Seattle.  Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) asked for comparative data from Kalamazoo, but Horning said that he’d been unsuccessful in getting their data – he’d give it another try, though. Rapundalo also suggested getting data from one of the Detroit suburbs, like Royal Oak or Livonia.

Rapundalo  got clarification that there are currently 12 full-time employees whose responsibility is to issue parking ticktets – the same employees also enforce community standards ordinances.

Rapundalo indicated that in his trips up to East Lansing, enforcement was “quite vigorous,” and noted that the enforcement officers used electric vehicles. He said that Ann Arbor’s strategy of using officers on foot was healthy, but he wondered if the number of tickets issued might be increased. Hieftje reported having been given a parking ticket in Boulder within two minutes of his meter expiring, and Rapundalo one-upped that with a report that within one minute of meter expiration, he’d received a ticket in East Lansing. But, Rapundalo also indicated that they’d been quite generous when they overcharged him, providing a rebate good for … his next violation.

Rapundalo also drew out the relationship between the University of Michigan and the city of Ann Arbor with respect to parking enforcement. Horning explained that the city accepts the payment of fines from UM-issued tickets. As part of the arrangement, UM pays for one of the two full-time parking referees, who handle appeals, plus overhead to handle the collection and adjudication process.

Sandi Smith (Ward 1) expressed surprise that there were enough contested tickets to require two full-time employees. After the meeting, Horning emailed The Chronicle with complete 2008 data on contested cases: In 2008 there were 10,365 appeals heard for UM and city tickets combined; of those, 2,265 had the fine reduced and 4,657 were voided. That amounts to almost a 70% chance of some kind of success when a ticket is appealed to a parking referee.

Mike Anglin (Ward 5) got clarification that the revenues under discussion were different from revenues that stemmed from the residential permit parking program. He asked for a report on revenues from those programs in neighborhoods near the downtown. Smith said that she’d already asked for a report that might include what he wanted, and that it might be best to wait for that before working on a separate report.

Related to the issue of parking in neighborhoods near downtown is the planned installation of parking meters in some of these neighborhoods as a part of the adopted FY 2010 budget. At the work session, Tom Crawford, the city’s CFO, clarified for The Chronicle that the projected revenue increases for the parking fines assumed only the existing meters, without installation of those additional meters in neighborhoods.

The issue of installing those extra meters is one that Smith has adopted as somewhat of a project. She has persuaded her council colleagues to delay installation of them while ways to replace the revenue they would generate can be found. The FY 2010 budget assumed around $300,000 in revenue from additional parking meters to be installed in neighborhoods near downtown. [The section "Moratorium on Parking Meter Installation" in The Chronicle's coverage of council's Oct. 6 meeting contains additional background.]

Asked by email after the meeting if she saw the increased revenues from the parking fine increases as a possible way to eliminate the need for additional parking meters, Smith replied that she did, but that she had not yet floated the idea to her council colleagues.

Broader Context for Parking Fine Increases: DDA and the City

At Monday’s work session, Sandi Smith (Ward 1) raised the point that the majority of the tickets written were in downtown Ann Arbor –  in the Downtown  Development Authority district. Smith serves on both the city council and the DDA board.

She expressed concern that the fine structure be implemented in a way that did not result in downtown Ann Arbor being perceived as an unfriendly place. Mike Angin (Ward 5) at one point floated the idea of a “freebie” system where a ticket could be forgiven. City administrator Roger Fraser cautioned that it was important to have a system that the enforcement officers could easily enforce.

Smith also pointed out that the DDA was already deploying a strategy of “demand management,” which entails adjusting parking rates (not fines) to encourage people to park where they otherwise would not and to require a premium for parking that was the most desirable. The new E-Park kiosks that have already replaced many individual parking meters are intended to facilitate that strategy. She wanted to make sure that the DDA’s strategy of demand management be integrated into the new fine structure.

In responding to a question from Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) about the reason behind the change in parking violation fine structures, city administrator Roger Fraser said it was a mix of: (i) demand management, (ii) revenue generation, (iii) deterrent and (iv) competitiveness.

Fraser stressed that “turnover” was something that the fine structure was meant to promote. That’s why there are 30-minute, 1-hour, and 2-hour limits, depending on the specific turnover goals in a given area, he said.

Chronicle Analysis: DDA and the Mutually Beneficial Agreement

Looking more broadly than the need to make the parking violation fine structure mesh with the DDA’s efforts at demand management, the context of the conversation includes the difficult negotiations that lie ahead between the DDA and the city on their agreement under which the DDA administers the city’s parking program – which is not the same as the city’s parking fine enforcement.

In very broad strokes, that city-DDA agreement, struck in 2005, provided that the DDA would pay the city $1 million a year for 10 years, through 2015. According to the terms of the agreement, however, the city could ask for $2 million in any given year, so long as the total amount did not exceed $10 million over the 10-year period. The city asked for $2 million in each of the first five years of the contract, which means that the FY 2010 budget year is the last year that the DDA is obligated under that contract to pay the city.

However, in the FY 2011 budget plan, which was introduced by the city administration in January 2009,  along with the FY 2010 budget recommendations, the city assumed an additional $2 million payment by the DDA. So the city council passed a resolution in early 2009 asking the DDA to renegotiate the city-DDA parking agreement.

The DDA responded by establishing a “mutually beneficial” committee to engage in that negotiation. The city took no action to form a committee of its own until Rene Greff’s term on the DDA board expired in July 2009. Jennifer S. Hall, then-chair of the DDA board, took herself off the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee around the same time. Mayor John Hieftje had revealed at a summer DDA retreat that the barrier to the city council appointing its own “mutually beneficial” committee was the membership of Hall and Greff on the DDA’s committee. [Chronicle coverage includes: "DDA: Who's on the Committee?"]

With Hall and Greff off the DDA committee, the city council appointed its own committee, which included Leigh Greden, who at the time represented Ward 3. With Greden’s defeat in the August 2009 Democratic primary, that spot now sits vacant on the city council’s committee.

The two committees have never met.

For the last few monthly DDA board meetings, Sandi Smith – who is a member of city council and the DDA board and a member of both the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committees – has delivered a report of “nothing new to report.”

But at the DDA board’s April meeting, Greff had reported out the results of the first meeting (with itself) of the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee [emphasis added]:

Greff  then ticked through what the committee had done. They had: (i) reviewed history of DDA parking agreements with the city, (ii) reviewed TIF (tax increment financing) capture, and (iii) reached a majority view – with dissent from [Roger] Hewitt – that they should not re-open the discussion of the existing parking agreement. It was not the role of the DDA, Greff said, to cover gaps in the city budget. The committee had given some consideration to taking over city tax-funded activities (e.g., snow removal), and had contemplated purchasing the right to meter enforcement in downtown. [Here's the Chronicle's complete DDA board meeting report for April 2009.]

It’s thus possible that the DDA will begin to insert itself into the conversation on parking violation fines, especially as the approaching FY 2011 budget discussion increases the pressure for the city and the DDA to have their respective “mutually beneficial” committees meet and come to an agreement.


  1. By Rod Johnson
    November 11, 2009 at 7:00 pm | permalink

    I’m sure I’m not the only person who tends to patronize businesses on Stadium, Plymouth, Jackson and Washtenaw because parking is free and easy to find there. The higher the fines are, the less reluctance I feel about avoiding downtown.

  2. By ChuckL
    November 11, 2009 at 9:28 pm | permalink

    I love the way the apologists for the city’s gouging point to turnover as the justification for raising fines. If turnover is so important, why do they not measure it? Things that get measured get managed; if you’re not measuring it, you’re not managing it. Interesting that the thing that does get measured is the revenue take; so, that’s what they are managing! Surprise, surprise surprise! Ticket fine revenue should go to the schools, the library or the State, period. Mixing revenue enhancement with law enforcement is a recipe for corruption. If the city needs the revenue, pass a tax increase. If the voters will not pass a tax increase; why is the city spending the money? The city should cut services if the residents are unwilling to pay for whatever the money that is generated on fines is used for. To do otherwise is to short-circuit the democratic process.

  3. November 11, 2009 at 10:47 pm | permalink

    I gotta say… I think raising the fines is a stupid, stupid idea. Yes, I understand completely that only people who park illegally are fined. I understand this completely. That being said, I think the number one goal of the council and the DDA should be to increase commerce in the city. Raising fines, making parking complicated, or anything other than generously inviting people to come to Ann Arbor does not make the city more inviting. It encourages people to shop at the new Wal-mart or outside downtown where parking is free and ample.

    Commissioner Anglin’s idea is fantastic. A free-bee. Simple enough to check. And imagine, if instead of getting a $20.00 ticket for choosing to eat that dinner slowly, you instead received a nicely worded warning on your car. If the person got a ticket, the city will deter the person from returning more than deterring them from parking “correctly.” A warning, encouraging the driver to park in garages for longer parking periods will be much better received. And the person won’t drive away from Ann Arbor’s downtown with a punishment.

  4. By Eric Boyd
    November 12, 2009 at 9:17 am | permalink

    Just to play devil’s advocate, you could reasonably argue that raising fines increases commerce. In other words, if you encourage better compliance through punitive fines, then you encourage turnover, which in turn funnels more people through the downtown parking, leading to more commerce.

    Does this work in practice? What’s the right balance? I have no idea.

  5. November 12, 2009 at 9:31 am | permalink

    Good question. I know people that choose to go to places with free parking… and imagine what might happen if the city launched a free parking month… just as a test. Encouraging people to spend money right now by offering free parking might be something that could encourage people to visit Ann Arbor and spend money here. I’d rather people spend money at the business, and then the business be taxed than charging people for parking and nickel and diming them.

  6. By jcp2
    November 12, 2009 at 10:11 am | permalink

    Moving here, I found it a bit amusing to see people drive around for minutes upon minutes downtown to find a parking spot located many blocks away in a border residential neighborhood that was free. I gladly pay the $2-3 dollars to get into a spot that is close and convenient to where I want to go, especially at night in winter.

  7. By Pete
    November 12, 2009 at 10:14 am | permalink

    I hope they will take a small amount of the new profit and ‘turn over’ some car parking to free bicycle and motorcycle parking. Encourage forms of travel that cause practically zero congestion, are good for the environment, and allow more shoppers to park in less space.

  8. November 12, 2009 at 10:19 am | permalink

    Metered spots don’t require payment after 6:00 pm, so the relevant scenario would be a leisurely lunch, Fred. Are you more concerned about the experience of the person who parked and didn’t adequately feed the meter than the person who can’t find an on-street space because of the person who took a chance in order to save a quarter?

    I’m curious why no demand destruction (if that’s the appropriate term) seems to have been factored in. I’d be surprised if the projected revenue increase would actually materialize. The single year of 2008 isn’t likely to be adequate basis for the projection. The existing fine structure has been in place for five years. Did fine revenues decline over that period, increase or remain the same?

  9. November 12, 2009 at 11:03 am | permalink

    Steve, I think that in order to encourage commerce downtown, parkings should be simple, easy, and hassle-free. The impression I see from the new meters doesn’t match any of those. I think to add on a big fine will make the experience negative and will factor in when choosing Ann Arbor over another community for spending money. Bottom line, yes I’m worried more about the experience. If you hair appointment runs late, I don’t want the experience to be an additional $20 penalty.

  10. November 12, 2009 at 11:24 am | permalink

    A simple way to avoid fines if your time commitment is uncertain is to park in a structure or a lot. Currently it is also cheaper to park in a structure, so it is a win-win.

    A question: does part of a basic parking ticket fine go to pay for courts construction as does part of other 15th District court fines?

  11. November 12, 2009 at 11:27 am | permalink

    Like you, Fred, I’m not likely to have a hair appointment run late. :-)

    I’ve used the new ePark system once, and it took some time — certainly longer than popping some change into a meter and visually confirming how much time I had. Even with practice it would be slower. The trade-off is that those users with a cell phone can avoid the penalty if their appointment does run over. Whether it’s worth it or not is for others to decide.

    In any case, an expired meter comes with a penalty. Downtown street spaces are valuable public resources, and I think that the system appropriately encourages long-term parking in structures and the use of bikes and buses, though improvements are possible.

    On another tangent, I think that extending the hours of operation of street meters to 8:00 or 9:00 pm is overdue. The DDA has that on its to-do list. Of course, those revenues wouldn’t go to the city — not directly, anyway. (However, I’d like to see evening bus service expanded as well. The tangent extends…)

  12. By Dave Askins
    November 12, 2009 at 11:51 am | permalink

    RE comment [8] and the wish for additional data on the total revenues due to parking fines.

    A quick inquiry to Matthew Horning yielded this:

    FY05    2,796,135
    FY06    3,064,221
    FY07    2,748,981
    FY08    2,469,310
  13. November 12, 2009 at 1:32 pm | permalink

    At lunch, this was discussed and I heard an idea that I really liked… free parking on weekends. Keep fines whatever is wanted during the week, and then when we attract visitors on the weekend, just have free parking. I like this. Seems win/win.

  14. November 12, 2009 at 2:38 pm | permalink

    Thanks, Dave. Not quite a trend, but maybe worth pondering further. A couple questions for council to consider: What if the projection is high? What’s the worst case scenario?

    Fred, I’m assuming that you mean free parking everywhere, including lots and structures, not just at metered spots. Here’s a piece [link] that might have some relevance to your suggestion to make it free. The implications of free weekend parking for downtown are complex, turnover and employee parking being important considerations. Maybe I’ll say more on that later.

  15. November 12, 2009 at 3:47 pm | permalink

    At the very least, street parking free. But being that Sunday’s open already… why not make it 2 days? I’m sure businesses would love to be able to promote free parking in their advertisements and should only increase commerce downtown. Plus, will save on parking enforcement costs (no one to have to work a weekend shift).

  16. By Bob Martel
    November 12, 2009 at 4:17 pm | permalink

    Look for all kinds of “nuisance fees” now that the State government and traditional tax base are imploding. Soon, there may even be a pedestrian fee to walk downtown, charges to push the little button to change the light from red to green, etc.. The possibilities are endless!

  17. By ChuckL
    November 12, 2009 at 5:19 pm | permalink


    Your data shows that fine revenue peeked in 2006 at ~$3 Million and has dropped about 20% since then; interesting. Any ideas on what is causing the drop? Is it a lower collection rate or improvements in compliance? I suspect it is due to less traffic downtown as a result of people spending less money on going out.

    People on this thread have completely bypassed my point; stop blaming the citizens who patronize downtown for being there! The city does not even measure turnover so the claim that they are doing people a favor by leaving the financial equivalent of a turd ball on your windshield for overstaying your welcome is bogus. It is about the money and nothing but the money. Tickets are a revenue source; the city knows a millage increase would go down in flames so the geniuses at city hall have come up with scams to game the system. I would much prefer to see people getting away with parking a little longer than they should than see my democracy and city government corrupted. REVENUE ENHANCEMENT AND LAW ENFORCEMENT DO NOT MIX WELL! We have a property tax to fund the city; the city should live within its means; parking fines are a form of theft and represent an unfair taxing scheme. Funding of city services should not be a function of what one does but of ones means instead.

  18. By David
    November 13, 2009 at 11:42 am | permalink

    Rod Johnson said: “I’m sure I’m not the only person who tends to patronize businesses on Stadium, Plymouth, Jackson and Washtenaw because parking is free and easy to find there. The higher the fines are, the less reluctance I feel about avoiding downtown.”

    No you are not.

  19. By Karen Sidney
    November 14, 2009 at 2:30 pm | permalink

    Matt Horning left out 2009 figures. The information I got for FY2009 reports 2,215,097, which continues trend of declining revenues.

    My figures are from a Freedom of Information request filled about one month after year end. It’s now more than 4 months after year end and neither the public, nor apparently council, has seen any numbers on how the city did last year.

  20. By petee
    November 14, 2009 at 4:50 pm | permalink

    Horning is engaging in the practice of taking the information that suits the intended conclusion, and leaving all other information hidden. The cities are compared based on population density, but not on average home price, average income, percentage of unemployment, etc? There’s more to what you can charge for an apple than how many people are near the apple.

  21. By Phillip Farber
    November 14, 2009 at 5:11 pm | permalink

    Here’s an interesting piece on Santa Monica’s plans to raise rates for the most coveted spots. [Link]

  22. By ChuckL
    November 14, 2009 at 6:08 pm | permalink

    The thing that is most abhorrent about parking tickets, towing of vehicles, speeding tickets, etc is the construction of systems that make one person’s pain another person’s gain. On top of that, the people or parties supposedly injured by the aberrant behavior being sanctioned don’t benefit or are not directly compensated by the fines levied. It is a third party that profits from the injury. Does this sound like a recipe for corruption? I’d say very much so. Who wants to live in a city where the most efficient city service is the levying and collection of fines and fees?

  23. November 14, 2009 at 9:31 pm | permalink

    Has anyone seriously thought of reducing both fees and fines?

  24. By David
    November 14, 2009 at 11:35 pm | permalink

    If you look at FY05 through FY09, parking fine revenue decreases by an average of ca. $280K/year (posts 12 and 19). I wonder how this coorelates with parking meter and parking structure revenues. Does the parking fine decrease mean less enforcement (doubtful), more cautious parkers or less downtown vehicle parking?

  25. By David
    November 14, 2009 at 11:36 pm | permalink

    I meant FY06 through FY09 in the previous post.

  26. November 14, 2009 at 11:53 pm | permalink

    Phil, my understanding is that with the new ePark kiosks in place the DDA will likely be considering demand-based rates for on-street parking.

  27. By Cathy Antonakos
    November 15, 2009 at 12:46 pm | permalink

    Oh! The ePark kiosks. I shudder to think what it will be like, standing there in the dark in the dead of winter, trying to figure out what the machine needs…and don’t drop that little ticket in the wind!

    Yesterday, in 60 degree weather, people lined up at the kiosk across from the library, complaining bitterly about the kiosk to a Republic Parking employee. One woman’s said: “With 20% unemployment in Michigan, what are we doing using a machine? Hire a kid to sit in a booth and take tickets.”

  28. November 15, 2009 at 2:07 pm | permalink

    I’ve been avoiding parking at that lot just because of that kiosk.

  29. By Phillip Farber
    November 15, 2009 at 3:42 pm | permalink

    The ePark kiosks will make implementation of demand-based parking rates possible. The city can then more effectively manage a scarce resource (on-street parking) electronically. This will result in more available on-street parking by pricing the the most desirable spots at the correct price (vs. demand) creating a constant supply of available spots, eliminating circling and reducing congestion/pollution/noise.

    I venture to say that drivers willing to pay the going rate are probably also more willing and able to spend money downtown. That sounds like a win not a loss for merchants. I reject the idea that such a system will starve downtown businesses of customers.

    The alternative is “free parking” which results in the opposite: no available on-streets spots leading to the perception that “you can’t find a parking space”, circling, frustration, traffic congestion.

    Finally, if every physically able adult within a one mile radius of downtown walked (20 minutes) or rode their bike (5 minutes) we’d have a lot less to talk about here.

  30. November 15, 2009 at 4:55 pm | permalink

    I venture that a complicated rate structure and high priced “on street” parking rates will encourage people to not visit the downtown area of Ann Arbor. Or at least not a second time.

  31. November 15, 2009 at 5:26 pm | permalink

    Here is a really great thing about nearby Chelsea, MI (besides the Purple Rose and the Common Grill): Free parking is available in several municipal lots and on local streets around downtown Chelsea.

  32. By John Floyd
    November 16, 2009 at 12:02 am | permalink

    #10 Vivienne, the bond sold to build the courthouse were General Obligation bonds. The city can arbitrarily say that revenue source “X” pays for the General Obligation (GO) bonds, but the reality is that the bonds are paid for out of the full taxing authority of the City of Ann Arbor (excepting revenues limited by law to specific uses, e.g. Parks Millage). When the bonds are GO, it is incorrect to state that any particular revenue source is “dedicated” to paying off the bonds. If the “dedicated” source is insufficient to make debt service payments, then General Fund monies from other sources are used. If the “dedicated” source has a surplus in any given year, that surplus is available for any legitimate program of the city.

    When only a dedicate fund source may be used to make debt service payments, the bond is called a “Revenue” bond. If there is a surplus of collections over debt service payments in any one year, the surplus may not be spent for any other purpose. If there is a deficit of collections, not enough to make current debt service payments, saved-up collections from the dedicated source may be used, or else the bond holder is SOL for the deficit.

    By the way, I wonder what kind of bonds were issued to build the $50 million dollar underground lot for the new convention center? You know, the hole that is to be funded “out of parking revenues”. Are the GO bonds, or revenue bonds?

  33. By David Lewis
    November 16, 2009 at 1:10 am | permalink

    Wow folks. The new parking kiosks are great. They take a little while to figure out the first time after that they are easy and they do so much more than a meter. You could park on William and walk down to Liberty, then you run into a friend and decide to have lunch a the Red Hawk, your about to go in and you remember you only put in change for a half hour so you go up to a kiosk on state, input your parking number and put in more coin! Plenty of time for lunch and no ticket!

    Beyond that has anyone ever parked in Chicago? Last time I was there it was $8 for the first hour and three for every hour after that. (Best if you take the train to begin with.) You can park in an A2 structure for a buck an hour.

    A2 has the best downtown in the state, maybe the best this side of Chicago. Sure has a highly rated Main St.

    If you are going downtown for a $10 lunch or a $50 dollar dinner for two and you are worried about paying an extra quarter at a meter or having to park in a structure, take the bus, ride a bike or walk and save the coin, no tickets either. What’s the problem?

  34. November 16, 2009 at 7:24 am | permalink

    #32 John, I don’t disagree with anything you say (though I may not be familiar with some technical terms like SOL) but it does not address and is only tangentially related to my question. I was asking specifically whether the surcharge on all tickets and fees imposed by the courts that was authorized some years ago by the BOC and which goes into a fund that was designated for courts construction (in general, not necessarily the current Ann Arbor project) also applies to parking tickets and fines. This was related to the ongoing discussion on the increase in fines and its presumed relationship to GF revenue.

    In answer to your question, it is my impression that the parking structure bonds are also General Obligation bonds.

  35. By David Paris
    November 16, 2009 at 1:33 pm | permalink

    Parking Meter Fines are not where I want Ann arbor to be competitive, it wouldn’t hurt to be sub-standard in this category.

    In regards to appealed tickets: “That amounts to almost a 70% chance of some kind of success when a ticket is appealed to a parking referee”… Think of the possibilities! How about cutting the Parking Meter Fee in half, which would inadvertently reduce the chance of appeal (I wouldn’t waste my time in court for a $7.50 ticket), then work on other solutions to bring that 70% figure down to 25%. Domino Effect. Then you’re also reducing the work-load on the courts & saving dear overburdened tax payer, while coincidentally reducing the need to raise parking meter rates!

  36. November 16, 2009 at 4:14 pm | permalink

    David, I like your thinking. It’s a way of looking at it from the reverse angle compared to the demand destruction I wondered about in #8. There’s another side to lower fines, though, which is that they’re less of a deterrent to avoiding the fine. If one could park all day on the street for $7.50, that would create greater problems. Could $10 be the sweet spot?

    The other aspect of this is fine vs. late fee. I wonder how much they played with variations.

  37. November 16, 2009 at 5:02 pm | permalink


    What about if it were Anglin’s idea of a first offense being free? You’d not waste your time and hopefully won’t be discouraged from coming back. Then on the second violation, should be a lot easier for the city to win a contested ticket. After all, you already received a warning.

  38. November 16, 2009 at 5:31 pm | permalink

    Since the meters most recently were $1 per hour, $7.50 would be a discount rate for all-day parking. (I think rates are going up soon, right?)

  39. By David Paris
    November 16, 2009 at 7:43 pm | permalink

    Steve and Fred,

    We could probably all agree then, that raising the fines are not the only solution, just the first solution that came up. And collecting the fines that are levied may be a better first step. I’d like to see our town be a little more amicable to patrons, visitors, and citizenry even if it means going against the norm. The article mentions comparative fines, but I’d like to know how we compare to Plymouth, MI… that’s a town we’d be wise to model ourselves on!

  40. November 16, 2009 at 8:14 pm | permalink

    I’ve never been a fan of the comparative study approach taken by city councils. When it suits them, they compare themselves to big cities… other times smaller. Instead I’ve always dreamed of a representative council that actually can think and create on their own. That being said, I think once we define what the goal is then it’s time to set the path. If the goal is raising revenue, fine. I’d disagree but at least I’d understand the goal. If the goal is to bring more people downtown, great. Even if the goal was to keep cars from downtown… whatever the main goal is, I think it’s best to define it, and then go from there.

  41. By abc
    November 17, 2009 at 9:12 am | permalink

    I am sorry Mr. Posner, but in the school millage thread you were all about comparing the Ann Arbor Public School District’s spending patterns to other places. You referenced a number of comparative studies, and specifically compared the district to Ohio school districts, and New Jersey school districts, as well as private schools, as best as I can remember. So just what do you mean when you write, “I’ve never been a fan of the comparative study approach taken by city councils. When it suits them…”?

  42. November 17, 2009 at 9:39 am | permalink

    Don’t be sorry abc. :)

    City council School Board.

    Schools are completely different matter than parking meters, parking, or many of the mundane tasks that a city council has to deal with on a daily basis. I don’t think comparing school board spending to the city council levying of parking fines is a valid comparison.

    That being said, my comments in the school district were to show how other areas, such as Ohio does well at more than $1,000.00 less per student. The New Jersey example showed a higher spending amount with a horrible graduation rate and people graduating without basic skills. This was in discussion to my questioning of a school board trying to raise budget when they are approximately $2000.00 per pupil over the national average, have seen an increase of $50 million to their budget in 6 years, and have a pattern of declining enrollment. I bring this up only to clarify the context of what you posted.

    I think this has no relevance to the parking meter fines or my belief in what a city council does.

  43. By Rici
    November 18, 2009 at 3:43 pm | permalink

    Has anybody besides me noticed the number of ePark receipts that are littering up the sidewalks? It’s a real nuisance. I wish they would put a little trash bin on the side of each pay center, so people could dispose of them that way. It might only reduce the litter by 50%, but even that would be an improvement.

  44. November 18, 2009 at 5:21 pm | permalink

    Yes, I have noticed lots of them all around the unpaved lot between West Liberty and West Washington. I was kind of surprised because Republic Parking usually does an outstanding job of keeping their lots clean and free of debris, but I guess they just cannot keep up with those numerous small receipts flying everywhere.

  45. By John Rinne
    December 11, 2009 at 1:25 am | permalink

    This last year I used the downtown kiosks exactly twice, and was suprised at how complicated it was.

    Instead of a simple fee explanation chart of: “(example)5minutes=10cents, 1hour=50cents, etc”, and in big letters: “You have 30 minutes remaining. Time expires at 3:56pm”, the screen was small and required navigating a menu structure.
    In addition to that, a week ago the 5th/William exit machine decided it wouldn’t accept the paid ticket card, so I got trapped in the lot with vehicles behind me. Not nice to have happen when the windows are frozen shut.

    It sounds petty, but ease of use probably greatly contributes to a shoppers decision. After driving through downtown traffic, what shopping patron wants to walk an extra half block then stand out in the cold pushing buttons trying to figure how much time they safely have?

    It seems like a “forest through the trees” situation for the DDR. Downtown shopping should not be a punative experience, and shoppers will eventually make a habit of going elsewhere.

  46. By John Rinne
    December 11, 2009 at 1:31 am | permalink

    A curious thing I heard about was that parking tickets are processed in New York/Detroit at a cost of $1/ticket.
    If this is true, aren’t there any Ann Arbor companies capable of performing these functions?

  47. December 11, 2009 at 4:05 am | permalink

    An incidental note: A friendly Community Service Representative (a/k/a Parking Meter Ticketer) told me the other day that about half the time the new parking payment stations do not work. He said this with a smile despite actually seeming quite discouraged about the situation.

  48. By Tom Whitaker
    December 11, 2009 at 1:32 pm | permalink

    RE: 46:
    I would appreciate more info on the processing costs. $1 would barely cover postage and the cost of the envelope, etc. I’ve heard the figure somewhat reversed; that the City actually only nets about 1$ on a $10 ticket, due to the processing costs. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle (at least I hope it’s better than I heard).
    Can A2C check into this for us?

  49. December 12, 2009 at 7:37 am | permalink

    How about Evanston IL – mid sized college town – for comparison.

    I got stung by one of those over 14 days tickets. Acually two tickets, one in front of Big Ten Burrito on S. State and one while i was in Moosejaw spending several hundred dollars. I curtailed my trips to Big Ten Burrito and instead go to Qdoba on Washtenaw and on Plymouth. I quit going to Moosejaw and now go to REI instead. It really made me angry to get such a large fine and caused me to reconsider my options.

    Also, I noticed the bases on those new meters (on William) are already rusting. Poor design.