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Downtown Iowa City business owners mixed on meter enforcement

BY BRITTANY TILL | AUGUST 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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Local businesses owners are mixed about plans increase meter enforcement.

City officials recently announced an effort to increase meter enforcement in response to concerns from local downtown businesses, said Chris O’Brien, the director of Iowa City Parking and Transit.

“We received complaints from some downtown retailers regarding long-term meter feeding that was preventing customers from being able to access their business,” O’Brien said.

The increased enforcement — which includes ticketing parkers who repeatedly feed their meter — is set to begin Thursday.

However, Paul Smith, the owner of Austin Burke Clothiers, 26 S. Clinton St., said tougher meter regulations could have negative effects for those who visit downtown.

 “A lot of people would love to have two-hour meters instead of one, and I think most people don’t realize that ‘meter feeding’ is illegal,” Smith said. “The only complaints I’ve had are complaints about how difficult parking is and how they wish it was easier. This is probably put into place to discourage students from parking for classes.”

Meter feeding involves a person occupying a one-hour meter parking spot and feeding the meter each hour. O’Brien said the enforcement is to maintain the availability of parking space.

But Bill Noser, a co-president of Ewers Men’s Store, 28 S. Clinton St., said the enforcement shouldn’t rush most people.

“Some of the local people know we will pay for their parking in the ramp through the Park ’N’ Shop program,” Noser said.

Iowa City officials are encouraging drivers to park in the Dubuque Street and Capitol Street parking ramps through a new program. Park ’N’ Shop reimburses people for parking fees when they shop at certain local business. These selected business will place signs in their windows for shoppers. Nick Arnold, the executive director of the Downtown Association and the director of Park ’N’ Shop, said, “Basically, this is to reward people for shopping in the downtown. Yet it is entirely up to the store how to distribute these vouchers for parking.”

Arnold said the program current has 30 to 40 businesses participating.

A parking-permit program is in place for the downtown parking ramps, and drivers can be placed on a waiting list for permits, according to the Parking Division’s website. O’Brien said that currently, the Parking Division has issued 1,780 parking permits.

Stevie Toomey, the owner of InBox, 114 S. Clinton St., said he supported the promotion of parking ramps, though he was initially unaware of the increased enforcement.

“People coming from out of town who just want to run in are very different from someone shopping around,” Toomey said. 

Noser said he wouldn’t mind seeing some of the meters changed to two hours to fill up some space, particularly near Phillips Hall.

Officials said the increased enforcement was put in place to make more parking spaces available for short-term shopping downtown.

But not all shoppers were thrilled about the increased enforcement.

“I think it does affect stores, because if people have to worry about feeding their meters they aren’t going to enjoy shopping in the downtown and probably won’t buy all that much,” said Lori Hingtgen, who frequents shops downtown.


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