New Orleans’ downtown area and the French Quarter are being strangled by parking regulations that are outdated and by a Parking Violations Bureau that’s predatory in its practices. For the sake of economic growth, both the regulations and the bureau need to be overhauled.
Through the good will of the Downtown Development District, Wednesday nights in the spring and summer should be a joyous time for locals to experience the echoes of urban life at the Lafayette Square concerts. Yet, the city’s parking bureau is keen at smelling an opportunity. The ticket writers know that the demand for parking spaces is far greater than the number of legal spaces available. Facing a situation where an agency of the city should show flexibility and reason for the common good, the bureau instead becomes belligerent and relishes the opportunity for a payday.
Tickets are written for vehicles parked in freight zones where there’s no freight after hours or in front of churches, where it’s obvious there are no debarking passengers on a Wednesday night. Many spaces near the courthouses are reserved for law enforcement officials, although few of those spaces are used in the evening and could provide relief for others.
A favorite of ticket writers is the “no parking within 20 feet of the curb” rule. Though in many cases parking closer to the curb provides no obstacle at all, the ticket writers know that in a situation where parking is scarce the curb rule is gold for them.
In the French Quarter, the situation is just as bad. At 420 Chartres St., for example, there’s a sign saying that no vehicles should be parked there on Thursday mornings because of street cleaning. That’s fair enough but we know of people who have been ticketed at that address because, according to the ticket, the address is a freight zone at which there should be no parking at anytime. That raises the question: Why have a sign outlawing parking on Thursday mornings if it’s already illegal to park there at any hour? The sign is totally misleading.
As in the Warehouse District, many parking spaces in the French Quarter are reserved for law enforcement officials and while we welcome a police presence, many seem to go unfilled. (Ironically, many people want to park as close to an event as possible out of fear that parking at a greater distance would make them more susceptible to crime.)
There is an appeals process for those who get tickets but most people would rather just mail in a check than take time off from work to fight a procedure that is stacked against them. Truth is, those who get tickets are usually guilty of whatever violations they are cited for; the problem is that the laws are bad and need to be updated. The Parking Violations Bureau also needs to rethink its policies so that big events are not seen as an opportunity to write more tickets but as a reason to be flexible and to apply logic to individual situations.
Both the French Quarter and downtown face major obstacles in staging their parts of the recovery. It would be helpful in immeasurable ways if the city’s parking program was on their side. For the sake of the city, it’s time for a change.