Oct. 11 2018 09:16 AM

City Council eyes overnight parking permits


THURSDAY, OCT. 11 — The wild days of unchecked, overnight parking in Lansing are coming to an end.


The City Council’s Committee on Public Safety yesterday met to discuss the introduction of a paid permitting process that would allow certain residents to circumvent the 2-5 a.m. ban on street-side parking.


No decisions have been made, but it’s clear that additional enforcement will be needed within the next few months. Council President Carol Wood said she met with dozens of residents over the summer to listen to their concerns.


“If we’re going to be doing anything, we should look at a permitting process, one that has residents demonstrate they have a legitimate need for those parking spaces.”


The streets of Lansing are often lined with overnight parking outlaws. Many older homes that have been converted to apartment weren’t built to accommodate residents with multiple vehicles. Downtown lofts typically don’t have much space for parking.


To compound an already heated issue, the city rarely enforces the nighttime parking ban, pushing some residents to voice concerns about emergency vehicle access along narrow roadways or overnight guests that crowd local neighborhoods. Many residents, subsequently, are willing risk the occasional ticket for curbside convenience.


Some have suggested eliminating the ban altogether, though that could only further crowd neighborhood streets. Other have suggested a rotating waiver that would allow residents to park on one side of the street or the other depending on the day, but that would likely force city snow plows to hit the same streets twice, Wood said.


Ultimately, Wood and Public Safety Committeemen Jeremy Garza and Adam Hussain agreed that residents should be able to prove they need the extra parking space and pay an unspecified amount for an annual permit to allow for overnight parking. And it should only allow them to park in the spaces in front of their residences.


“I’d like to see some mechanism so that folks aren’t parking wherever they want around the city,” Hussain added. “This should be limited to the streets in front of their homes. The permit piece is the way to go but enforcement is key to this one. I want to make sure we’re walking down this path hand-in-hand with the administration.”


Mayor Andy Schor acknowledged previously that enforcement has been lax. Sixty-five police officers issued nearly 3,200 tickets last year for overnight parking violations. That number dropped to fewer than 800 tickets this year. He said higher-priority complaints often divert attention away from stray cars on neighborhood blocks.


For three months under former mayor Virg Bernero, Lansing employed a full-time overnight parking officer. He wrote about 1,000 tickets per month before he was pulled off the job.


Had the officer stayed and kept up his ticketing pace, that one employee would have been able to drive about $240,000 in ticket revenues into the city. History shows that additional enforcement is a viable option, Wood said. The city just needs to revive its commitment to enforcing the ordinances that are already on the books.


“I believe there is an enforcement mechanism but we’d have to get a commitment from the administration to have a parking enforcement officer working these hours,” Wood added. “I do not want to see police officers out there writing tickets unless they absolutely have to. This needs to be generated by somebody else.”


The permit process, which is still in its early conceptual stages, will likely require residents to demonstrate their need for the extra spaces before the city can approve any passes. Garza suggested discounts could be made available for students or senior citizens. Hussain proposed additional permits could also run on a seasonal or overnight basis.


Costs have not been discussed. The committee will meet later this month with a representative from Schor’s office to work on logistics as plans continue to take shape. Wood said the process will eventually require a written ordinance. And she’d like to see a system to address overnight parking hit the books before the end of the year.


Visit lansingcitypulse.com for previous and continued coverage on parking regulation in the city of Lansing.