|Herald photo by David Rossiter
Parking commissionaire Trevor Snoddon marks a vehicle tire in a timed parking zone in the 100 Block of 8 Street South Thursday. If 2012 totals are any indication, thereÕs no shortage of parking violators in the city.
For most drivers, Lethbridge is a compact city that's easy to get around. But when they stop - that's a different story. About 60,000 parking tickets were issued last year. That's about one for every driver in the city.
And while most drivers pay them promptly - at $10 a pop - some take their time. The added penalties they end up paying will go into the city's coffers, or to the court house, or to Alberta Registries . . . depending on how long the tickets go unpaid.
Most parking tickets, senior bylaw enforcement officer Dave Henley reports, are for over-stays at parking meters. But the streets adjacent to Chinook Regional Hospital remain problematic as well - despite a large parkade which opened during the year.
And over the summer, he adds, bylaw officers also had trouble keeping river valley access roads open for emergency vehicles. Many rafters and boaters found tickets on vehicles they'd parked there despite the warning signs.
Downtown parking infractions generate the most tickets, Henley says, as they do in most cities. That includes vehicles left too long in free parking areas - with a two-hour limit, typically - as well as those occupying spaces where a meter has expired.
The usual penalty is $10, but it jumps to $25 if it's not paid within seven days. Most drivers are prompt, avoiding the surcharge, and Henley says many are paying on-line rather than going down to City Hall. The city's updated website - www.lethbridge.ca - makes that easy.
For those who miss the deadline, there's a letter reminding the vehicle's registered owner about the ticket. If that's ignored as well, Henley says the matter goes over to Provincial Court and the owner receives a summons.
Those who fail to appear are automatically convicted, he explains, and the ticket - plus accumulated court costs and Alberta Registry fees - must be paid before owners can renew their annual vehicle licence.
The new parkade makes hospital parking easy, too, but Henley says too many people are still trying to find free parking on nearby residential streets. Some drivers are successful, but he says many end up with a ticket for blocking a resident's driveway, for parking too close to a crosswalk or a traffic regulation sign, or for some other violation of Alberta's motor vehicle law.
"Now we have two people patrolling the hospital area," Henley says. "We're trying to encourage people to use the parkade."
Enforcement officers also patrol parking lots at the university and college, he adds. Penalties for drivers who don't plug the meters, or who disregard parking restrictions, are paid to the city in the usual way.
City bylaws call for more serious penalties for some other infractions, Henley points out. Vehicles that aren't moved from city streets after 72 hours can be towed away, he says, and for recreational vehicles the limit is 48 hours.
Before a tow truck is dispatched, Henley says the city tries to leave a notice on the offending vehicle. Utility or recreational trailers left on the street - not attached to a vehicle - can also be towed away, and city bylaws also prohibit transport trailers from being left at curbside.
Rafters, canoeists and kayakers who use the Botterill Bottom Park launch ramp also run the risk of towing. The city's emergency rescue personnel need access to launch their water craft, Henley says, but sometimes they've been blocked by boaters' vehicles parked along the access route.
"People just aren't thinking about that," he observes. "We've increased enforcement."
Very little parking is available near the ramp, and Henley says most of the road is posted "no parking."
To avoid tickets or towing, he suggests recreational users arrange to be dropped off by a friend.
"Or people could share rides."
Over the last year, city officials say, parking tickets brought revenue of about $600,000. But that's offset by the costs of the commissionaires, clerks and cashiers involved in handling them.
The university and college also receive a share of the revenue generated by tickets issued on their property