A new parking system installed in downtown Royal Oak late last year continues to spark complaints, but city and police officials say the issues are being resolved.
The city’s Downtown Development Authority on Thursday decided to pay for a new parking study, which will take place in two phases, in part to determine whether emergency parking on Washington Avenue needs to be modified.
Retailers continue to complain that customers don’t like rear parking and it’s hurting business.
“It’s a nightmare,” said Lori London, a DDA board member and owner of Write Impressions stationery on Washington Avenue.
Amanda Khoury, owner of the Lost and Found Vintage store, started an online petition two weeks ago to eliminate the new Sentry parking system downtown. Over 1,000 people have signed it to date.
“It’s been relentless,” Khoury said of the complaints she hears from customers and other business owners. “It’s disheartening to hear… people say they don’t want to come downtown anymore.
The sloped parking lot on Washington had to be replaced with a rear sloped parking lot because the new parking meter kiosks have to read license plates from the sidewalk. Michigan motorists only have rear license plates that can only be read if drivers return.
Last year, Royal Oak contracted with Municipal Parking Services to install around 630 on-street parking meters. The company installed Sentry counters, which have cameras that read license plates and mail tickets to offenders.
Thousands of motorists received tickets that were dismissed by the court because of problems with the system or difficulties for users to understand how to use it.
City commissioners were split 4-3 when they approved MPS meters under a five-year contract last year with the Minneapolis-based company. MPS owns and operates the system, collects fines and splits the money 50-50 with the city.
Parking rates for new meters are the same, but fines for violators have increased from $10 to $20. City officials and police worked on a public education program to familiarize people with the new system and reduce payments and other issues.
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City manager Paul Brake said many of the issues that generated complaints occurred when the new system was rolled out in November 2021.
“Some improvements have been made and several updates have been made since the system has been in place,” he said.
Paul Martin, chief operating officer at MPS, told DDA officials there had been issues with a new mobile app for the parking system and at pay stations.
“We are working on ways to report pay station issues,” Martin said. “The overall system is stable.”
Figures for the first week of April show that there were 15,656 parking sessions by motorists. Of these 3,865 people obtained tickets and an additional 3,557 tickets were reviewed by the city and were never issued.
City Commissioner Brandon Kolo, who voted against the new parking contract, said many previous issues with the system have been resolved.
“My main concern is to facilitate the user (meter) experience,” he said. “We are able to hold MPS accountable and they have made changes. Even though I didn’t vote for this, I will be working night and day to make sure this works for Royal Oak.
Kolo said he was encouraged to see that 9,806 motorists who used the system in the first week of April managed to pay for their parking and received no tickets.
DDA officials were against emergency parking in Washington when first asked about it last year. However, police and other city officials have noted that it is safer for motorists to exit parking spaces first than to re-enter traffic lanes.
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The city could revert to parallel parking on Washington, but that would eliminate about 30 existing parking spots due to the extra space required, Kolo said.
“It’s getting better, but the process is not over yet,” he said of the parking meter error issues. “We are holding MPS to a tight schedule to address (unresolved) issues in the near future.”
A new feature to be added to meters is a help function, so motorists can report a problem with a meter when there is a legitimate problem and not risk a ticket, Kolo said.
On Thursday, the DDA decided to hire a consulting firm to conduct a traffic study to determine the best way to remove angled parking spots in Washington and change the two-hour time limits in metered spaces and parking lots. four-hour places in surface lots.
The study would also address whether more free time should be given to lot users to pay, and whether disabled parking in the downtown core should follow standards set by the state.
Downtown Director Daniel Hill said in a memo that the first part of the study should be done this summer, and the second part around March 2023 after the new Baker College on Lafayette Avenue is expected to open. and operational.