Downtown parking: Gil Rupp speaks

TRAVERSE CITY – It's not hard for parking administrator Gil Rupp to identify the people and places in Traverse City that get the most parking tickets.

"We see repeaters among employees and we have certain areas of the city that have more than their share of parking tickets," said Rupp.

The city has seven surface lots for long-term permit parkers with about 460 spaces. The city owns only one of the lots with 60 spaces.

"The remaining six," said Rupp, "are leased from private persons or companies that don't want to be in the parking profession."

The city's master plan calls for building parking decks to reduce the amount of asphalt parking lots scattered throughout downtown. But so far, politics have delayed the parking decks.

There are two full-time parking meter attendants during the summer and three when Northwestern Michigan College is in class. (Attendants monitor the city-leased lots at NMC.)

Rupp scoffs at the notion that the meter attendants are "clamping down" on parking.

"They are just enforcing the rules and doing their jobs," he said. "In fact, we really make an effort not to ticket customers or clients of downtown merchants. We realize the importance of repeat business."

But he and his staff also see a lot of repeat offenders. Many of those are downtown employees, he said.

"Many of them like to re-coin the two hour meters," he said. "Sometimes they get tied up in their jobs and they can't get back out to put money in the meter. Then they get upset. It's a consistent problem."

Predictably, the offenders rarely park in front of their own stores, he said.

"No, they seem to park in a spot down the street," he said.

There are two spots in Traverse City that seem to get the most metered parking tickets.

One is the Lot A, behind Petertyl's and Kilwin's. The other is around Munson Medical Center.

"Munson has a parking garage and a shuttle service for employees, but many of them still insist on parking in the street," he said. "They are taking up parking spots intended for clinics, flower shops and other businesses around the hospital."

And when people get tickets, they have a time frame to pay them.

It's $5 for the first 15 days, then $10 for the next 15 days. After a month, the parking fine jumps to $15.

There is also a scale for repeat offenders, he said.

"After the seventh parking ticket, the fine goes to $75 per ticket," he said. "That's based on a calendar year."

Enforcement hours are Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Rupp said his department is self-sustaining and always looking for ways to combat the parking problems in downtown Traverse City.

"We have added additional meters in Lot X, across from the BATA station on Hall St.," he said. "And our new automated process for ticketing has been excellent. We've gotten reports of very few stuck coins in the meter and the timing apparatus on the machine is very accurate. It's been a great addition for us."

Rupp is hoping that in the not-too-distant future a parking deck will be built downtown.

"It's needed," he said. "Both employees and customers would welcome it."

In the meantime, Rupp and his team are getting ready for another summer of monitoring the parking challenge downtown. BN