Downtown Parking Reign of Terror

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If the odds of getting a parking ticket on any given day are one percent then put me down for two of them a year.

That's $42 if paid on time, and $186.75 and/or a court appearance if one of them is unpaid due to negligence, willful or otherwise.

The new meters the Memphis City Council approved this week in their ignorance will cost at least $1.7 million and produce, allegedly, $892,000 a year in new revenues. The new parking rate, payable by change or plastic, will be $1.25 an hour.

No problem, says the city engineer, because parking fees and fines underwrite this daisy chain "so that the taxpayers don't have to." Except that Memphians are taxpayers and Memphians who work and get out and about downtown are especially likely to get parking tickets and pay the fines for procrastination.

The parking ticket, of course, is just the ante. The big money comes from the fines. If it takes one mugging to make a Memphian avoid a neighborhood, two or three parking tickets should do the job.

And why set the bar at $892,000 in new money? Why not $1,892,000 or $2,892,000? Only a matter of time in a for-profit enterprise like this. Same goes for those drone cameras in school zones and red lights and speed traps.

The city operating budget is over $600 million a year. Nickel and diming citizens won't balance it, nor will it benefit downtown where meters will still be located selectively, malfunction occasionally, and disadvantage downtown against the rest of the city. To make a struggling downtown more attractive, parking rates and fines should be going down, not up.

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