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Special Report: Ticketing 'hot zones' in Asheville

According to records obtained by News 13 from Parking Services, from Jan. 1 to Oct. 27, there have been 9,786 overtime parking citations, what amounts to two-thirds of all violations. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

For Joe Cristo, not paying to park in downtown Asheville has come at a cost.

He returned to his car on North Lexington Avenue to find a $10 parking ticket.

"It's like gambling. You just play the odds," Joe Cristo said.

Probably not surprising, overtime parking is the most common parking violation in Asheville's central business district.

According to records obtained by News 13 from Parking Services, from Jan. 1 to Oct. 27, there have been 9,786 overtime parking citations, what amounts to two-thirds of all violations.

Those officers also find the most offenders on Batter Park, where they handed out about 1,100 tickets for expired meters.

North Lexington, where Cristo got his ticket, isn't far behind, just shy of 1,100 tickets.

Cristo, however, says it's a risk he'll take.

"The hardest part and the reason I end up with tickets most of the time is just because I forget. Don't come out. I mean, you're parked here sometimes all day doing work here or there, and it happens," he said.

Parking Services Manager Harry Brown says the purpose of on-street enforcement isn't to generate revenue, but his department which is self-funded does bring in money.

According to records, Parking Services brought in $274,780 from Jan. 1 to Oct. 27 of 2016.

"It's a very small percentage of the revenue that parking services generates," he said. "The purpose of an on-street parking system with parking meters and citations is to generate turnover off the street."

He's hopeful that more people will leave the street parking for the garage parking, though he recognizes there's a problem there as well.

"With the volume of business we're doing, we're going to soon max out on our off street capability at certain times of the day," he said.

He couldn't say how soon exactly.

"I could say next year, but if we have a recession like we did in '07 and '08, it could be five years," Brown said.

The new garages expected to come online in the near future should help, but until then, the lack of viable space could lead to a desperate situation for some, including towing, though Brown says it's extremely rare.

"If somebody is immobilized, that means we put the boot on the vehicle. We can only do that if there are 3 citations over 90 days old and then 24 hours later, we're allowed to tow them," he said.

Because of those requirements, he says it's extremely difficult for someone to get towed. Plus, if it gets to that point, he tries to work with the citizens to avoid a tow.

"I can probably count on two hands and one foot the number of people we've had towed in my 11 years here," Brown said.

Records indicate this year throughout Oct. 27, drivers of 69 vehicles paid the boot fee.

Brown says he didn't tow any.

In fact, getting booted or towed made up less than half of a percent of all parking violations since 2013, when Brown's department switched to a new record keeping system.

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