A pay to park sign is seen by the Downtown Transit Center on July 2, 2024. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

A pay to park sign is seen by the Downtown Transit Center on July 2, 2024. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

Downtown parking changes aim to ensure rules are enforced

Transition to modern technology reduces the amount of time required to manage and enforce parking

New parking technology seeking to improve availability downtown to workers and shoppers through better enforcement of rules is getting mixed reactions during its initial months of implementation.

An overview of the changes that started in April and are scheduled to continue in the months ahead was presented by George Schaaf, Parks and Recreation director for the City and Borough of Juneau, to the Juneau Assembly during its July 1 meeting. Changes in place so far include enforced two-hour daily limits, increased security, and a pay-to-park mobile system.

Other recently implemented changes are a full-time parking ranger for the fiscal year that started July 1, improved standards for custodial contractors, and Parks and Recreation impounding vehicles in place.

Schaaf said the goal is to reduce the number of vehicles parked long-term in short-term spaces, ensuring both the MPG and DTC are utilized at or near capacity year-round, and on-street hourly parking spaces are available near all destinations throughout the day.

“The new system should significantly reduce the amount of time required to manage and enforce parking, especially for the Juneau Police Department and Parks and Recreation, allowing staff to focus on providing other core public services,” he said during the July 1 meeting.

But the changes aren’t being welcomed by everybody. Elyssa Buettel, who works at Rainy Retreat Books, said it’s hard to find free parking for work.

“I work here eight hours a day and I’m driving all the way from Lena Loop,” Buettel said. “It takes half an hour for me to drive here. I can’t park near the store and I have to park five blocks up the hill because there’s the two-hour parking limit. I can’t park down here without kicking 20 people out of the store every two hours.”

The short-term parking rule also discourages visitors from the Mendenhall Valley, said Cordova Pleasants, owner of Cordova’s boutique in downtown Juneau.

“You can’t enjoy downtown,” she said. “In two hours, people coming from the valley don’t have the time to eat and shop. You just can’t do both.”

The updated system is used at all off-street parking facilities in downtown Juneau, including the Marine Parking Garage (MPG) and Downtown Transit Center Garage (DTC). The Juneau Police Department uses the system to enforce free on-street parking downtown, with Docks and Harbors providing enforcement at Auke Bay Statter Harbor and the Downtown Port Facility.

“The two hours that you get of free parking downtown begins when you enter the downtown parking management zone and it is not something that resets the clock by moving your car five feet or a block through an intersection,” Schaaf said. “We want to make sure we’re encouraging folks to park off-street if they’re going to be downtown for a while and make sure that on-street parking is available for people who have a pretty short time to conduct business downtown.”

A map of the downtown parking management zone. (City and Borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation website)

A map of the downtown parking management zone. (City and Borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation website)

Similar systems are already in widespread use by municipalities and universities around the country, including the City of Seattle and the Municipality of Anchorage.

No changes are being made to parking rules according to the Parks and Recreation project overview. However, repeat offenders could see increased fines.

People visiting downtown need to pay to park Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding holidays) at 75 cents per hour.

Parking fines have been $25 per offense since 2013. Schaaf proposed adjusting the first offense for inflation to $35 and then escalating fines to deter repeated violations. The proposed fine structure would be limited to failing to pay for hourly parking or parking without a permit.

According to Parks and Recreation, 20% of all citations are repeat offenders and 38 vehicles received more than three citations just in June. The suggested structure would be $50 for a second offense, $100 for a third, $200 for a fourth and $300 for five times or more. Schaaf said the proposed escalated fine structure is similar to what Sitka does in their harbors.

Total citations issued between May 1 and June 30 of 2024. (Screenshot from City and Borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation presentation)

Total citations issued between May 1 and June 30 of 2024. (Screenshot from City and Borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation presentation)

The proposed fine structure will be considered at the Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole on July 15 with a public hearing.

Among the changes this spring were citations becoming searchable online to make it easier to pay a fine. The same online system can be used to appeal a citation.

Downtown visitors can now purchase a permit online and pay to park using their phones at eight electric pay stations installed at off-street lots and Docks and Harbors lots. Currently, no permits are available for the MPG or DTC, according to the Parks and Recreation website.

The electric pay stations accept cash, coins, credit cards, tap-to-pay and Apple Pay. It’s a license-plate based system, eliminating the need to display a permit. License plate recognition cameras at both MPG and DTC have been installed and mounted on the two JPD community services officers’ scooters.

A newly installed pay to park system is seen by the Downtown Transit Center. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

A newly installed pay to park system is seen by the Downtown Transit Center. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)

The JPD scooters will allow them to enforce the two-hour on street parking rule that has been in place since 2010, but hasn’t been easily enforced, according to Schaaf.

The parking project in total was $301,000 and was funded through the city’s capital improvement project list. It’s been on the CIP since 2012.

“The ongoing annual operating costs are about $52,000,” Schaaf said. “About half of that are fees that are passed through to customers.”

Along with the already completed transitions to modern technology, all new signage for off-street facilities is expected late this summer. Other improvements listed as “coming soon” include new seasonal parking permits for the DTC, releasing additional permits to waitlisted customers, invoicing violations by mail, and buying and extending multi-day Docks and Harbors permits by an app.

• Contact Jasz Garrett at jasz.garrett@juneauempire.com or (907) 723-9356.

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