A New Orleans City Council committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the final steps in the city’s controversial plan to raise parking meter rates.
The changes include higher fines for parking violations as well as an increase in the fees that companies must pay to block off curb spaces near parking meters. The moves represented a victory for critics of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s original proposal.
If the changes are approved by the full council, most parking infractions will cost a driver $10 more, with the initial cost of a ticket rising from $20 to $30. After a month of nonpayment, that cost will increase to $60; after two months, to $90 — up from $40 and $80, respectively, at present.
Film companies and others would pay $70 a day to rent metered spaces in and near the Central Business District and French Quarter, and $30 elsewhere in the city. The rates now are $30 in the CBD, $40 in and near the French Quarter and $20 elsewhere.
The $45 fixed fee companies pay in addition to the daily rate would remain unchanged.
So would parking fines that are typically steeper than the ordinary $20 ticket, such as parking large vehicles in residential areas.
Drivers with disabilities will still be able to park in metered spaces for free.
“What we really want people to do is to park legally, pay the hourly rate and then not get a ticket,” Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin said.
Kopplin detailed the latest version of the parking changes in December as a compromise with critics of the mayor’s original plan.
Under the initial proposal, meter collection hours would have been extended at night from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. and the hourly rate would have gone up by $1.50 in and near the French Quarter and CBD and by 50 cents elsewhere in the city. The plan was described mainly as a way to encourage faster turnover of high-demand parking spaces.
In the face of criticism from the public and some council members, the Landrieu administration kept the proposed meter rate hikes but agreed to extend the evening collection time by only one hour, to 7 p.m. It also agreed to support the steeper fines, suggested by critics as a way to recoup the revenue lost by shortening the proposed hours.
The new meter rates and hours went into effect Jan. 11.
The idea of raising the fee for renting on-street spaces was pushed by Councilman Jared Brossett. He said film and construction companies’ large trucks often occupy multiple parking spaces that would otherwise be available for residents.
It was not clear Tuesday whether the final package of changes is expected to generate the same estimated $4.3 million that Landrieu’s original plan would have. About $1 million of the extra revenue is set to go to increased parking enforcement.
At least one critic of the original plan, Chris Lane of New Orleans Citizens for Fair Parking, said parking enforcement officials have sometimes written erroneous tickets since the new rules went into effect. Kopplin blamed mistakes on human error and urged citizens to contest inaccurate tickets.
Lane and other critics also have called on the city to expand its public transit service, especially at night, to help people who work in restaurants and bars and have relied on low-cost or, after 6 p.m., free on-street parking. The Regional Transit Authority has announced plans to add service to 22 of its routes by March.
Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA.