A Breakdown of the Parking Adjudication Strategic Plan

The City’s Parking Adjudication Strategic Plan will be introduced to the City Commission on Tuesday, May 21st. A commission vote on the Plan will occur at a later meeting, but what change will occur if it is passed? Let’s quickly break down the intended change in policy. View the entire text of the Parking Adjudication Strategic Plan (PDF).

Why is the City considering a change?

The current system is considered by some to be overly punitive. Failure to pay a ticket may result in a notice to appear in court, and warrants may be issued if that court date is missed. We believe that parking enforcement is meant to simply foster and assist the downtown economy; it shouldn’t punish people too harshly for small mistakes such as forgetting about a parking ticket. Nevertheless, parking enforcement is still vital for the prosperity of our downtown space. Parking payments encourage turnover in valuable parking spaces, and this turnover is vital to help support downtown businesses. Parking adjudication simply attempts to make the current system more intuitive by adjusting the post-citation procedure and streamlining the appeals process.

How is the citations process changing if the Plan is passed?

The Plan will effectively shift parking enforcement to a civil process rather than a criminal offense. This means that instead of unpaid parking citations being handled in court, an unpaid citation will put one at risk for demobilization – such as a boot or tow. Also, it designates that Parking staff will handle and process appeals rather than Municipal Court. Additionally, the citation appeal period will be extended (from 10 days to 21 days) as well as the time until late fees occur (from day 10 to one late fee after day 21 and a second after day 42). The appeals process will also be extended, allowing those to file for appeal three times instead of the single appeal currently allotted. At the second level of appeal, those with a violation will make their case to a nonaffiliated 3rd party review board, creating a second level of accountability and ensuring complete fairness within the civil appeal process. Lastly, the Plan includes a month-long amnesty program that will allow anybody with standard parking citations (excluding long-forms such as parking in handicap tickets and those currently on citation payment plans with the City) to pay just half of their current outstanding debt to the City. For example, during the amnesty program, if one has two standard $10 tickets, they would only owe $10 rather than the full $20 originally issued.

Why will the City use demobilization practices?

Demobilization can be frustrating, but the practice is more cost-effective and faster than the current court process. Parking staff is optimistic that this method will be rarely used with the increased communication effort related to citations. Under the Plan, demobilization would not be considered until a vehicle has accumulated three or more citations, all of which would have been issued over 60 days prior. Also, all boots employed by the City will be self-releasable, allowing anyone subject to demobilization to quickly and easily have vehicle access after paying their outstanding fine.

Why should the appeals process be handled by Parking?

Parking is already tasked to issue citations. By having the same department also accept fines and process appeals, the system is faster and simplified. Also, Parking handling appeals ensures reliable and accurate information, which helps to educate and avoid future citations.

Why is the month-long amnesty program offering a deduction on outstanding citations?

Parking has managed to remain budget positive without these unpaid funds, so a deduction will not adversely affect the City. The amnesty program enables citizens to adjust to the new parking enforcement measures and contributes to the betterment of the local community. Of the 50% collected, 25% will go towards funding Parking and the remaining 25% will be donated to the Douglas County Community Foundation.

What is not being changed?

The Plan will not change any practice prior to the act of writing a citation. Only the process after the citation is given will be affected.

How did this begin?

The Plan was originally considered to ease the downtown parking experience and the appeals process for Lawrence visitors. Under the current system, anyone with a citation can appeal by attending the in-person parking docket at Municipal Court, though this is often difficult for visitors. Growing concern that this method was punitive and difficult led Parking to employ Dixon Resources Unlimited, a transportation consultation firm. After obtaining data and sentiment from hundreds of Lawrence citizens, Dixon’s assessment and recommendations led to the drafting of the Parking Adjudication Strategic Plan.