Norwalk Parking Authority’s expected $972K from tickets draws concern

Norwalk Parking Authority Chairman Dick Brescia, second from right, speaks to Common Council members Thursday in City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – Money has piled up for Norwalk Parking Authority simultaneously with an increase in ticketing.

While Parking Authority Chairman Dick Brescia explained at Thursday’s Common Council Finance Committee meeting that the reasons for the increase in ticketing are separate from the increased fund balance, there was a consensus that the Authority’s efforts at improvement need to continue.

The Parking Authority’s 2017-18 proposed budget anticipates $972,714 in revenue from parking tickets, up from the current year total of $786,501, and about $1.1 million in the fund balance, or fund surplus.

A Board of Estimate and Taxation member recently called the $972,714 “extremely high and appeared to be relevant to the charge that we were being overly aggressive, in passing out the tickets,” Brescia said.

The “fact of the matter” is that Stamford, Greenwich, Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford get more revenue from violations, he said.

“While we would prefer that there was no revenue from violations, if you are going to have meters and you are going to try to create turnover some people are going to violate their time periods. So we wind up with ticketing. Ticketing is a fact of life as it shows in these other cities as well,” Brescia said.

Increased violations stem partially from more meters in the West Avenue area, and from increasing the hours, he said.

The current Authority is looking not to get caught short, attempting to balance long-term and short term planning, Brescia explained. This led to hiring parking consulting company Desman Associates in June, 2015, to do a parking study and then factoring in the results in the parking rates a year later.

The idea is to create turnover, rather than having people park all day in front of businesses, but the Authority was concerned about driving people away and has been comparing results to previous years, monthly, Brescia said.

There are “too many tickets” in SoNo and the Authority has scaled back its enforcement from midnight to 8 p.m., Brescia said.

There are near-term plans to try to create a better image for the Authority, and reduce ticketing, he said.

Soon, in limited areas and limited times, instead of handing out tickets enforcement officers will put a token in the meter and leave a note, giving motorists another 20 minutes, he said.

This will hopefully cut back on complaints about tickets issued when the driver was only three or four minutes late, he said. That will be in two different locations in the city, on different days.

The other idea he declined to discuss in public.

The Parking Authority is also concerned about the fund balance, he said, explaining that this stems from a conversation that Norwalk Administrative Services Manager Kathryn Hebert had two years ago with a member of the Finance Department, who said the fund balance was too low.

“We were building up to meet two months of operating costs,” Brescia said. “I will take responsibility for missing the fact that we made that up about a year ago.”

Now it’s a conundrum, he said, rhetorically asking if the Parking Authority continue to build the fund balance to be able to buy land or new products in the future, or cut back.

“We are wrestling with that and you may have some suggestions, too, but we have a long list of items in our to do list that are capital expenses and parking related, that add up to quite a bit of money,” Brescia said.

It’s a 25 percent increase in violations, Council member John Kydes (D-District C) said.

“I understand the reasons,” he said. “… I just think more can be done to lower the amount of violations.”

The tokens are a good start but they’re not enough, he said.

“We need to think outside the box here and do whatever we can, especially in South Norwalk area. I mean that’s the focal point,” Kydes said. “I understand there’s an increase down there but the restaurants and businesses aren’t seeing it. I know because I talk to them.”

Brescia said, “That’s high on our agenda.”


10 responses to “Norwalk Parking Authority’s expected $972K from tickets draws concern”

  1. Lisa Thomson

    Having been a victim of the predatory parking authority, I can honestly say, Norwalk has its city management priorities wrong. We aggressively enforce parking, bringing in relatively paltry sums – but angering residents and would be patrons of our business districts, killing off far more in revenues and reputation.

    Just imagine, if the same amount of aggressive City energy was put into enforcing blight ordinances, illegal appartments or coherent planning and zoning? We might just be able to grow our Grand List and fund our school system! Then again, on second thought, with the NFT demands, maybe not…

  2. NonPartisan

    @lisa- our tax assessor is equally competent at maximizing revenues.

    If one believes that government exists to serve its tax paying citizen constituents than maybe we would be equally aggressive at enforcing zoning, illegal apartments, traffic laws, garbage and refuse collection, keeping our parks and roads in top shape, and cooperating with The federal government in immigration enforcement.

  3. M. Murray

    How about ending parking fees at Webster St lot. Turnover is not an issue there and it will draw more people to Sono

  4. Bob Welsh

    “Soon, in limited areas and limited times, instead of handing out tickets enforcement officers will put a token in the meter and leave a note, giving motorists another 20 minutes, he said.
    This will hopefully cut back on complaints about tickets issued when the driver was only three or four minutes late, he said. That will be in two different locations in the city, on different days.”

    What areas of the city?

    Also, do I understand correctly that parking in the SoNo lots is now free after 8pm?

  5. Debora Goldstein

    This token concept is a terrible idea. It is selective enforcement and may open the NPA to challenges. A better idea would be to expand the durations permitted per revenue unit (effectively a price decrease, but one that reduces the risk of a ticket while engaged in productive economic activity).

    Another thing the NPA is phenomenally poor at, is the communication of how much parking costs before the parking commitment is made. Signage visible before someone parks ensures that they understand the transaction and plans accordingly. This is especially important for visitors from out of town.

    Managing “turnover” includes making sure it doesn’t become “turn away”.

  6. broken record

    Parking is awful in most of Norwalk … and I agree that there definitely are “predatory practices” in regards to enforcing.

  7. Nora K King

    I cannot even believe the tone from the Parking Authority. We need to be business friendly and stop running the authority as a business. Norwalk’s parking is just a disgrace. I had friends who went to Fat Cat and they had no idea that paid parking was even there because there are no signs and only one booth. Just to go out to dinner it cost them $50 in parking fees. As someone who goes out in Stamford, New Canaan and Westport often – Norwalk is by far the worst.

    If Norwalk’s intent is drive businesses and restaurants out of town they are going to do a good job of it if they keep up this parking police mentatlity.

  8. Michael McGuire

    Here is a suggestion

    Since anyone overstaying the time limit in a NPA parking space is likely doing one of two things – either they are conducting business in our fare City or they are spending money for entertainment on a tax paying business in the City. Why not place a premium parking fee of say $3.00 for any parking space that goes beyond the limit. Said fee would be for then next full time increment.

    You could include a short statement on the ticket like:

    “Thank you for your patronage of Norwalk, we understand that your overstaying the time limit is a factor of your doing business or shopping here in Norwalk which we very much appreciate. This premium parking fee is for your convenience and reflects the added value of this space for the next hour.

    Please remit payment via…. (however NPA deals with this).

    I know many Norwalk residents and non residents that will not go to SoNo, myself included, solely in response to the predatory parking fees system.

  9. Donna

    The balance between parking violations revenue and business friendly parking is still out of sight in Norwalk. Lots of cities manage to do both. Better enforcement is one piece of the puzzle. Business friendly parking regulations is another. I’m a proponent of opposite side of street parking in select locations in Norwalk as a revenue builder and a means of facilitating street cleaning.

  10. Danny

    I happen to agree with the parking authority. They are taking into consideration the increased number of residents now living in Norwalk. Statistically speaking, this should yield a larger number of infractions.

    They are spot on.

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