A 'thank you' instead of a parking fine

Chapel Hill takes anew approach

Staff writerJuly 4, 2009 

— First-time parking meter violators in and around Franklin Street won't find a citation on their windshield if their meter runs out.

Instead, they'll find a note, saying "Thank you for visiting downtown Chapel Hill."

On Wednesday the town began a "courtesy ticket" program that dismisses first-time violators' $15 citation. The courtesy ticket applies to metered street parking only, not parking decks and lots or parking on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

Durham eliminated its parking meters a few years ago. The parking administrator for Raleigh, Gordon Dash, doesn't see courtesy tickets in Raleigh's future and said it's up to the agent issuing the ticket to reduce it to a warning.

Becky Broun called the new tickets a nice gesture as she rushed out of Browns Paint and Hardware to beat the meter Wednesday morning.

"I can see why they are doing it for people who aren't quite clear on the rules," she said. "It's good for residents and visitors who are visiting [for] the games."

The town will issue one courtesy ticket per vehicle per calendar year. People who have already gotten a ticket this year are ineligible for a courtesy ticket until next year.

Katie Fanfani, an employee at the Uniquities women's boutique, said the courtesy tickets should help her customers.

"A lot of people come in asking for change for the meters," she said. "I ask people if they want to try something on, and they're like, 'Oh, my meter's going to run out!'"

The Chapel Hill Town Council approved the program in March after a consultant's study and citizens committee looked at ways to improve parking downtown.

"Parking is an issue in Chapel Hill, and folks would let us know," said Meg McGurk, assistant director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, which partnered with Rich and Associates on the study. "We do get e-mails, phone calls and letters about complaints."

The town issued 2,504 parking tickets last year, collecting $37,560 in revenue. One in three were first-time violations.

With the courtesy program, the town expects to lose about $12,394 in ticket revenue this fiscal year.

alicia.banks@newsobserver .com or 919-932-2005

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