RALEIGH — Downtown motorists can put away their rulers and park with less fear of coming back to the bright orange $20 tickets that for months had blanketed cars parked more than a foot from street curbs.
That's because Raleigh's City Council unanimously decided Tuesday that cars sitting within 8-foot-wide marked spaces on city streets shouldn't be slapped with tickets for parking too far from the curb.
The council's action came in reaction to a soaring number of citations handed out for the little-known 12-inch rule, which allowed meter attendants to ticket cars found to be more than a foot from a street curb. In 2008, 379 tickets were issued for the violation. That number jumped to 4,587 in 2009, a total of $91,000 in fines.
Angry motorists complained they didn't know about the rule. Moreover, they thought they were parking correctly after seeing that their cars fit within the spaces marked by the city with white paint.
The tickets had been handed out by Park Raleigh, a private company contracted by the city to handle traffic enforcement. The contractor increased ticketing last year after city staff complained that revenue levels from tickets weren't high enough.
The city is taking parking enforcement back under its control by the beginning of June, just in time for the unveiling in March of new parking pay stations.
In downtown Raleigh, the Glenwood South area and the N.C. State University campus, the pay stations will let motorists use credit cards and coins to buy time.
The council's decision Tuesday to relax the parking rules, which takes effect Feb. 23, isn't a free-for-all for bad parking.
Cars sticking out of the painted spaces are still subject to the $20 fine, as are vehicles jutting into traffic. Tickets can still be written for cars parked more than a foot from a curb that aren't in marked spaces.
Before taking care of the 12-inch rule Tuesday, Raleigh's council members bypassed another simmering parking controversy -front-yard parking - by having that issue return to a committee for later discussion.
The yard-parking issue will be back before the council at a future meeting, when the council will have to decide whether it wants to adopt rules to prohibit residents from parking on their front lawns.
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