City Council ups parking ticket cost

Finding a parking space on lower campus can be difficult. To find a space and abide by all parking rules and time limits can be a challenge also.

Starting this year, there are more reasons to park legally.

Fines for two-hour parking spaces along lower campus city streets, such as Garfield, McKinley and Lincoln avenues, went up from $5 to $10 on Jan. 1.

Parking illegally in a handicap spot also went from $30 to $50 and city meter violations rose form $2 to $10, said Craig Tinsman, Eau Claire community service officer.

Eau Claire City Council President Howard White said the two-hour parking violation increase, which passed last fall, is due to the city’s problems with violators not paying their $5 fines and no one pursuing them, he said.

Raising the fine to $10 makes it more likely that police will pursue violators who have accumulated a number of the fines, White said.

Some people also didn’t care about a $5 parking ticket because the chances of getting one were slim, White said, and it also didn’t add up to much of a cost compared to a parking permit’s price.

With the two-hour parking spaces around lower campus, Tinsman said usually there are a minimum of 20 violations a day and a maximum of 60 a day.

“So it’s quite a number,” Tinsman said.

The two-hour limit city streets are checked at least once every weekday, Tinsman said, and twice at the most. He said part of the job is about awareness.

“We try to walk a fine line with violations,” Tinsman said. “You don’t want to go slapping everyone with a ticket.”

Owen Park’s two-hour limits have been used well overall, Tinsman said.

The parking spaces there used to be open time-limit spots but changed to two-hour spots last year.

Improper parking fines, such as blocking a driveway and parking in an off-limits area, remained at $20, he said.

The amount of city parking violations for improper parking given out around lower campus vehicles fluctuates greatly, Tinsman said. Some days there could be six to eight given and other days none, he said.

“It varies widely,” Tinsman said.

Residents report a large amount of improper parking fines, Tinsman said, especially for vehicles blocking driveways in the lower campus neighborhoods.

The rule is that one’s vehicle should be parked at least four feet away from the start of the curb at the driveway’s edge, Tinsman said.

“You have to realize it’s a major hazard,” Tinsman said.

Residents trying to back their vehicle out of a driveway that is narrowed or partially blocked by a parked car cannot view passing traffic well or sometimes make the turn out of the driveway, he said.

Drivers double-parking their vehicles while waiting for a spot to open also is a consistent problem on lower campus, he said, which the police department’s parking office receives many complaints about from city bus drivers.

The $20 violations used to be written more for stopped vehicles in the road waiting for a spot, he said. If the current double-parking problem doesn’t get better, the number of tickets given for it will increase a lot, Tinsman said.

“We’re going to get to the point where we’re going to have to start writing violations for it,” he said.

According to the university’s parking and transportation Web site, the most frequently received tickets on campus are parking without the required permit, parking backwards in a stall or pulling through a stall into another, plugging the wrong meter, parking in a 15-minute zone without lights or flashers on and meter overtime.