KCRG-TV9’s i9 Team receives 0 tickets after parking illegally for over two weeks

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 7:54 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team didn’t receive a ticket after we parked an unmarked car around Cedar Rapids for more than two weeks without entering any money into a coin meter.

We parked the car in the morning and left the vehicle there until parking meters are no longer enforced, which is 6 p.m. The following day, we repeated the process in a different parking spot. A ticket was never placed on our windshield and a database to pay citations had no tickets under our unmarked car’s license plate.

Park Cedar Rapids, which is a private company, has an agreement with the city of Cedar Rapids to enforce and maintain coin and electronic parking meters within the city. Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell said the contract is set to expire in December 2022.

She said our i9 Team’s findings are disappointing because the city relies on revenue from parking tickets to fund the maintenance of parking ramps and other capital improvement projects.

“It’s important that they are able to meet their obligations and it would seem to me if we aren’t handling all the meters equally it might not be that advantageous to us,” Mayor O’Donnell said.

She said the city had to make up a funding gap after Park Cedar Rapids didn’t give out enough parking tickets during the pandemic. Mayor O’Donnel said the city needs to have “critical conversations” with Park Cedar Rapids to hold them accountable.

“I think we need to have a conversation about the structure,” she said. “Is this intentional? Is there intention around not monitoring coins versus spending more time on electronics? Is there a strategy there? If so, I think we need to know why because the city does depend on money from Park Cedar Rapids and it’s clear that last year we didn’t get all that we were due.”

Park Cedar Rapids said it gave out 10,772 parking citations in 2021 and has already given out 769 citations in January so far. The revenue from parking meters is $268,012.96, according to the company. It also said it has received just under $100,000 in paid citations.

Jon Rouse, who is the General Manager for Park Cedar Rapids, said the vast majority of tickets are given out at electronic meters. He said that’s because there are more spaces with electronic meters.

Rouse said his company gives people who use the electronic meters a seven-minute buffer, which isn’t extended to people who use coin meters. He also said one car has a license plate recognition unit that can scan license plates in certain parking locations downtown, but those don’t apply to coin meters.

“We aren’t enforcing it the same way,” Rouse said. “The way we have to enforce those coin meters, they aren’t ‘smart meters’ if you will, you actually have to get out and check the coin meter.”

Multiple local businesses in the downtown Cedar Rapids area told our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team that downtown parking makes it harder to attract customers. Those include Adam Hadjis, who owns Gianna’s Italian Beef. He said the way parking is enforced isn’t fair to his restaurant, especially with free parking in places like Newbo Market.

“There’s a fear of parking downtown and the fact that it’s not being enforced would draw a lot more customers downtown,” Hadjis said. “That’s probably my biggest frustration.”

Mayor O’Donnell said she understand their frustration, but said the revenue the city earns from parking is necessary to maintain existing infrastructure that exists downtown.

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