BY JOE WESSELS
Loveland Local News
LOVELAND, Ohio — The city’s new parking meter program includes not only on-street meters but a large surface lot downtown and has more bark than bite – for now.
The 90-day trial program – set to begin last week but was delayed because of delays installing the parking meters – will not result in fines if a motorist does not pay for the spot, according to Loveland Police Chief D. Sean Rahe.
“Officers are only issuing warnings during the pilot period,” Rahe said in an email. After the trial expires, motorists cited must pay a $70 fine, a price tag subject to change. “The city and Council have the option of adjusting any fine amounts after the pilot period.”
The trial program includes 13 on-street parking spaces, plus 42 parking spaces behind Paxton’s Grill, Loveland Sweets and Plaid Room Records on a city-owned lot next to Loveland City Hall.
The ParkMobile app – the same app the city of Cincinnati uses for parking – can pay for spots. Paying for surface lot spots happens at one of two kiosks, or motorists can use the app or pay a single-space meter with cash or a credit card, Rahe said.
The now-free, soon not-free on-street spots are along West Loveland Avenue, Broadway Street, Harrison and Railroad avenues, plus Karl Brown Way. The parking rate will be $1 per hour – which the city keeps. San Diego-based parking management service provider IPS Group will add 35 cents per session, their service fee. IPS pays for the meters and the kiosks in exchange.
The city has budgeted $5,000 to install the current poles. It was unclear whether the budgeted amount includes removing the existing incorrect stanchions, new pole purchase and installation and the city’s public works department employees’ time to collect money from the meters. Regardless, Rahe said the city expects to recover any costs in parking fees.
The 2014 Downtown Parking Advisory Committee, or DPAC, recommended all parking spots in downtown Loveland have a posted time limit. DPAC hoped this would encourage long-term bike path users who park their cars, go on extended rides and take up prime spaces near restaurants and businesses, from using those spots – particularly on good-weather days when downtown Loveland gets crowded.
Chalking tires was the city’s preferred way to catch time-violating motorists for years. Still, even that method had limitations, the chief said. For example, a car parked in a “4-hour” spot would have to be parked first beyond the posted limit. Once it was noticed, in, say, five hours, the tire could be chalked and then four hours after the wheel was chalked, a citation could be issued.
“Then, an officer would have to mark the tire and return in four more hours to see if the car had moved,” Rahe said. “This effectively made a 4-hour parking space about a 9-hour (space).”
However, the police chief said a 2019 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati eliminated that method altogether. The court said using chalk to mark tires equated to a Fourth Amendment violation against unreasonable search because a government official had to physically touch a citizen’s property, which requires a warrant. Meters change that, he said.
“The city’s ability to manage the time limits has been reduced significantly,” he said. “The meters are just a new way to measure those same time limits and manage the existing parking restrictions.”
Rahe said the city does not track specific downtown-related parking offenses. The city ordinance for parking violations also covers other parking violations besides time violations. It is hard to determine how many violators were caught downtown and if those were time violations. Despite that, the city issued 92 parking violations using the city’s ordinance in 2018 and 99 in 2019. Last year there were just 31, according to city records.
There has been no indication when the program might begin now, and the city said in a news release they would announce a new kick-off date.