Beaufort still working out kinks in new downtown parking system

August 30, 2010 

  • The city of Beaufort's Redevelopment Commission hired Lanier Parking Solutions last year to design and enforce a new parking system, which city officials said the city alone could not afford.Lanier has written almost 1,000 more tickets since Dec. 1 as the city did for the same time period in 2008-09, city comptroller Mack Cook said. Since raising its hourly parking rate from 50 cents to $1 and the ticket fee from $3 to $10 on July 1, revenue from both sources has risen. July 1 to Aug. 31, 2009 July 1 to Aug. 24, 2010 Normal parking space payments $33,408 $52,324 Parking ticket fines $5,473 (city-wide) $8,711 (downtown Beaufort only) Leased parking $6,510 $3,517 Source: City of Beaufort

It's been two months since the city of Beaufort launched a new downtown parking system, replete with new parking kiosks and higher hour rates and fines.

And that's been enough time to conclude a few things need improvement.City officials say they've listened to suggestions -- and, well, complaints -- from motorists, merchants and Main Street Beaufort, USA, to make parking more user-friendly.Changes included more signs to explain the system, painting parking space numbers on the curb and changing settings on the pay stations to make them more efficient.

City manager Scott Dadson and city comptroller Mack Cook explained the changes:

• Signage: One benefit of the new parking system, which called for removing individual meters from much of downtown, was less visual clutter, proponents said. However, there were few signs to help motorists find the nearest pay station -- or to even alert them they have to pay to park.The city initially put up 12 signs along Bay Street, two signs in the downtown marina parking lot, one sign in the Beaufort County Library parking lot and one sign at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park playground."We are trying to make sure we are both balancing aesthetic concerns and remaining customer friendly," Dadson said.

Beaufort recently removed the original signs and replaced them with 18 signs on Bay Street, three signs in the Downtown Marina parking lot, two in the Beaufort County Library parking lot and one at the playground -- all with new and clearer wording, Cook said.

• Space numbers: Some customers said they had a difficult time reading the parking-space numbers painted on the street after they had just pulled their cars over them.

The city has since painted new numbers on curbs next to each parking space along Bay Street.

"That makes a lot more sense because you can now get out of your car, walk around to the curb and look at the number from the sidewalk rather than having to stand in the street to see it," City Councilman Mike Sutton said.

Sutton said spots in the marina parking lot still need attention. With no curb, parking space numbers are painted only toward the end of each spot. In some cases, a vehicle completely covers the number, making it impossible to see, Sutton said.

• Pay stations: The city has reprogrammed the pay stations so making a payment doesn't take as much time, Cook said. Instead of a welcome-to-Beaufort screen, customers now go directly to a transaction screen when they approach a kiosk.

The city also is considering purchasing screens that would dampen glare created by sunlight, Cook said.

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