Report on Parking in Saint Louis Finds Employees Take Best Spots, Don’t Pay
Last year, Saint Louis City began a long-awaited overhaul of the city’s parking meters. After a pilot period where different forms of modern meters were tested in the Central West End, city officials chose new meters that take credit cards and electronic payment through Parkmobile.
Adding new payment options and modernizing parking fee collection is a step forward for the city. Even better, the city commissioned a study to find where demand was highest and where meters were making so little money they could be removed. However, in addition to identifying where and when parking meters should be replaced, the report also scrutinized the city’s existing parking policies. Specifically, the city is allowing government employees to improperly obtain free parking.
According to the report, the city allows any individual employed by the city or county, regardless of their position, to park for free at any metered spot. They only need to display an approved parking permit, and they can park long-term. While some jobs require the ability to quickly access a vehicle (such as police officers), most do not. When city employees take some of the most demanded spots in the city, they hurt local businesses, make it more difficult for residents to park, and reduce the city’s income.
To make matters worse, the city apparently has had no policy for issuing parking permits, nor does it even know how many permits exist. As the report puts it:
In St. Louis, the problem of employees parking in the most convenient on-street parking spaces and not paying is exacerbated by the fact that there is no comprehensive list of authorized and outstanding City issued permits, or a specific set of rules governing which departments are permitted parking permits and why they qualify. This makes it nearly impossible to determine which vehicles displaying permits are parked for legitimate City business and which are not.
The obvious solution is for the city to come up with guidelines that decide which positions require parking permits and only issue permits necessary for these employees. The city should also track who has permits and for what reason. These common-sense fixes will improve parking downtown, to the benefit of Saint Louisans and the city’s bottom line.