HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse says he’s had enough with complaints about Standard Parking’s strict enforcement and he plans to fight for reasonable policy changes.
When Jamie Tomalyanov makes the trek from Mechanicsburg to visit her boyfriend in downtown Harrisburg, she parks on State Street and feeds the meter every time. Often when she spends time with her beau, she’s forced to cough up the dough.
“I get paid bi-weekly, so when I get slapped with a ticket for $30 and it’s in my off0week, I’m usually paying the $50,” Tomalyanov said.
The added charge is because Standard Parking fines automatically jump after four days.
Tomalyanov said the new debit card-accepting meters were welcomed at first. She said many are even liking the new Pango mobile app to pay for parking. Most abc27 spoke with said they have adjusted to the new rates and hours.
But Tomalyanov said any goodwill created has quickly eroded with enforcement officers’ clingy approach to writing fines.
“It was literally as soon as I came out when it was expired, it was a minute or two afterwards,” she said.
Sure, it may not be hard to find a disgruntled patron angered at the new parking system for changing old habits, but what about a person who lauded the benefits of Standard Parking?
Papenfuse said his office has been bombarded with complaints similar to Tomalyanov’s. Even the leader of the Capital City cannot escape expired time.
“I’ve experienced it myself,” Papenfuse said. “I’ve pulled up at a meter, I’ve gotten out my Pango app out on my phone and the parking enforcement officer has been standing there, ready to go – why can’t you hurry up? That’s just poor customer service in every sense of the word.”
The mayor said he is on a mission to lobby for “reasonable” changes to parking policy. He admits the task is tough given a written and Commonwealth Court-approved asset transfer agreement. However, Papenfuse believes there is wiggle room between rules and the Golden Rule.
“You don’t want to turn people off by sitting there and hovering at their car, giving them a ticket one second after the meter expires,” he said.
Now, that’s not to say the mayor believes all aspects of Standard Parking are poor. He said people must understand the parking deal was instrumental in dragging the city out of financial despair. In his mind, it was the only feasible option aside from bankruptcy, which he was and still is against.
Papenfuse said there were always warnings of shared pain. According to abc27 records, former Mayor Linda Thompson mentioned that phrase often when she publicly discussed the Act 47 recovery plan.
After a tentative deal was struck to sell the city’s top asset, outgoing Mayor Thompson said, like others, she would soon have to pay more to the meters.
“It’s all a part of being a team player and helping your city get out of debt and moving forward,” she said.
While Papenfuse agrees the parking deal alleviates that burden, he feels the frustrations of people should be aimed at those who put Harrisburg in this position in the first place.
“That’s what we’re paying off every time people spend $3 to park,” he said, “but that’s no excuse for poor customer service.”
The mayor believes he can fight for friendlier service, and he wants to analyze the cost-benefit ratio of the higher rates and fines before lobbying for change. Papenfuse said it feels likes there are more streets emptier, especially on Saturdays, due to the costs.
He said there should be a balance where everyone wins, and that cannot happen with unsubstantiated claims or complaints.
“[The City can] make an argument that if we lowered rates, more people would park there,” Papenfuse said, “and then measure that and test that in ways that Standard can understand.”
People point to restaurants closing on Second Street, but there have been at least a half-dozen new or revamped eateries open within the past year. With a year’s worth of transition under Standard Parking’s belts, Papenfuse said that could be enough data to spot trends.
The mayor said he plans to discuss his ideas during the next Harrisburg Parking Advisory Board meeting in February.
He said everyone is interested in fiscal recovery and financial success, but having one party take a shortcut on that road slows traffic for others.
“We can have a system that brings in revenue but is also consumer friendly, if we try,” he said.