Parking vandalism exasperating
Vandals have continued to target Park City’s paid-parking infrastructure two months after a revamped system debuted, a trend that was not expected to be so problematic and one that, according to a City Hall-hired consultant, is unusual in the country.
Park City in mid-December revamped the paid-parking system in the Main Street core. A key change was the reintroduction of paid parking to the China Bridge garage and Swede Alley after those locations had been free parking for years. City Hall installed parking gates as part of the revamp.
Vandals quickly targeted the infrastructure as broken or damaged gate arms were discovered repeatedly. People driving through the gate arms caused some of the damage while other incidents involved someone physically damaging the gate arms themselves.
The consultant, Julie Dixon, and Kenzie Coulson, who is the parking and fleet manager at City Hall, appeared at a recent Park City Council meeting to provide an update about the paid-parking system. They addressed the vandalism in their comments and Coulson co-authored a report to the elected officials that included information about the problems. Mayor Andy Beerman at the recent meeting said the vandalism must stop.
The report indicates there has been an average of one gate arm broken daily since officials revamped the paid-parking system. The report says a broken gate arm leads to lost revenue and the possible loss of data collected as part of the system.
The report describes the cases as an “exasperating rate of vandalism to the gate arms in the China Bridge Garage.”
In an interview, the consultant said the vandalism similar to the cases in Park City is uncommon elsewhere in the country. Dixon said she has worked in hundreds of municipalities without cases like the ones in Park City. They are “deliberate, malicious,” she said.
“I’m appalled. It’s embarrassing,” she said, describing that the problems in Park City “suddenly became a daily occurrence.”
In some of the cases, a perpetrator has walked by a gate and then purposely broken the arm, she said. In other cases, she said, someone has driven through normally, parked their vehicle, walked to a gate arm and broken the arm.
Dixon described issues in other communities with similar paid-parking systems as less serious than those in Park City. She said drivers elsewhere drive through a gate arm by accident rather than purposely doing so.
“You come to expect that. That’s why you have spare gate arms,” she said about accidental damage.
Dixon said security cameras were not installed at the outset of the revamped program since it was not expected they would be needed. Cameras, though, were installed shortly after the vandalism began, she said.
Dixon noted the vandalism cases have required City Hall to expend resources as the damage is addressed. She said, as an example, Park City police officers have needed to respond to the reports, taking them away from other cases.
The Police Department estimates each case has involved approximately $1,000 in damage to the gate arms. The department has said it did not anticipate there would be so many issues and increased police monitoring of the paid-parking infrastructure after the first set of cases were reported.
City Hall revamped the paid-parking system in an effort to ensure there was ample parking available for Main Street customers. People who worked on Main Street occupied an outsized number of parking spots, leaving reduced availability for customers, officials found prior to the revamp. It was one of the most significant changes to the paid-parking system since its introduction in the late 1990s as places where employees parked for free like the China Bridge garage and Swede Alley were converted into paid locations.
There remains concern, though, that the parking charges cut into employees’ income. City Hall says there remains free parking on the fringes of the Main Street core. Officials also opened a park-and-ride lot on Homestake Road for Main Street workers.
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