Analysis pinpoints hot spots for expired-meter tickets in downtown
By Andy Boyle
If you plan to park downtown west of Main Street in Little Rock, be sure to bring enough quarters.
An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette analysis of three years of Little Rock parking ticket data found that 11 of the blocks with the most meter infractions were west of Main Street, with six of those blocks on Capitol Avenue. It also found that Wednesday was the prime ticket-giving day during the workweek, with Friday being the last.
The city wrote about 81,500 tickets for meters out of time from June 16, 2005, through June 16 of this year. An expired-meter ticket is $15 if it’s paid within 30 days. If not, it bumps up to $50.
In addition, the city wrote more than 25,000 parking tickets during the three-year period for other offenses, including staying more than two hours in a nonmetered space, parking on the wrong side of the street, parking in a fire lane or parking on a crosswalk.
The largest chunk of expiredmeter tickets were written in the 600 block of West Capitol Avenue between Arch and Gaines streets, next to the federal courthouse complex. Parking enforcement wrote more than 6,100 tickets on that block between June 16, 2005, and June 16 of this year.
Late Friday morning, nine of 13 cars parked on the north side of the 600 block of West Capitol Avenue had parking tickets. And on the north side of the 500 block — which is ranked 11th for most tickets — six of 10 parked cars had tickets.
That was the handiwork of John Honea, 66, who’s worked in parking enforcement for more than eight years. He’s one of the three full-time ticket writers, and Honea holds the distinction among his peers of writing the most tickets.
According to the analysis, he’s written more than 26,000, which comes to about 34 a day. The next person on the list has about 7,000 fewer.
Honea said he doesn’t do much different from the other attendants. He works the same time as everyone else, from about 8 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m. — with the meters going until 6 p.m. He normally starts at the area in his designated zone where there are usually a lot of tickets to write, and then works his way around the area. Some days there are more tickets to write, he said, some days fewer.
“Some days they pay their meters more than they do other days,” he said. “Why they do that, I have no idea.”
After he’s finished writing tickets in his designated zone for that day, he will head to get a drink of water and wait 10 minutes before starting his route over again. On Friday, that meant hitting up the 600 block of West Capitol first.
That block, and most of downtown, falls within the realm of Jack Wrenn. He’s the head of parking enforcement for the city’s 1,399 parking meters, so he knows the reasons behind most of Little Rock’s ticket hot spots.
The 600 block of West Capitolis is where the federal courthouse is located.
“Jurors,” he said, explaining the abundance of tickets. “They’re getting the most tickets.”
But the jurors have some luck on their side: They don’t have to pay their fines. Arkansas Code 16-31-105 says state and federal jurors can’t be “subject to a fine or other penalty for the offense of overtime parking.”
Jurors are instructed to park at meters and not pay, said James McCormack, clerk of the federal court. Then when a juror’s vehicle is ticketed, he hands the ticket off to the court administrators and parking enforcement voids the ticket.
If the ticket is enforced and not voided, the Arkansas Code says the enforcer could be “subject to contempt proceedings before the judge of the court being served by the person so charged.”
McCormack said that hasn’t been a problem. The court summoned about 13,000 people for jury duty in 2007, he said, and averages about 354 expired-meter tickets a month.
“It’s worked out pretty well,” he said of jurors’ parking situation.
The area around the federal courthouse also had the most people who were fined for feeding their meter — putting in money to stay over the maximum-allowed two hours. It had 17 of the 29, according to the analysis.
Other areas downtown don’t get the jury ticket bump. The third most tickets for expired parking meters were written in the northeast part of the River Market on the 100 block of Sherman Street, with more than 2,200 tickets written.
Wrenn said most of those parking tickets are the result of people not realizing how long it takes to walk to their destination.
So by the time the parkers come back, he said their meters have expired and a ticket is under the windshield wiper.
The intersection at West Capitol Avenue and South Spring Street is another hot spot for meter violations, according to the analysis.
Wrenn said that’s because the area has so many attorneys and banks that generate a lot of office traffic.
Not all meter violations are accidental. Some people, Wrenn said, seem to think a ticket is worth being able to park closer to where they are going.
“Some people are amazing,” he said. “They just pay their parking tickets on a daily basis.”
That’s what the owner of a gray Nissan Maxima who parks consistently on the 100 block of West Second Street seems to do.
Parking enforcement data show the car’s owner has received 180 tickets in three years, almost all within a one-block radius.
On Friday the Maxima was parked on West Second Street’s southwest side about 11:20 a.m., roughly 20 yards from the entrance to a parking garage that costs $7.50 for 24 hours of parking.
Two cars behind the Maxima, Terri Parker West was popping change into a meter for her white Ford Explorer. West said she parks downtown only for short meetings, which is why she was putting in two quarters for 30 minutes.
“For a short, quick meeting it’s more hassle to park in a parking garage,” she said.
And she’s yet to get a ticket for parking downtown, she said, prompting her to look at the meter.
“Well, I’m down to 27 minutes,” she said. “So I better get going.”
West didn’t want her vehicle to end up like the Maxima. Ticket No. 181 was under its right wiper.