This story is the first in a multi-part series on Norristown's new parking regulations and procedures and how residents are coping with the change.
It began last summer at a at the Community Center. The meeting in late June was meant to give residents a chance to hear about the state of affairs in Norristown and get a glimpse at where our town was headed. That's when some residents first heard about the new snow ordinance coming that would prohibit saving spaces after you've shoveled your car out.
The new law made it illegal to place any object in the road and noted that crews from Public Works would be driving around picking up any chairs, buckets, trash cans or anything else that was left in the street to save a parking space. Some residents at that meeting were not happy with the news. Space-saving is a time-honored tradition in Norristown and they were reluctant to let it go. on Norristown Patch received 24 comments, almost all against the new rule.
Thankfully, a light winter meant Norristown residents didn't have to deal with the change.
Fast forward to October when the Public Works department around the to make way for new kiosks. With the new kiosks came a new process and
While the rates seemed like less of an issue for folks visiting the courthouse, folks going to the were vocal about having to pay such high fees. The issue was made even more stark by the loss of the loading zone in front of the post office that allowed drivers to park for free for a short time to handle their postal business.
When the issue came up at a council meeting, Norristown Police Chief Russell Bono told council that he had informed Parking Enforcement to give drivers a 15-minute grace period in the four parking spots directly in front of the post office. Employees at the post office say no one informed them or their customers of the grace period and no sign was put up. In fact, they only learned about the grace period when Norristown Patch came in January to ask how the new parking process was working for them and told them about it. They say that parking enforcement was certainly not affording anyone a grace period early on, though during a follow up this week, a postal employee told Norristown Patch that the grace period seems to be in effect now.
The process for using the new kiosks seems to be confusing for some residents as well. The new system models those in some New Jersey shore towns, where you enter your space number into the kiosk, pay your money and take your receipt with you.
Residents and visitors frequently end up at the to complain about receiving a parking ticket even though they had put money in the kiosk. More often than not, the person had entered the wrong parking space number into the kiosk. Residents complain that the new process is confusing and it's not always clear what number is assigned to which space.
There are also the horror stories of overly-aggresive parking enforcement officers who run to ticket a car as quicky as possible and who are beligerent and rude with the people they are ticketing. One out-of-town visitor recently complained to police about a run-in with a rude parking enforcement officer. The woman told police she had parked in a spot and gone to get change for the kiosk from a store across the street and when she returned to pay for her spot, found a parking enforcement officer already writing a ticket. When she approached him and told him she had gone to get change and had returned to pay for her spot, she says the officer told her, "I don't care. I'm writing it anyway." An officer at the station apologized for the way she was treated and revoked the ticket.
According to Councilman Bill Caldwell, as unpleasant as it may be for some residents, parking enforcement and meters are necessary for Norristown and not just a revenue-genrating scheme for the municipality as some detractors have suggested.
"The real reason for the meters is to keep traffic flowing in and out of the parking spots," said Caldwell. "There really is no other way to do it other than parking meters and every other town does the same."
Caldwell does point out that while revenue isn't the main focus of the new parking regulations and prices, it is a positive for the municipality.
"The system we have now generates a whole lot more revenue because it's efficient for us," said Caldwell.
That efficient enforcement is what Caldwell suggests may have some residents who may have been used to a more lax parking policy so upset.
"This is where I think people are angry – it's a whole lot easier for us, with our limited staff, to enforce parking meters than it is to enforce two-hour parking," he said. "It does hold people's feet to the fire a little bit more."
While he recognizes that the new regulations may not be popular with everyone, Caldwell says council is working to make the process a little more pleasant for residents, at least from a price perspective.
"The minimum right now is fifty cents to throw into the meters," said Caldwell (not the full $2 that some residents had believed.) "We're working to drop it down, especially in front of the post office, so they can drop a quarter in."
Caldwell said that all of these new parking measures are part of a larger plan for a revitalized Norristown and are in step with the parking study the municipality commissioned a few years ago.
"The other piece of it that we wanted to do was to drive the long-term parking into the parking garages where it should be," said Caldwell. "Epsecially as more buildings start to go in and new businesses start to open up, we're going to have to have those spaces open up for people who want to come in. That's why we did what we did."
NEXT UP: The West Marshall Street Parking Problem – Business owners in the bustling commercial area say high prices, overly-aggressive enforcement and poor communication from authorities and council are making their lives difficult and driving business away.
COMING SOON: Parking Enforcement – Are the horror stories true or just tall tales told by residents who long for less restrictions?