Sep 21 2017
02:16 pm
By: michael kaplan  shortURL


It would be really nice if the city removed those parking meters in front of our downtown library, so users could check out and return books and a/v material without having to worry about getting a ticket.

R. Neal's picture

Couldn't people just feed it

Couldn't people just feed it a quarter instead of vandalizing public property?

j.f.m.'s picture

We worked with the Library

We worked with the Library when we put those meters in. They are set for 30 minutes instead of the two hours allowed elsewhere to encourage turnover so more people can use the spaces for precisely the purpose of short visits to the library. If there were no meters and no chance of getting a ticket, I imagine those spaces would be occupied all day, probably by guests or employees of the hotel across the street.

michael kaplan's picture

There used to be 15-minute

There used to be 15-minute free parking and there was almost always a spot available. I don't know who "the Library" is, but everyone I've spoken to at the library - including its users - hates the meters. Why would anyone have to pay to drop off a book?

Just received this comment from a friend in Murfreesboro:

"Murfreesboro city has a short spot to parallel park that holds maybe 3 vehicles for just that purpose... There is also an underground parking garage that is free with a book drop."

j.f.m.'s picture

All I'm saying is that we

All I'm saying is that we very deliberately structured that parking to provide short-term parking for library patrons. If there was no enforcement, those spaces would not be available. I'm not going to waste time arguing over paying 25 cents to park on a public street. Just explaining that those spaces very much take the needs of library users into consideration.

michael kaplan's picture

If the city has people

If the city has people enforcing the meters downtown, then the same people could enforce the 15- or 30-minute library parking. There was never a significant problem when there were no meters, so why now? Unless the city has to pay off the cost of installing those 3 or 4 meters ..

j.f.m.'s picture

Yes, it's all a big cash grab

Yes, it's all a big cash grab at 25 cents a pop. At that rate those meters will pay for themselves (and their enforcement) in no time at all! Maybe even this century.

No, it's because a.) without meters, enforcement is difficult and expensive, you have to chalk tires or something similarly labor intensive; and b.) we do not share your philosophical aversion to (very) modest fees for the personal use of public space. Nor your enthusiasm for vandalism of public property.

Knoxoasis's picture

Remember this guy?

Treehouse's picture

No problem

I am not bothered by paying in coins for the privilege of parking right in front of the library to do a quick pickup or drop off. I was just surprised when a meter near Krutch Park required payment beyond 6:00 pm.

j.f.m.'s picture

Also, a library staffer

Also, a library staffer reminded me of two things:

-- If you park at the Locust garage (one block away) and bring your parking slip to the library, you can get it validated for up to an hour of free parking.

-- And when those meters were free, they were primarily enforced by the library staff themselves, which entailed towing cars on a semi-regular basis because people would leave them there for protracted periods. They are not having to do that anymore.

michael kaplan's picture

Who actually enforces the

Who actually enforces the new, high-tech meters, and what is the process? Does someone sit at a master control board or is this just drive-by looking for the blinking red lights?

j.f.m.'s picture

The Public Building Authority

The Public Building Authority does downtown parking enforcement, under contract with the City. They mostly do it the old-fashioned way, by walking around and looking at meters, commercial tags, etc.

jmcnair's picture

While we're on the subject...

I like having meters, especially with the card option for payment.

One question I do have is about the enforcement of the 2 hour limit after the 6 PM (or whatever) end of day for meters. I think I've heard that tickets are not written then (and one of the parking guys I asked said there's no mechanism to do it) but after the way that limit _was_ enforced on Gay Street when parking was free with a 2 hour limit I'm not sure.

I would prefer not to host a 3 hour party at my apartment and have all the guests get parking tickets as their parting prize.

j.f.m.'s picture

Most meters do not charge

Most meters do not charge after 6 pm, but there are exceptions so you need to look at the meters. Gay Street meters have to be paid until 10 pm, and the streets immediately adjacent to Market Square do too. There is no charge anywhere on Sundays.

And as we never tire of pointing out, there are thousands of spaces in the public parking garages that are free every evening after 6 pm and all weekend. Those garages are all just a few minutes walk from Gay Street and Market Square.

jmcnair's picture

Let me clarify my question.

Does the 2-hour limit apply during hours after the meter has quit for the day? Can I get a ticket for parking from 7 to 10 pm at a 2-hour meter that only accepts payment until 6 o'clock?

(And thanks for wading back into the minutiae.)

j.f.m.'s picture

Oh I get what you're asking.

Oh I get what you're asking. No, the two-hour limit is not enforced when the meter is not accepting payment. So in spaces where the meters indicate hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., you can park after 6 and leave any time before 8 the next morning.

jmcnair's picture

Cool. Thanks.

Cool. Thanks.

Hayduke's picture

The other neat thing is that

The other neat thing is that if you show up early in the morning you can go ahead and put money in and it won't start eating into your paid time until 8am.

jkb's picture

So this accomplished what?

So this accomplished what? Now the next user just can't read anything on the screen. The amount of griping over the meters continues to astound me. As someone who's lived and worked in downtown (and lives on Gay St) for that past 10 years, I think that the meters are fantastic (as is Jesse's patience in constantly responding to the griping). Since the switch to meters, it has become far easier to find a spot on Gay St for those quick dropoff/pick up times--in other words, the City's goal is starting to work. In my experience, the PBA guys are fantastic as well, great ambassadors to Knoxville. I routinely see them stop someone and point out that if they don't move from a commercial zone/feed the meter, they'll get a ticket, offer directions to the garages or to a more suitable street space, etc, all in a polite and kind manner. If this is a money grab, they're going about it in all the wrong ways with how much the enforcement guys will go out of their way to NOT give a ticket. Say what you will about PBA (and god knows, I've said plenty), their parking enforcement guys deserve nothing but a "good job."

michael kaplan's picture

more comments

from Murfreesboro:

"We have meter maids and no parking meters. You are allowed to park on the streets for two hours.. They are very efficient at their jobs. Lots of tickets are given out.”

from Townsend:

"If the space has to be rationed, the half hour should be free, so that people running in and out can transact their business. I don't approve of entry barriers to public libraries, as a matter of public policy."

Bbeanster's picture

I like the meters in front of

I like the meters in front of the library. I never have more than a half hour to spend there (wish I did), and 30 minutes is the right amount of time to pick up stuff on hold, or search for something I need.
If I'm going to stay longer, I'll park somewhere else.

Factchecker's picture

As a consumer who likes to

As a consumer who likes to drive oneself around, nobody likes parking meters and Knoxville has its share of confusing spaces that have ambiguous signage, are blocked off inexplicably, etc. But Knoxville is becoming a modern, successful economy city, where individual auto use needs to be discouraged due to common things such cities share, like limited space, pollution, and traffic congestion.

Individual car transportation has long been ridiculously cheap to the owner for their costs on society and parking meters are one tool of social justice. Maybe the meters will encourage more people to get small luggage boxes for their bicycles and ride downtown where there is abundant room and free parking for them. Congestion and pollution are then vastly reduced and Knoxville is immediately a better city. We need more ways of encouraging people to use better forms of transportation than cars. Parking meters are one way.

Michael's picture

How Parking Meters Work

With regard to the original post, I have found that one may reliably avoid getting a ticket at these meters by simply paying for use of the space. This is how they have worked for nearly a century.

zoomfactor's picture


I have no gripe with paying 25 cents (if I have a quarter in my ash tray), but there is something just sick and wrong about a device that takes a credit card for such a minuscule amount. By the time the payment process would have finished, I could have run in with my books to be returned and picked up my new books. I don't buy the argument that chalking tires is "expensive," when it comes to catching blatant parking scofflaws who may park there "all day." Disclosure: I currently owe $20 for running in and out. Honestly, I didn't even notice the new meters and had to call the library to verify that they even existed. (Not a "money grab," eh? I beg to differ.)

Rachel's picture

Yup, the City has to grab

Yup, the City has to grab that money - one quarter at a time.


michael kaplan's picture

I'm wondering whether ripping

I'm wondering whether ripping up downtown was to install those new meters, or were water and sewage lines replaced or improved as well?

Bill Lyons's picture

Streets torn up for parking meters?..etc.

Oh, where to begin. First, the many millions spent on downtown street infrastructure was primarily KUB's repairing ancient basic, failing or almost failing infrastructure. It had zero to do with parking meters

Second, using parking meters to ration the use of public space is not exactly a new or novel concept in American cities. One can have unavailable free spaces or spaces at a rate that results in use along with availability.

Third, the entire notion of the city government conducting a "cash grab" is problematic. Any funds that the City receives provide public services. Providing services and amenities to downtown, not to mention the entire city, has real costs. In this case, some of the cost of provided through what is basically a user fee rather from property or sales taxes. This small fee is not burdensome and it is not inequitable or unfair.

Fourth, the entire set of policies, their rationale, and their implementation was discussed at length in an extensive public process.We know not everyone can or will choose to attend such gatherings but if one is concerned it is a good place to start.

It is true that some smaller cities provide free parking for a limited amount of time. Most use meters of various types because manual enforcement is otherwise uneven. We have chosen to provide free night and weekend parking in our the city garages and downtown lots. That is almost unheard of among cities our size. That garage parking is also free for library users.

Finally, as Jesse pointed out, the Library supports this policy. THey were otherwise put in a position to have cars towed to keep the few spaces open. Towing is obviously a burdensome and costly process for the driver.

One might thinks that anyone with the resoures to operate and automobile can certainly affort paying a quarter to drop off books or can walk a short block or two to a garage. Finally, defacing the prople's property is wrong.

Thank you.

PM Parris's picture

The Meters

Thanks Bill, great summary of the issues. Speaking as a downtown resident of six years and counting along a street where the meters were changed out, we have noticed a difference since the new meters came into being. The number of folks parking "all day" has clearly changed, presumably due to the combination of meters and enforcement. I can't say the folks have all gone to garages, but that's my guess based on where we are (near the twin glass towers). We park in a pay by the month lot for about $1/day for what it's worth. Parking in Knoxville is still amazingly cheap and/or free compared to many cities. For anyone downtown a lot, you can rent a space for your own use for darn near nothing and not even use meters. Likewise, walking is a good thing, putting aside issues with handicaps which require a different solution. I think the city has done a great job of dealing with this issue.

Bill Lyons's picture

Thanks. Interesting topic!

Thanks PM. So many times the seemingly smaller policy decisions bring about the more intense reactions. And implementation is certainly a major part of the overall picture. The regulation of the private use of limited public space is an interesting topic to be sure.

Bbeanster's picture

Went to Books Sandwiched In

Went to Books Sandwiched In yesterday at the History Center.

Was running late, so I pulled into the big parking lot between Cumberland and Church and paid $8 to park. Hustled up the sidewalk past FOUR (4) available parking meters just steps away from the History Center.These spaces would never have been available pre-parking meters, and I never dreamed i could have parked there for 1/4 of what I paid in the lot.

I got zero parking meter beefs.

michael kaplan's picture

My favorite meters were the

My favorite meters were the old-school 3-hour kind on the Gay Street viaduct over the train tracks. For years, I parked there (at $0.25/hour) while eating breakfast at Harold's. On cold days, the meter maids would come by for a cup of coffee.

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