Savannah’s new parking system leads to more warnings, tickets

Cars parked along a downtown Savannah street.
Cars parked along a downtown Savannah street.(WTOC)
Published: Sep. 19, 2019 at 7:04 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s been over a year since the city implemented a new parking system in downtown Savannah.

The digital kiosk technology cost millions of dollars to install, and came with a simple idea: Provide more options to pay for parking.

So is the system working?

It’s not clear because there is still a transition underway, but one thing is clear: city parking officials are writing more warnings and tickets than in years past.

An analysis by WTOC Investigates shows the City of Savannah spent more time in 2018 reprimanding those who failed to pay for parking than in years past. City parking officials wrote nearly 69,000 tickets. A 20 percent increase from the previous year.

But in 2018, people had a good excuse: the new parking system.

Parking officials recognized the learning curve, and allowed a grace period that began in January and lasted through about June, said Sean Brandon, director of City of Savannah Mobility and Parking Department. That meant many of those tickets turned into warnings.

“We try to work with people," Brandon said. "We do a fair amount of warnings of the citations we issue out of an effort to try to just adjust behavior.”

In the following video, Brandon has valid and not-so valid parking tickets excuses:

For locals like Jordan Davis, the adjustment has allowed him to pay for parking using the Park Savannah App on his cell phone.

“It makes it so convenient,” Davis said. "What I like about it is you can extend your time, you can pay in advance and you don’t have to worry about having any money.”

About a quarter of the paid parking fees came from Park Savannah App users, Brandon said. Earlier this week, WTOC Investigates asked the City of Savannah to provide the revenue totals for paid parking during the past three years. The information has not been provided.

But one of the biggest changes the city has seen is less coins in the machines. Although, there is still a way to pay in coins, the city would prefer you not.

“They are a worker’s comp nightmare because someone has to go and pick those coins up and now it becomes an ergonomics issue where their back gives out because they got too many coins. Then trying to count it, and audit it. I’d rather you just use a credit card," Brandon said.

It’s still too early to tell if the new kiosk system has been a deterrent for parking tickets. Numbers provided by the city showed it collected about $2 million in tickets related to parking, which is about the same amount of years past. This year will mark the first full year after the transition.

The information below reflects all tickets and warnings handed out by the City of Savannah’s Mobility and Parking Services Department in 2018. A majority of the tickets are for overtime on a parking meter, but other violations include running a red light, parking in an over-sized parking space, driving with an expired state tag or no state tag, parked facing the wrong direction, and parking in a sweep zone:

10.) East Strand Street

  • 2,844 parking tickets/warnings for overtime on a meter

9.) East St. Julian Street

  • 2,883 parking tickets/warnings for overtime on a meter

8.) DeRenne Avenue and Abercorn Street (Northbound Turn Lane)

  • 3,078 tickets for running a red light

7.) Whitaker Street Garage

  • 3,743 (1,887 of the tickets were for parking in an oversized vehicle space, which are located on the first floor of the garage)

6.) Montgomery Street

  • 3,773 parking tickets/warnings for overtime on a meter

5.) Barnard Street

  • 4,037 parking tickets/warnings for overtime on a meter

4.) Abercorn Street

  • 4,444 parking tickets/warnings for overtime on a meter

3.) East Broughton Street

  • 7,425 parking tickets/warnings for overtime on a meter

2.) Bull Street

  • 7,725 parking tickets/warnings for overtime on a meter

1.) West Broughton Street

  • 9,560 parking tickets/warnings for overtime on a meter

So what’s next? Public parking garages, like the one on Liberty Street, soon will be added to the digital parking system. It means drivers soon will be able to reserve and pay for a garage parking space before going downtown.

The Liberty Street garage will be the first one to go online, Brandon said. That’s expected to happen by the spring or early summer. The city will then roll out the changes to other public parking decks across the city.

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