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It’s now been two months since the city of Sedona implemented paid parking meters along State Route 89A in Uptown.

And while there have been a few bumps along the way, the city is hoping to smooth things out as time goes on. The 101 paid parking spaces on Main Street became operational as of June 28.

In order to develop this program, the city worked with the Uptown Paid Parking Implementation work group made up of merchants and property owners, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, the Uptown Rangers and representatives from the city.

The work group recommended an initial fee structure, which received approval from council. The first 15 minutes is free, then the first three hours will be $2 each with $4 for the fourth hour and $6 for the fifth.

But, in order to have the flexibility and authority to modify rates up or down based on the demand model, council also approved an hourly rate of $1 to $4 for each of the first three hours, $2 to $8 for the fourth hour and $4 to $12 for the fifth hour. Rates will be adjusted with the above ranges based on occupancy and demand, a city report states.

If on-street occupancy is found to be over 90 percent, rates will be adjusted upward. If occupancy is lower than 80 percent, rates will be adjusted downward. The target occupancy is 85 percent.

Parking along Main Street will be free from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. every day of the week. However, these hours are subject to change for special events.

“This is the city’s first experience with a paid parking program, so we expected there would be some kinks to work through, but overall I think things are going very well,” Assistant City Manager Karen Osburn said. “Since going live on June 28 [through Aug. 24] there have been just under 20,000 transactions. Our Community Service Aides and Uptown Rangers, who are walking Main Street on a daily basis interacting with visitors, have reported very few issues with either complaints about having to pay for parking or difficulty using the pay stations.”

Osburn said there were a few concerns about the price point of $2 per hour, and given the fact that Main Street has still been consistently over 90 percent occupied, even during this slower season, the price point seems to be set well. Should they consistently fall below the 80 to 85 percent occupancy target, the city will lower the pricing.

In terms of the charged parking hours, Osburn added, “The 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours seem to be working well but our committee of merchants and other stakeholders will continue to monitor usage, occupancy data and other feedback. And if deemed necessary this can, and will, be modified.”

Osburn said prior to implementing the new paid parking system, the CSAs had to chalk tires then return three hours later to check if someone was violating the time restriction. They also took time to write manual citations, so there was a bit of a process involved. But now the new automated system is so quick and efficient, they can cycle through quickly.

“Unfortunately, that resulted in more tickets being issued than we intended,” she said. “Once we realized this, we did instruct them to back off the enforcement and shift their focus to the more egregious violators who aren’t paying at all or may be an hour over their paid time — not someone who has paid in good faith but might be five to 10 minutes over.”

They want to make sure to have an enforcement presence, but Osburn said it’s not the city’s intention to ticket as many people as possible. Between Aug. 1 and Aug. 22 they issued 144 tickets. That averages to less than seven tickets being issued per day, or fewer than one every hour of paid parking.

The Sedona Police Department’s Sgt. Jim Pott, who has also been overseeing the program, said it’s been about what he expected on the enforcement end.

“I expected there to be a lot of violations,” he said. “Many cities have large dedicated parking enforcement units to deal with the number of violators, so the fact that we see a high number of violations here doesn’t surprise me.”

What surprised him was the number of customers that input the wrong license number by accident. Then there are those who simply input “1” or “A1” as their license plate and then were surprised when they get a citation, he said.

“The enforcement portion is license-plate based, so if a license plate isn’t registered in the system as a paid parker, it shows to be in violation,” Pott said.

As for glitches that still need to be worked out, he said the “Free 15 Minutes” seems to be confusing to a lot of people as they aren’t aware that a license plate needs to be entered for system to give them their free time. That’s something the city is looking into.

“There were a few issues with some of the pay stations regarding confusing wording and inaccurate time calculations,” Pott said.

Feedback since the installation of the meters has been mixed. Some of the merchants are unhappy, but it’s a new program so Pott said there will be growing pains.

“We are not the only tourist destination with paid street parking — not by any means,” he said. “Paid parking is successful in many places and it can work here, too.

“Most of the customer complaints I’ve heard are from Arizona residents who have been here before, parked like always, didn’t pay attention to the signs and got a parking ticket.”

In the end, Osburn said the city wants to give the metering program time to develop and see how it progresses.

“We have less than 60 days under our belt so it’s too soon to really draw conclusions,” she said. “I’m curious to see how the paid parking and off-street lots perform in the fall during a peak season.”

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