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Nashville drivers to pay more in fines under Mayor's parking plan

Posted: 4:16 PM, May 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-16 23:28:17Z
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville drivers will pay millions more in parking fines if a private company starts operating the city's metered parking.

Mayor David Briley wants the council to approve a deal to outsource Metro's metered parking enforcement by the end of next month.

The Mayor says the deal will generate more than $300 million for the city over 30 years.

The company must pay $34 million in upfront payments to Metro in the first two years of the deal.

Mayor Briley has already budgeted $30 million from the plan in next year's budget, even though it has not been approved by the council.

Nashville awarded the parking enforcement contract to LAZ Parking, and is currently negotiating final terms of the deal.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates examined LAZ Parking's proposal and discovered the company plans use video surveillance, as well as a new type of technology to immobilize cars if they have outstanding tickets.

LAZ Parking named the company behind an innovative new device called the Barnacle as one of its technology partners.

Barnacles are new in parking enforcement and are different than "boots," which immobilize vehicles by locking onto their tires.

Barnacles are placed on windshields and utilize commercial-grade suction cups to lock them into place.

To get the Barnacle off, the driver must call in to pay all their parking tickets in order to get a code that releases the device.

In other cities where barnacles are used, the driver is then required to return the device to a designated location within 24 hours.

We showed people video of the Barnacle and got a variety of responses.

"There's going to be some pissed off people coming out and you have that on your windshield," said one woman.

"If I decided not pay and that gets put on my car, it's my fault. Suck it up and take it back. That's the rules," said another woman.

Others said it "not a good look for the city" or that it would be more "embarrassing" to find a highly visible, yellow Barnacle on your windshield.

Metro will allow the company that operates the day to day enforcement of its metered parking to be much more strict with enforcement.

The Traffic and Parking Commission in March approved more than doubling fines from $11 to $25 dollars as part of the parking deal.

A consultant hired by Metro told the Traffic and Parking Commission that private companies do not try to make a lot of money from fines.

"I want to emphasize this is not about generating revenue from fines," said consultant Skip Stitt in March.

He said, "What they want is to drive compliance with your rules."

LAZ Parking discussed using license plate recognition, video surveillance and the Barnacle in its proposal to Metro.

It stated the Barnacle will provide "additional revenue opportunities" over things like the traditional booting of vehicles.

Currently Metro makes $795 thousand dollars a year from parking meter fines.

LAZ estimates in its first year drivers will pay nearly double that amount, more than $1.4 million in citations.

And in year 5 of the 30 year deal, when Metro has added 2000 additional metered parking spots, LAZ estimates it will collect nearly $3 million from citations.

State lawmakers from Davidson County came out opposed to the plan earlier this month.

"I definitely don't want a private organization handing out parking tickets in my city," said Rep. Bo Mitchell, (D) Nashville.

The Mayor's office said a Metro employee will sign off on citations written by the company's enforcement personnel.

The Mayor's office has pushed back on the idea that allowing a private company to run the day to day operations of the Metro's metered parking is "privatization."

The Mayor's office says it is not selling the city's metered parking just allowing a private company to operate it for 30 years, and that any changes in spaces and rates would have to be approved by Metro's Traffic and Parking Commission.

While many drivers said they didn't like the idea of a Barnacle going on their cars, the head of the company said via Skype it is better than having a boot put on your car or getting towed.

"I think it will have the same impact in Nashville that it has had in a lot of other cities and communities where it makes a tough process a little easier," Kevin Dougherty said.

He continued, "We do try and improve upon a very necessary thing. I mean parking enforcement is very necessary, otherwise it's chaos out there."

The question for Davidson County drivers is how much more enforcement do they want.