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Allentown City Council votes to increase parking fines effective July 1 — with measures in place to help poorer residents

An Allentown Parking Authority parking ticket is seen on a car Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, in the city. (April Gamiz/첥Ƶ)
April Gamiz/첥Ƶ
An Allentown Parking Authority parking ticket is seen on a car Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, in the city. (April Gamiz/첥Ƶ)
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Allentown City Council unanimously voted to raise parking fines on Wednesday night, but with some conditions in place that are meant to help poorer residents who may not be able to afford hefty fines.

The city will hike most parking tickets from around $15 to between $35 and $50.

Allentown Parking Authority officials had asked for the hike because they are facing a $1.8 million budget shortfall, which is due in part to the authority reducing its hours of active parking enforcement from 24 hours to between 7 a.m.. and 11 p.m. Despite being Pennsylvania’s third largest city, Allentown has lower fines than most cities in the state with a similar population size, according to a parking authority analysis, and most parking fines have not changed in over 20 years.

Some City Council members said they were concerned about the impact an increase in parking ticket fees would have on poorer residents. As a compromise, council and the parking authority agreed to two conditions of the fee increase:

  • The parking authority board will conduct a comprehensive study of parking meters in the city, to determine if any can be removed or added
  • The authority will implement an internal payment plan, so that poorer residents who cannot afford a parking ticket can pay in increments instead of a lump sum

The parking authority board, which is a five-member governing body that oversees the parking authority, will vote on the two conditions at its next meeting June 26. If the board approves the two items, the parking fees will increase July 1.

Acting parking authority director Jon Haney said those two initiatives have been in the works for a while, and the authority is well-positioned to implement them in the near future. The city ordinance gives the authority a year from July 1 to roll out both the payment plan and the parking meter study.

“The payment plan issue was something we were already working on,” Haney said in a follow-up interview. “As far as the meter study goes, I don’t see [the board] being opposed to that either.”

Currently, the majority of parking ticket penalties, for violations such as parking in a no parking zone, parking too far from the curb or parking in a crosswalk, are just $15, increasing to $25 after 10 days and $70 until a citation is issued.

The new rates would be between $35 and $50 for violations, up to $65 after 10 days and up to $90 upon a citation.

Several members of the public voiced support for the payment plan, although some said increasing the fines still could have a negative impact on poor residents.

“[The payment plan] is a necessity because we are living in hard times,” said Jose Cartagena, an Allentown resident.

To increase revenue and fill the budget shortfall, the parking authority already has upped the hourly rate of parking decks from $1 to $2 an hour, monthly deck parking permits from $100 to $125 a month, and the rate of surface lot permits, which vary in price from $25 to $75 a month, by $5 overall. But the authority needed City Council’s approval to increase parking ticket fees because the fees are outlined in city law.

Haney said he is confident that the increase in parking ticket fees will help the authority plug its deficit, and he expects the authority’s finances will begin to improve by mid-August. The expected increase in revenue also will help the authority address parking issues in the city, like developing surface parking lots in dense residential neighborhoods that have little street parking available, he said.

Reporter Lindsay Weber can be reached at Liweber@mcall.com.

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