BY TARA LENNON
Rumblings of discontent with parking on and off campus can often be heard and felt among the student body at the university, from frustrations about parking violations to the cost of obtaining a parking permit on campus in convenient areas.
With the new year, the details of parking off campus have changed, with new parking rates and parking violation rules for municipal lots in Newark having gone into effect in mid-January.
Here’s everything you need to know about parking in the city of Newark this semester.
How much does it cost?
A $1 per hour increase in parking rates in municipal lots went fully into effect on Jan. 17, according to Renee Bensley, director of planning and development in Newark. Now, parking on-street in municipal parking spaces will cost $2.25 per hour and parking in municipal off-street lots will be $2 per hour. As always, there is an extra 25 cent convenience fee for paying for parking on the Passport Parking app.
Though the new parking ordinance officially began on Jan. 1, the new rates didn’t change until mid-January because, according to Bensley, the new ordinance specified that parking will be discounted from mid-December to mid-January and from mid-June to mid-August — both of which are times when the majority of the university’s student body is not in Newark.
“It’s just a quiet time in the city, and it’d also be nice to have an incentive for people to come into the city during the quieter times and still help out the restaurants,” Stu Markham, mayor of Newark, said.
Why did the City change the parking rates?
Bensley noted that this is the first increase in parking rates in municipal lots since 1999.
Markham added that a large reason that the rates are changing is due to budgetary reasons. He said that the City has few revenue sources, including water, sewer, electric and property taxes and parking. He noted that the university, which takes up 43% of the city, does not have to pay property taxes.
With the addition of five to seven more police officers being hired this year, as well as other City expenses, all of these taxes, as well as parking rates, increased, according to Markham.
The changes to parking rates and fines are estimated to bring in $2 million in new revenue to the City, according to Delaware Online.
What about the fines for parking violations?
Effective Jan. 1, the fines for parking violations changed too. The fine for a standard parking violation changed from $20 to $70.
However, Markham and Bensley noted that there’s more than meets the eye to what seems to be substantial increase in the fine.
“We’ve turned it more into an incentive-based structure as opposed to a penalty structure,” Bensley said of the change.
While the base fine is higher up front, Bensley said that when a person pays the fine within 15 days, they get a 50% discount, bringing the $70 fine down to $35. Markham added that the previous $20 fine does not include the previous administrative and convenience fees associated with the fine that have now been eliminated, bringing that $20 fine closer to $35 than people may realize.
Even with that, the fine previously only doubled when a person failed to pay within 30 days, leaving the new fine for late payments higher than it used to be.
Why are they increasing the cost of parking violations?
This new structure, according to Markham and Bensley, will hopefully encourage people to pay their fines sooner. Historically, they said, many people have paid their fines late, and with this change, they are hoping to cut down on the administrative burden associated with the late payment of fines.
Additionally, Bensley said that this change is part of a larger plan of the City to encourage multimodal transportation.
“That includes encouraging people to walk, encouraging people to bike, encouraging people to use public transportation,” Bensley said. “So, as part of that, we don’t always want to make parking the cheapest option because we don’t want as much vehicular traffic downtown if we can get people to come other ways.”
Markham noted that the City has been working to increase the bikeability of Newark, with new bike paths on East Delaware Avenue and South Main Street, as well as the pedestrian bridge across White Clay.
“We’ve been trying to walk the talk when it comes to other ways of doing things,” Markham said.
Additionally, the City is currently in the survey and public comment phase of a new proposal for “Newark Connect,” a microtransit program in partnership with DART First State, Delaware Transit Corporation and DelDot.
What is “Newark Connect”?
If this new proposal comes to fruition, it would entail a fleet of DART buses in Newark that people can reserve a ride on to take them to their specific destination in the city of Newark or just beyond. Fees would max out at $2 per trip, and for students, $1 per trip.
“This is uber-like, this is on-demand bus service,” Markham said.
Public meetings, according to Bensley, will be held Feb. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. at City Hall, and Feb. 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Main Towers and from 6 to 8 p.m. at Newark Senior Center.
“We would really encourage university students to participate, give us some feedback about your interest in taking part in this,” Bensley said.
What about appeals?
Yes, you can still appeal a parking violation online or in-person, for reasons such as inputting your license plate incorrectly or being ticketed moments before you pay for parking.
What are the main takeaways?
Pay your parking fee on time, type your license plate in correctly and consider other ways to get to Main Street during rush hour.