TRAVERSE CITY — Barb Meredith recently had an expensive downtown Traverse City breakfast, but not from anything on the restaurant’s menu.
She traditionally eats in the Green House Cafe early Saturday mornings and parks along Front Street. Last weekend she left the restaurant, went to the Farmers Market and returned to find something she rarely sees downtown on a Saturday — a parking ticket.
“We’ve been going to the Green House for breakfast the last four years,” she said. “It didn’t occur to us to fill the meter for the sufficient amount of time.”
Meredith’s car was one of 11 she counted on Front Street affixed with a $10 ticket on the windshield. She said she has no problem paying the ticket, but was surprised after growing accustomed to the city’s at-best sporadic Saturday parking meter enforcement.
“I just kind of felt it was a heavy-handed to start the tourist season,” she said.
Traverse City parking officials hope locals break some of their old habits as the summer tourist season arrives. For the second year, the Downtown Development Authority hired two “parking ambassadors,” in addition to two full-time city parking attendants.
Parking Administrator Dave Malewitz said people can expect increased enforcement amid the city’s parking spaces and 1,600 meters, including on Saturdays when previously limited staff meant limited enforcement.
Metered parking is set by ordinance from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is marked on each machine. Time limits on meters — whether 10 minutes or 10 hours — mean owners must move their vehicles when the clock runs out, even if they added more money.
Malewitz said parking meters and downtown lots are designed to better manage cars through busy areas throughout the city.
“I think the big misconception that they’re there to get money,” he said. “They are there to help businesses in the area and create turnover.”
Parking fees totaled about $600,000 last year.
Kerry Glaesmer, owner of Votruba Leather Goods Co., one of Front Street’s oldest businesses, said increased parking enforcement wouldn’t affect his business one way or another.
“The only thing I would like to see is for it to be more convenient to pay,” he said.
Malewitz said the city expects to roll out Parkmobile, a system that lets customers pay parking meters by their smartphones, in the coming weeks.
Wally Green, owner of the Green House Cafe, also said he didn’t find parking enforcement to be an issue with his business.
“I haven’t heard much lately from customers,” he said. “(But) my employees get upset when they get ticketed.”