A bill filed by Rep. Joshua Hurlbert, R-Smithville, would eliminate street parking fees statewide. (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent)
Sometimes it is a nickel at a time, other times a quarter. Or perhaps it is high tech, and those small payments are made through an app or kiosk that accepts debit or credit cards.
However paid, parking meters in Missouri collect millions of dollars annually.
State Rep. Joshua Hurlbert, R-Smithville, wants to cut off that revenue. He said he’s studied Kansas City’s expenses and revenue from street parking and determined that meters don’t pay the cost of enforcement.
In the 2020-21 budget year, he said, Kansas City spent $1.1 million on meter enforcement and took in $450,000 from meters.
“I don’t see that as something that makes fiscal sense,” Hurlbert said.
Under a bill he’s filed two years in a row, the state, a city or “any other entity that receives public funds shall not establish, levy, maintain, or collect any fee for parking on any public street or road…”
The bill would not eliminate parking rules that limit the amount of time any one car can use a spot.
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The main lobbying organization for cities, the Missouri Municipal League, will oppose Hurlbert’s bill, Executive Director Richard Sheets said.
“It takes the revenue away and cities use those funds to pay for parking garages,” Sheets said. “They are also taking away local control.”
Sheets said parking meters are an important tool for cities that want to limit the time a parking spot is used by one motorist. If turnover in the use of spaces is an important goal, parking meter revenue is an important offset to the cost of enforcement.
“If you don’t have a meter, you use more staff time taking license plate numbers and then coming back when someone has been there more than 90 minutes or so,” Sheets said.
In the past year, Kansas City has moved to increase revenue from street parking. It is adding meters in many areas that were previously free, and taking other steps to increase enforcement. The Kansas City Star reported last year that the city spends $16.5 million from its general fund subsidizing free parking. And it receives less revenue than average from paid spots. Nationally, cities take in $1,500 from each paid parking spot while Kansas City receives about $488.
Not every city loses money on parking enforcement. Columbia, which has almost 1,800 street meters but only 387 hourly parking spots in garages, budgeted $3.7 million in revenue from all parking fees – including monthly or annual garage passes – and $2.2 million in expenses to enforce parking.
Last year, Hurlbert’s bill won approval in the House Downsizing State Government Committee but died awaiting a vote on the House calendar. He’s not on a personal vendetta he said – his car has never been towed for failure to pay tickets accumulated at parking meters.
“I think it is just a general distaste for parking meters,” Hurlbert said.
He was uncertain about the bill’s chances in the new legislative session.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Hurlbert said.
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