In Your Own Words
For the last three issues of WINK we have been covering various aspects of parking issues in Bethlehem, PA: Historical facts, inter-governmental relationships, ordinance
details, and an in-depth look at the new smart meters littering some of our streets. (check our archived articles tab for previous installments)
As warned last week (and promised by BPA director Tom Hartley) those meters have
arrived en masse and can now be seen flashing all up and down our historic streets.
Despite this setback the fight continues. We’ve been hinting at our own proposed plan to ease both the parking problems and the anger the Parking Authority causes so many people. We’ve done the preliminary research and our conversations with key city and BPA personnel continue as we finalize our proposal.
So this week we decided to pause for a moment and put a real face on this general
frustration the BPA instills in so many people; instead of just claiming that the BPA
angers everyone we actually reached out to get your stories, your experiences and your views on the BPA.
Via our WINK articles, message boards and social media sites, we put out a call for
YOUR Parking Authority stories. The request was for ALL stories both positive and
negative. An interesting but not at all surprising thing happened. The sharing of negative
stories was not only overwhelming—they were universal. Not a single story came in that
supported the BPA or even reported a small little “nice” thing they have done.
To be fair (and to be the lone supportive voice), the Parking Authority was actually created to do some good and ease larger parking issues. Zone permits help to make sure you can park relatively close to your home and the dreaded meters do help with turnover; without them, cars could occupy spaces for days and abandoned cars could clutter the streets for weeks which would make it hard for both residents and potential business customers to explore our city and boost our economy. And as we learned in a past issue, we must rely even more on those shoppers because the BPA gives NO money back to our city.
But despite the big picture potential to do good, the day to day operations continue to
cause little more than anger, frustration, and all out hate.
It seems everyone has some angst filled story about tickets they have accrued. We
received plenty of stories about running to a meter only to miss the BPA agents by sheer
minutes, and then receiving a ten dollar ticket after already pumping multiple dollars into the meter. More maddening were the many tales of returning to a meter and catching BPA
personnel in the act of writing a ticket and arguing futilely to get out of being fined.
There were stories of relaxing and enjoying a great meal or drink in one of our many
wonderful restaurants or pubs only to have to constantly get up to go outside and feed
the meter; more stories of being TOWED than one would think, and even a handful of
constable run-ins. While all these day-to-day stories get people riled up, the one that
seems to illicit all-out madness is this idea that a company (the BPA) acting privately
within our city has the LAW ENFORCEMENT at their beck and call; you folks out
there find it absolutely absurd that with all of the “important” police issues going on in
the world, the BPA is sending constables to your door to throw you in jail because your
meter expired and you didn’t pay your ten dollar ticket.
Concerned reader and local artist Tony really hits the impact on local business on the
head with this story:
“I sometimes carve at Arts Walk. Soon after they cut the meters on Broad street from 4 hours max to 2 hours max I was set up next to the Apollo Grill. Watching the people coming out in their gowns and suits to feed the meter so they could finish their meal and listening to their comments about such let me know the BPA had little consideration for the business owners, or encouraging people to enjoy the beauty and ambiance of Bethlehem.
If you spend Apollo-type money for a meal, it is to relax and be enjoyed ……not to be harried. I would not take a lady there for dinner JUST for that reason.”
Also note that street vendors and artists like Tony participating in our many mini-
festivals are often forced to leave their stands and lose potential business because they
must go feed the meter…often blocks away.
But if there is one story to encapsulate them all…one story of one man who has gone toe to toe in every imaginable way with the BPA over several years in multiple locations, it is Mr. Steven Brunette.
In Steve’s own words:
“Where would I even start? The BPA is truly my most hated of all organizations I have ever dealt with. This goes back a few years ago when life was at least a little bit easier because I could park on the street behind my home on the 600 block of 4th street. Back then I was able to get a permit, yet I STILL managed to get tickets. I watched out my window one day as a BPA officer was writing a ticket for my truck. I had to rush outside to actually point out the fact that I was a card holder.
“At my current residence (on Southside’s Morton Street) I have accrued LITERALLY
thousands and thousands of dollars in parking fines, late fees, court fees,
and plain old feeding the meter. People there have actually witnessed and reported to me that a particular officer would stand and watch my meter expire and then write me a ticket. After shopping I have pulled up to my apartment, parked, left my doors open as I took groceries up my stairs, grabbed change to feed the man, and literally in less than five minute’s time, have been issued a ticket. Not to mention the numerous people I have witnessed at this location running quickly into Tulum just to pick up their to-go food and getting ticketed. Its a fucking racket and no one can stop them.
“Just the other day I woke up and got out of bed just to go feed the meter. After already putting my quarters in I noticed that the readout said ‘FAIL’. Wasting money in a faulty broken meter is one thing, but when I went out later in the day to my disbelief there was a ticket on my car! I looked and the meter read ‘-0:00’. In other words, it was broken, the meter reader fixed it and then gave me a ticket even though it had clearly failed. I have easily gotten 15 or more tickets at this meter in this same manner even though I feed it like it’s a starving child. I was able one day to catch up to a BPA officer and explain the situation about this meter constantly failing and me constantly getting ticketed anyway. I was told it would be looked into. More broken promises.
“I have so many more stories like that. But let me tell you about my court experience. I had to go to a hearing due to a mere oversight in which I missed 5 tickets out of say 50. At the hearing I brought a monster pile of paid tickets as well as multiple print outs from the BPA office showing even more paid tickets. All I was looking for was a little break on the $1500 price tag the BPA had put upon me. But, in a nut shell, I was basically told ‘fuck you, pay me.’ It took me a year of my life to pay it off, on top of still getting more tickets and paying THEM. Seriously…I hemorrhage money into the BPA.
“Now why don’t I get a permit you ask? This is a fight that is yet another losing battle with the BPA. I have been told that I am not allowed to get a zone parking permit because the quarter-of-a-block of Morton that I live on isn’t zoned for permit parking. In other words, if I lived a quarter of a block away in either direction I could get a permit. But despite the THOUSANDS of dollars I have given them, they refuse to just let me have a parking permit because my apartment happens to be in this mysterious non-residential quarter of a block. Tulum [which resides in the same fore-mentioned section of street] can’t even get a business permit for the owner or employees to park and not worry about the hammer crushing down on them while they are busy helping customers.
“But the final laughable bit? Their solution to my meter problem and not being allowed a
permit is to let me park in one of the southside’s other two residential lots. OK, so what’s
wrong with that, you ask? One of them is the tiny lot off New Street that is often full and
is FOUR BLOCKS away from my house. The other option? TEN blocks away. That is the
brilliant BPA’s solution- to have me and my roommates walk four-to-ten blocks away from our home to a lot that may already be full. The alternative? Continue to bleed money. It’s a lose-lose situation.”
The sad reality is that stories like Steve’s are not uncommon. He is not an anomaly. So again, as asked in part one of this series: is any potential good the BPA does worth all of this bad? In a system created to HELP our residents with visitor turnover and guaranteed close-to-home parking, why is it that we, the residents of the city, continue to be the ones paying the heaviest price? The BPA was created for US. The BPA is supposed to help US. We aren’t supposed to be the ones suffering at the hands of a city authority whose “good-to-bad” ratio is horribly out of balance.
So, how do we achieve that balance? CAN we create a fair compromise? To be continued…
from the editor of WINK–
I met with the head of the BPA (Tom Hartley) and a member of City Council (Michael Recchiuti) today and came up with some pretty decent compromises. I will be publishing said compromises next week- we felt that we should still run this piece though because peoples’ stories need to be heard and we felt that we should start March off fresh with a good positive article about the changes we can make. Onward and upward! -Alison Leigh
We just got word that Tom Hartley, the new head of the BPA, has taken steps to remove the meters in front of Steve’s house and Tulum restaurant’s front door and try for residential parking. What that means is that for now, it will be free for him and the people of Tulum. He is also looking at a mere $20 a year fee to park there. WIN!!! You CAN fight a good fight if you are playing for the benefit of the people. Goddamn! Woohoo!