Thought you could park at meters all day while Spokane isn't collecting parking fares? Wrong

click to enlarge Thought you could park at meters all day while Spokane isn't collecting parking fares? Wrong
Samantha Wohlfeil photo
If you thought that Spokane meter time limits weren't being enforced while meter parking fare wasn't being collected, you'd be wrong, apparently.
When Dennis — a downtown resident who asked we not share his last name — took a walk on Tuesday morning, he was surprised to see at least one car on Cedar Street near his apartment building had a bright yellow ticket envelope tucked under the windshield wiper.

Spokane hasn't been collecting payment at meters by coin or through a payment app since Gov. Jay Inslee's Stay Home, Stay Healthy order took effect. During that time, enforcement officers have temporarily been reassigned to other work for the most part.

The city also suspended the 72-hour time limit for on-street parking in residential neighborhoods to encourage residents to stay home during the governor's order, which is meant to slow the spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Residents who pay for monthly residential parking permits that can be used at all-day meters downtown had been alerted that enforcement would be suspended during the governor's order.

But the city maintains that even while parking fares aren't collected, the time limits on meters, which often range from 2 to 4 hours, are still enforceable.

That's what surprised Dennis, who says he called the city after he saw the ticket, because he wanted to make sure he understood exactly what he needed to follow to avoid getting a ticket on his own vehicle.

"The explanation they gave me is if you’re parked outside the lines, or at a spot for more than the 2 to 4 hour limit, they can still give you a ticket," he says. "I felt like that was a really flimsy explanation."

But (even while waiving the 72-hour limit in residential zones) the city has always maintained the ability to enforce time limits at meters, writes Kristin Davis, communications manager for the city's Neighborhood and Business Services Department.

"Parking Services is and always has enforced time limits on the meters even when payment is not required," Davis writes in an email to the Inlander. "This is consistent with holidays and Sundays as well as the current Stay Home, Stay Healthy order."

However, the city hasn't restarted full enforcement yet, Davis says. While a normal month would see parking services hand out 3,000-5,000 citations in all categories, over the past 42 days of the stay-home order the department has handed out 509 citations, of which eight were tickets and two were warnings at on-street meters, Davis writes. Other citations include violations for things like parking in commercial loading zone areas or too long at 10-minute parking spaces designated with placards.

While some meetings are happening this week, the city is still formulating its plan to get back to full parking enforcement, Davis says. While still in development, the plan will include an education time period, Davis says, to ensure people know how to avoid breaking the rules, and it will coincide with business reopening as allowed under state rules.

"The plan is like with any other city communications, to get the info out there so people know it’s coming," Davis says. "The goal is to support businesses and manage expectations for a positive experience when visiting and working downtown, which includes parking."

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...