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Parking garage to use license plate recognition for enforcement

For those who may one day park in the future downtown parking garage, it’s time to memorize your license plate number.

On Friday, the Downtown Parking Advisory Council voted to use license plate recognition software to enforce paid parking in the garage.

Rob McConnell with the Carl Walker firm that’s working on the design of the future garage, presented several options to the DPAC during their regular meeting.

Options included using individual meters, which was decided early not to be a viable option, a pay-by-space option and the license plate recognition option.

With pay-by-space, people parking would take note of the number on their parking space, go to a kiosk in the garage and input the number and 50 cents per hour for parking.

“With pay-by-space, if someone pays for two hours and leaves before the time is up, someone else can park there and not pay,” he said. “It’s potential lost revenue.”

Using the license plate recognition software, drivers would input their license plate number into the kiosk along with their money. The software would notify enforcement officers when the time is up for that meter, like it would with pay-by-space; however, the officer will have to look for the vehicle in the garage, rather than being able to go directly to the parking space when the time is up.

Before parking meters were put in, the city use license plate recognition to regulate the 3-hour parking rule on the Square and Parking Director Matt Davis said the city still has a vehicle that has the software installed, which will allow officers to drive through the garage and quickly find the vehicle that hasn’t paid or is in overtime parking.

DPAC member Kevin Frye said the license plate recognition option sounded like the best option but had some concerns.

“The only thing causing some hesitancy is we’ve had it before and it was a disaster,” Frye said.

McConnell said technology has changed in the world of parking enforcement over the last few years.

“It’s improved a lot,” he said.

Other challenges with the license plate recognition, is that Mississippi is a one-plate state and some people may attempt to park backward and that Mississippi also has duplicate license plate numbers under different series of plates.

Despite some of the challenges of using LPR, the council voted unanimously it was still the best option.

The council also advised McConnell that they would like five pay kiosks – one on each of the four levels of the garage and one at the entrance.

Mayor Robyn Tannehill who attended the meeting suggested parking spaces still be numbered to make it easier for the public to remember where they parked and to make it easier to tell emergency responders where to go should an emergency arise.