Police working with parking coordinator on ramps solution

City gives police authority over downtown parking ramps

La Crosse police are now working directly with the parking utility coordinator to address parking ramp issues, after the city council gave the police department authority over the downtown ramps.

The parking utility coordinator, Jim Flottmeyer, will now answer to the police department instead of public works.

“The biggest benefit is now the enforcement arm of the parking utility is one with the maintenance arm,” he said.

“The police department has always been very involved in parking — parking enforcement and anything as far as public safety in the ramps,” said Assistant Police Chief Rob Abraham. “So it just made sense to have everything put under one roof.”

They’re currently working together on what to do about the pay gates that were removed from the ramps two months ago.

“We’ve seen where people haven’t had a good experience with the gates, and when you get a full ramp it takes time to get a car out every time they have to process a transaction,” Abraham said.

But Flottmeyer said there are also problems without the gates.

“With the people just parking wherever they want to, then there’s not spaces for the merchants, for the customers to come and go quickly,” he said. According to him, people with reserved spots higher in the ramp park in the lower level spots designed for downtown visitors, who then have a harder time finding a place to park.

“On the other hand everybody’s happy because the gates aren’t bothering anybody,” Flottmeyer said.

According to Flottmeyer, the pay gates in the ramps used to generate about $10,000 a month, and they’re looking into ways to get that revenue back for ramp maintenance.

“If you don’t put the gates in, then maybe we make some change within the ramps so people don’t sit in the spots all day. …. two-three hours then you’ve got to move your car,” Flottmeyer said. “That would generate some ticket revenue.”

Abraham said they’re looking into all their options, including replacing the gates, setting up hourly time zone limits similar to street parking, or looking into new technology such as pay and park systems without gates somewhere down the line.

“There are different systems out there and we want to look them over,” he said.
“Some of that is really long term,” Flottmeyer said. “Short-term, it comes down to do we want to put the gates back in or are we happy without them?”

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to put the gates back up rests with the parking utility board. The current plan is still to put them back up May 1, but Flottmeyer said that may change if authorities decide to go with an alternate plan.