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Fewer tickets and more revenue resulted from new holiday parking rules in the city of Beaufort last year.
From Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, people could park free for two hours in any downtown parking spot. After that, they had to pay.
In the past, only certain spots on Bay Street and other areas were included, and bags over the top of meters prevented buying additional time. Those who wanted to stay longer had to move their vehicles or risk a ticket.
Parking tickets for December, which covers most of the holiday parking period, went from 365 in 2010 to 105 in 2011, according to city manager Scott Dadson.
In December 2010, parking meters and kiosks earned $6,800. Preliminary numbers for this December indicate $21,600 in revenue, according to Dadson.
Lanier Parking Meter Services LLC has a contract to enforce the city's parking rules. After paying Lanier, 15 percent of meter proceeds go to Main Street Beaufort, USA, and 85 percent to the city's Redevelopment Commission. Both Main Street executive director LaNelle Fabian and Redevelopment Commission Chairman Jon Verity said Monday they were surprised by how much revenue increased.
"That's good," Fabian said. "That means they came downtown and stayed downtown."
Some downtown visitors said they fed the meters for the entire time they parked because they did not know parking was free. Meters bore bows and stickers explaining the free parking, and many businesses displayed signs about the program in their windows.
"I would like to believe it was because there was more turnover activity in parking spaces directly correlated with an increase in foot traffic in the stores and thus a better season for merchants," Dadson said.
During an average month, it costs $21,165 to operate the meters, and about $34,740 is collected.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.