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Changes in the city of Beaufort's holiday free-parking program resulted in fewer parking tickets -- and less parking revenue -- compared to last year, according to numbers provided by the city and its parking operator.
The program, which ran from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day this season, has been tweaked through the years. This year, two hours of free parking were granted in all downtown spaces, and drivers could pay for additional time if they wished. Previously, meters were bagged and drivers had to move their cars after two hours to avoid a ticket.
The change was intended to reduce the number of citations, and it apparently worked -- 94 tickets were written this holiday season, down from 105 in 2011 and 365 in 2010.
"Since it was the same Holiday Program as last year (Park Beaufort) believes that it was better understood," said Lundy Baker of Lanier Parking Services, which enforces the city's parking rules. "Merchants presented it to their customers with more understanding and support."
Revenue from parking meters and kiosks also declined this holiday season.
In 2010, the meters earned $6,800 during the period. In 2011, that jumped to $15,386. For 2012, revenue was down to $10,560.
That may mean drivers understood the program better this year.
Last year, some people said they didn't understand the holiday rules and paid for all of their parking time because there were no bags on the meters; stickers explaining the program were on the street side of the meters and thus not often read because money is inserted from the sidewalk side.
Main Street Beaufort, USA, executive director LaNelle Fabian and city manager Scott Dadson said they received no complaints this year from merchants or downtown visitors.
"I haven't heard anything from anybody," Fabian said. "I'm hoping that's what it means, that they got it."
Fabian said she was pleased with the program -- the only change she might recommend is extending the free-parking period.
"That came up this year but it was kind of last minute," she said. "Someone had wanted to do the beginning of November."
After paying Lanier for operating the meters, 15 percent of meter proceeds go to Main Street Beaufort, USA, and 85 percent to the city's Redevelopment Commission. During an average month in 2012, it cost $21,716 to operate the meters, which produced $34,166. Last year, the average monthly cost was $21,165, and revenue was $34,740.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.