The city of Bend is preparing to pull the plug on its downtown parking validation program, again, because of persistent problems with downtown employees and business owners who abuse the system. City staff is proposing to kill the validation program at the end of the calendar year and has already met with the program’s chief proponent, the Downtown Bend Business Association (DBBA), to discuss the change. City staff and DBBA are already kicking around ideas to replace the validation program, but it’s not yet clear exactly what the successor program would look like. In the meantime, DBBA is generally supportive of ending the validation program at the end of the next month because of the problems that have been identified, said DBBA Executive Director Chuck Arnold. Of foremost concern is the sharp drop in parking revenue that the city has seen since reinstituting the validation program last year. It has lost about $37,000 in parking fine revenue since May of last year. The city and its parking contractor are spending a significant amount of time administering the validation program, which allows customers to have the $22 parking fine waived if they can prove that they were shopping at a downtown business. According to the city’s analysis, Diamond has spend about $35,000 in the past year and a half on enforcement and administration costs related to the program. As a result Diamond has reduced the amount of time that is spending on maintenance at the Centennial Parking Plaza.
While the parking validation program is seen as a downtown amenity, helping to level the playing field with other non-fee areas like the Old Mill District, the city has battled abuses for years by downtown merchants and employees. The problem isn’t getting any better under the current system. Since last year, the city has rejected more than 400 parking validation claims, mostly from employees and merchants who opt to hopscotch around downtown rather than purchase long-term parking permits. Of particular concern is the uptick in dubious validations. Between May and October the city saw a roughly 75 percent increase in rejected validations compared to the same period last year.
“What’s going on is not working,” Arnold said. “It’s creating more confusion than it is helping people.”