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Free Saturday Parking Will Expire Soon in Louisville

  Shawn Beirne always tells people that come into his small  Fourth Street clothing boutique on Saturdays to feed the meter.“Because I don’t want people to get tickets,” he said.But for years the probability of being ticketed for parking at an expired meter on a Saturday has been slim.In fact Tiffany Smith, the director of Parking Authority of River City, said she can’t remember the last time a parking ticket was issued at an expired meter on a Saturday.“There simply was not enough cars in the downtown area to justify the enforcement, it would not have been cost effective,” she said.Things are changing, though. Beginning Sept. 6, vehicles parked at expired meters on Saturdays will be subject to penalty, Smith said.This means vehicles that are parked at expired meters, double parked, blocking fire hydrants and parked in no-parking zones could potentially be issued a ticket.  If a parking violator has three outstanding tickets, their vehicle will be subject to having a boot placed on its wheel.Two PARC contract employees will be roaming Louisville streets on Saturdays, checking the some 4,800 parking meters and countless other no parking zones for vehicles parked illegally, Smith said. Related: Where Are Louisville's Most-Ticketed Parking Meters?The decision to begin enforcing parking was approved by PARC officials in June, the officials also decided to up the price of metered spots to $1.50 for an hour of parking.Smith said the decision to begin enforcing Saturday parking policy is a result of an increased volume of traffic in the downtown area.“The amount of traffic and cars coming to patronize businesses has picked up tremendously and we can justify enforcement and the need for enforcement,” Smith said.She added the “major reason” for enforcement is to ensure “turnover parking”—that is, to make sure there is parking for people wanting to come downtown.Beirne, who co-owns Gifthorse  at Fourth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, said forcing people to pay to park at meters on Saturday is “counterproductive” for small businesses in the downtown area.“When they are trying to build this area up, I think it is a little silly,” he said. But Beirne added he can see both sides of the argument.“I understand the city has to pay for things, I get it,” he said.That added revenue from parking enforcement is expected to generate about $93,000 annually, Smith said.She said that money will funnel back to PARC, which is a self-sustained agency, she said.  The funds will help pay off bonds purchased during the construction of parking garages and parking lots, and to purchase improved technology for monitoring parking in Louisville.PARC currently generates about $3 million annually from on street parking, Smith said.As for business, Beirne said he doesn’t expect it to be hurt too badly from the need to begin paying to park.  Most of the customers who come by his shop are pedestrians.“As quiet as it is on Saturdays it would be nice to have free parking, but, you know,” he said.  “I want to be diplomatic.”Smith said she doesn’t think Louisville motorists will let $1.50 an hour parking fee deter them from patronizing local businesses.“I think it is an insult to our city as a whole to think our city will shut down because we start charging on Saturdays,” she said.  “I don’t think the citizens of Louisville are that backwards minded that they would stop coming downtown because we charge dollars to park.”

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.