New rules could change downtown parking

HOUSTON The problem is, if you park in one of those private surface lots, there's nothing to regulate someone who decides to boot your car because they say you didn't pay to park. City council has heard a lot of complaints, and now they're trying to pass regulations to give the boot to the boot.

If you ever had to park downtown for any reason, you're probably familiar with the cash-only parking boxes.

"You roll your money up, maybe it goes in all the way, maybe it doesn't," said driver Dennis Kettler. "You're always worried about someone coming back and pulling your money out. You never know if anyone really checks it."

A growing trend on the private lots is to boot cars in allegedly unpaid spots. But with no receipts for back up, city council is hearing lots of horror stories. Mark St. Sir is one who says he paid to park and got booted anyway.

He said, "Please, let there be some kind of regulation on private property of booting... Or least show that you've paid and get a receipt."

The council is listening, proposing a comprehensive ordinance for the first time to regulate the paid surface lots so many Houstonians use. If passed, the new ordinance would get rid of the cash-only boxes altogether. It would require parking lot owners to provide some sort of receipt.

"Due to its high cost of maintenance, receipt-giving machines do not make financial sense for operators to install on a number of parking lots," argued parking lot owner Louis Macey.

Several parking lot owners told city council that the new regulations would only increase costs. But council members seemed determined to make the change.

Houston City Council Member Sue Lovell wanted to know, "What's the objection to giving your customer a receipt like in every other business people do?"

Council members agreed that people who spend money deserve a receipt to show they paid. The topic is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, but it could be delayed a week.

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