A map of downtown Bangor shows the streets where the most parking tickets were issued between October 2018 and September 2019, the first full year of Bangor's new automated parking enforcement system. Credit: Eesha Pendharkar

The ease of finding parking in downtown Bangor varies from one street to the next, and so does the likelihood of getting a parking ticket.

In October 2018, Tennessee-based Republic Parking took over the city’s downtown parking administration and replaced on-foot parking enforcement officers with a white parking enforcement vehicle that’s since become a fixture on downtown streets.

The vehicle is equipped with a camera that takes photos of license plates in parking spots. If those vehicles are still in the same spots past the allotted time limits when the enforcement vehicle passes by again, the system will flag it, said Parke Clemons, Republic Parking’s general manager.

In the year after the automated enforcement began, Bangor issued 11,379 parking tickets — a combination of those issued by the enforcement vehicle that patrols downtown and police-issued tickets outside of the downtown area. That was a 40 percent increase over the number of parking tickets issued in the previous October-to-September period.

The three streets where the most parking tickets were issued from October 2018 to September 2019 were Harlow Street (973 tickets), Main Street (869) and Exchange Street (753), according to data requested by the BDN.

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The reason for a high number of parking violations on those streets has to do with the proliferation of businesses and restaurants on those streets, as well as government buildings including Bangor City Hall on Harlow Street and the Penobscot Judicial Center on Exchange Street.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

“There’s a lot more going on. A lot more people want to be downtown,” said Community and Economic Development Officer Tyler Collins. “I think it’s human nature to want to park close to the place that you want to be.”

While the greatest numbers of tickets were issued on Harlow, Main and Exchange streets, drivers had the greatest likelihood of getting a ticket on Merchants Plaza, Cross Street and Water Street, which are all clustered near the parking garage downtown.

These streets had the highest ratio of parking tickets issued to the number of available parking spots. The three streets are shorter than most downtown streets, and have fewer parking spaces as a result — each with a maximum limit of one hour. Some Merchants Plaza parking spots have 15-minute time limits.

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“You actually do issue more parking tickets per space because there’s more demand and there’s probably more people who are staying longer,” Clemons said.

Maurita Anthony, the Republic Parking employee who usually drives the enforcement car downtown, plans her routes based on the varying time limits of downtown parking spaces, Clemons said.

Bangor has six different parking time limits for its street spots: 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 90 minutes, one hour, two hours and four hours. Many downtown streets — including Harlow, Hammond and Main streets — have spots with varying time limits.

“The routes are based on time zones,” he said. “It’s based primarily on where she has to get to based on those times.”

Outside of downtown, the Bangor Police Department issues tickets based primarily on complaints, responding to situations such as cars parked in front of driveways and too close to intersections, Collins said.

“This time of year, snow removal is a big one,” said Republic Parking Assistant Manager Amanda Curry.

The number of times Republic Parking has had to tow a car over the past year for three or more unpaid parking tickets is not more than three or four. But starting in a couple of weeks, Clemons said, parking enforcement will begin a booting system that users can unlock themselves after they call the number listed on their ticket and make a payment.

“Towing is such a radical move,” Clemons said. “We hate using it. It’s traumatic.”

Clemons and Collins said the city’s new parking enforcement system is working. Parking spots have about an 85 percent occupancy rate, they said.

“You may not be right in front of the business you want to be at, but overall, there were enough parking spaces,” Clemons said. “The combination of ticket writing, of the different parking zones, the enforcement, all that is working to keep the city right where it should be.”