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Meter time to be extended to 2 hours

The complaints are rolling in. One hour is not long enough to eat, shop or do business downtown.

So Lexington parking officials are going to give you two hours at the meter.

Local officials are responding to persistent complaints that surfaced in the last few weeks by turning one-hour parking meters into two-hour machines, said Gary Means, executive director of the Lexington-Fayette County Parking Authority.

“The decision is being made as a result of the public's expression that they just can't get it done in an hour,” Means said Tuesday.

The transition from one- to two-hour meters will begin in two weeks on Esplanade. By October, most of the one-hour parking meters will be two-hour machines, unless merchants in a specific area request otherwise, Means said.

There are more than 1,100 parking meters in Lexington. Half of them are one-hour meters, and downtown has the highest concentration of the one-hour machines. There are two- and four-hour meters scattered throughout Lexington.

Sandra Duvall, assistant manager of Victorian Square, said she was one of the merchants who asked Means to extend the time on downtown meters.

Even though Victorian Square offers three hours of free parking in its garage, many of its customers park at the street meters and found they couldn't eat lunch and shop within the scope of an hour.

“We had customers who were a minute late and got a ticket,” said Duvall.

The complaints have come since July 7, when the parking authority began sending full-time parking-enforcement officers on electric chariots downtown at the request of businesses who wanted more parking for their customers. The new officers have written 4,287 warnings and 1,728 tickets in that time period, Means said.

By comparison, when the Lexington Police Department was in charge of parking enforcement, officers wrote 16,836 tickets from July of 2006 to June of 2007, he said.

Parking tickets are $15. If not paid within 10 days, the fine doubles to $30.

Something else has changed since the new parking enforcement began: The new parking officers can tell if you've been feeding the meter after your hour is up.

Under the old system, as long as the meter had money in it, police didn't usually write a ticket, Means said.

But the new parking officers keep track of license plate numbers electronically and write tickets if a meter has been fed for more than one hour.

The parking meters charge 25 cents for 60 minutes. The meters are in effect 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

On Tuesday, Anna Dickens put a quarter in a parking meter on Esplanade so she could run an errand.

Dickens said she thought Lexington had broader parking issues than just needing an extra hour on a meter.

“There needs to be more parking and free parking downtown in general,” she said.