City addressing parking complaints from meal delivery drivers
City officials are working to address complaints from a handful of food delivery drivers, such as those for UberEats, DoorDash and GrubHub, who have argued they shouldn’t have to pay for parking while dropping off food orders in the downtown parking district.
During the Feb. 17 parking advisory commission meeting, Craig Raymond, city planning director, said there’d been some conflict in recent weeks with some meal delivery drivers who didn’t pay meters while parked and did not have delivery permits.
Raymond said the issue is that parking enforcement staff has no way of knowing if it’s a legitimate delivery or a person saying they’re just running inside for a minute and don’t want to pay parking.
Some delivery vehicles have signage but most don’t have delivery passes, Raymond said.
Raymond told the board that the feedback from at least one particularly frustrated delivery drive is that “they don’t want to have to pay” to deliver a sandwich.
Raymond said that the kiosks on Central Avenue have the ability to give 5-10 minutes free, but the meters on the side streets don’t have that capability, so for now, the city doesn’t have the flexibility to create that option.
For now, staff is working to use existing options to address the conflict, that they expect could be a growing issue as food delivery services become more prevalent and downtown continues to develop.
The city already offers an annual delivery permit that is $60 for the first vehicle and $30 for each vehicle after that.
A few meal delivery drivers have contacted the city to find out the rules and purchased delivery permits, staff said.
The delivery permit requires that the vehicles meet certain identification requirements for their vehicles.
Dane Lyon of SP+, the city’s parking contractor, said that the tricky part is getting the information to those meal delivery companies so that they can comply with the existing rules.
“It’s a reasonable ask, to help us identify them,” Lyon said of the delivery permit requirements.
Lyon said that even if they were to offer 5-10 minutes free on the kiosks, a driver would still have to take the time to tell the equipment that they’re parking there for a few minutes.
Raymond said that currently the city doesn’t have the technology to track that since only the kiosks on Central have that capability while the remaining meters on the side streets do not.
Without the proper equipment, it would require more monitoring and enforcement by staff, Raymond said.
Raymond said another option, that was not desirable, was to designate a spot on every block for these meal delivery drivers. Raymond said that the city already has courtesy spots and pedlets that take up available parking spaces, though pedlets are seasonal.
Lyon said that for now, vehicle identification is probably the best fit for Great Falls.
Katie Hanning, a parking board member, said that “when you get into business, there’s a cost to doing business.”
She said that she wouldn’t want to give designated spaces to food delivery drivers. She said that taxi and ride sharing drivers face similar challenges.
Hanning said the delivery permit for a first vehicle equated to $5 a month and it was “a reasonable cost.”
Hanning said they’ll likely roll the dice anyway and park for a few minutes. “They might get a ticket, might not,” she said. “There’s a system in place, we’re not being unfair. It wouldn’t be fair to the other drivers not to charge these drivers.”
Joan Redeen, of the Downtown Business Improvement District and a parking board member, said that she agreed but worried that some of those drivers might stop delivering downtown.
The conflict is when they get citations, Lyon said.
“They’ve been informed, they know the rules and they chose to break them,” he said.
Raymond said they’re trying to find a way to make it easier for the delivery drivers and enforcement staff.
He said they’re starting with using the existing delivery permits system and reviewing the city code on the issue to see if there’s any need for revisions.
Raymond also reviewed the parking system’s finances with the board and said that revenue is on par with previous years but expenses have increased due to credit card and bank fees for the digital payments at the kiosks and Passport app.
The city is currently installing new security cameras at the city’s parking garages. The conduit for the cameras was being installed at the north garage last week, Raymond said.
The parking board also voted to recommend approval of removing meters in front of 503/509 2nd Ave. S., which was a request from the new property owner of the residential houses at those addresses.
If the meters are removed, it creates open street parking there that the residents will have to share with the public. The two hour parking limit will still apply.
Raymond said it’s the first request the city has received to remove meters in front of residential properties in the downtown parking district and that any other requests would be considered on a case by case basis.
According to city data, the city generated $2.35 for a two week period for that entire block.
Redeen said she didn’t want to set a precedent and worried about similar issues that had occured on 2nd Street South when the city removed the meters on a block, but reinstalled them a year later after complaints from local businesses.