By: Melina Matthes
OMAHA (kptm) - If you've been downtown this week, you may have noticed some new changes to the city of Omaha's parking system.
The meters are now upgraded and a different company is taking over parking enforcement.
City officials warn repeat parking violators that they're on thin ice.
Previously if you had an unpaid parking ticket on your record and you got caught again not paying your parking meter, you would just get another ticket. However city officials say now you'll get towed. "Allows them to get what they deserve for parking in violation so many times," driver Maggie Sondag said.
Ken Smith is the new city parking manager and he's changing the way things are done.
He said in the past, unpaid parking tickets would drop off the system after a few years, but now they're keeping track of repeat offenders and if they see you violating the rules again…"the boot will be put on and as soon as the boot is put on, the police are called and a tow truck is coming," Smith said.
"It's kind of a scary concept but it makes sense because then people that keep violating don't keep getting more chances," Sondag said.
And those living downtown say…"pay your parking tickets and probably don't park downtown anymore," Chris Hatcher said.
But Smith said the new changes to the system aren't all bad. The meters now accept credit cards and you can plug them for three hours. "They make them a lot more convenient for friends that come by and they kind of know basically they can put in the card, they don't have to have change and run down the street and grab change," Hatcher said.
"I think it's really great because I really don't carry a lot of change and I always have my debit card," driver Rachel Brockhoff said.
And Smith said the people checking the meters will be more personable. They won't always be in their vehicle. They'll be out on the street, walking around, interacting with tourists. "Getting to know the community and working with the visitors that come down to the old market. Being able to say hey there's a venue going on at the performing arts or century link tonight, here's a great place to go eat," Smith said.
"That's good because people will know who to go to for good places to eat and you won't just have to ask some random stranger," Sondag said.
"It just means that they're caring about our community and they're caring about the visitors a lot more. That means everybody has a chance to find out what's going on in downtown Omaha," Miranda Robinson said.
The new parking meters also allow you to pay using your cell phone. You can just scan the reader right on the machine itself or download the app "Park Omaha."
If you have an outstanding parking ticket or you aren't sure whether or not you do, you can find out online as well as pay it on the city's website. Visit the website parkomaha.com
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