MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - When you head to downtown Myrtle Beach for a day out, you probably think about hitting the beach, shopping or eating at one of the restaurants. What you probably don't plan for is a parking ticket on your windshield when you get back to your car.
Haylee Owens of Conway is just starting a new job at an ice cream shop in Myrtle Beach. She wasn't sure where she was supposed to park, so she pulled into a metered spot, but hopes she'll eventually have another option because of the cost.
"I probably need more, I think I only have $2!" she said when our cameras found her putting quarters into a meter.
Owens, like many vacationers and locals, feeds the meters when parking in Myrtle Beach, but in certain areas of the city, you might pay more and be at a greater risk for being ticketed.
Here's how metered parking works in the city: The Downtown Redevelopment Corporation contracts with an outside company to oversee all meters within city limits. For fiscal year 2012, the DRC paid Lanier Parking more than $650,000, but they got more than $1.8 million dollars from the meters. City spokesman Mark Kruea says the money you pay for parking goes back into the downtown area.
"The DRC uses it for capital improvement projects downtown, to help support the oceanfront merchants association activities downtown, boardwalk maintenance and other services that are provided in the district are paid for with the money generated from parking meters," Kruea says.
The City of Myrtle Beach contracts with Lanier to take care of parking fines, so if you don't put money in the meter or you let it expire, the money you'll pay for the citation goes directly into the city's budget. Myrtle Beach paid Lanier nearly $35,000 for this past year and earned more than $150,000 in meter fines.
"Parking meters do a number of things that are good for the community," Kruea says. "If there's a parking meter there, you know that it's a public space and you can park there. They also help manage the parking, they encourage turnover so spaces aren't occupied all day long."
So where are you most likely to get slapped with a parking meter violation in Myrtle Beach? For meter season 2011, 42 tickets were handed out on 7th Avenue North. Just one block north, 611 tickets were issued on 8th Avenue and on 9th Avenue North, 997 tickets were given out.
Compare those numbers to 10th, 11th, and 12th Avenues North combined, just 432 citations were issued.
"Our goal is not to issue parking tickets, our goal is to have people pay for parking at meters," Kruea says.
The most tickets out of the 2011 meter season were issued on the popular Withers Drive. More than 2200 drivers found citations on their windshields. On nearby Withers Alley, only 478 were handed out in the same amount of time. Kruea says there's a reason for the different amounts of tickets issued.
"How many meters are on a given street and how often are those meters in use? Most of the highly traveled areas, the parking is limited to three hours to encourage turnover so somebody else has an opportunity to use that parking space," he says.
Kruea claims the busier areas of Myrtle Beach aren't policed any differently than the slower areas, even if there are time constraints and more tickets issued.
"We try to patrol all of the areas equally and it's broken up into 3 different areas," he says. "A north end parking area, kind of a mid-city area and the major commercial district."
If you've paid for parking but still get a ticket, there is an appeal process. In fact, of the nearly 11,000 tickets issued last year, just more than 1,000 were successfully appealed.
"If you have a city decal and it wasn't visible, if you paid with Parkmobile through your cell phone, it may not have caught up with the system, or you may have handicap tags that weren't displayed correctly," Kruea says of all the reasons you could win an appeal.
You also can win an appeal if you have a valid Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans or Medal of Honor license tag.
Kruea says the best value can be found at the meters that allow you to pay $6 for all day parking. It's something Owens may want to consider as she begins her new job downtown.
"That was like $2 for an hour! That's all I got. 53 minutes," she laughed.
Kruea also says the meters are only in the downtown, commercial district of Myrtle Beach, east of Highway 17. If you're heading for a day at the beach, it's best to travel to accesses outside of that area, where you won't have to keep an eye on the meter all day.