Commissioners Want To Regulate Valet Services

June 5, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Parking commissioners have asked the City Attorney’s office to write an ordinance that would regulate the valet-parking business.

Commissioners unanimously agreed that an ordinance should require a valet parker to be licensed, and be banned from using metered spaces for customers’ cars. Instead, a business would have to use off-street spaces.

“It needs some regulation,” said Mayor John Logie of valet parking, “because I think we’re going to see more of them.”

The commission’s decision sprung from a complaint filed by an Ionia Avenue business owner who said that a valet-parking business was locking up all the metered spaces on the street, just south of Fulton, for a few businesses that paid for the service. He added that valet-parking employees were only putting money in the meters when customers’ cars were about to be ticketed.

The Parking Commission’s request goes to City Attorney Philip Balkema for review. City commissioners would have to approve such an ordinance.

In other news, some downtown employers who buy parking from the city can expect to hear from Parking Services soon. The department will be calling to find out what incentive would encourage businesses to persuade their workers to give up their parking spaces and use alternatives to get to work.

One suggested method involves car-pooling. Those using car pools would get a premium parking space and chauffer service during work hours for trading in their current spots. Employers then would reduce their monthly parking bill, with fewer spaces being leased, and could give a portion of that savings to employees who car pool.

“We need to offer significantly attractive packages in order to compete with individual transportation,” said Parking Services Director Ted Perez. “We see this as a long-term effort, and don’t expect any overnight success.”

In the meantime, the city is talking with its labor unions to convince its workers to give up parking spaces downtown and car pool.

Construction on the new Monroe Center 2 ramp is tentatively set to begin on Oct. 1. The ramp, which will have commercial space along Ottawa Avenue, will be built on the Monroe Center 2 lot on Louis Street between Ottawa and Ionia avenues. The work is expected to take about 15 months to complete.

As for the ramp project approved by city commissioners for the North Monroe Business District, Parking Services is in the process of deciding how many spaces the facility will have. Under the current proposal, The Grand Rapids Press would get about 420 spaces for its employees and additional spaces would be leased at market rates to businesses in the district.

But before Parking Services can make a decision on the total number of spaces the ramp should have, it has to know what the demand is for spaces that are expected to cost about $80 a month. The city-owned lot in the district currently charges $35 a month.

“There is no question that the demand is there,” said Parking Commissioner Michael Ellis, also president of Ellis Parking. “What we haven’t tested is the demand at what rate.”

Parking Services will also take a look at whether to expand its DASH West shuttle service into North Monroe. “If there is a real demand for the service, I say let’s do it,” said Perez.

But Perez remarked that the shuttle wouldn’t be expanded to the point where it would degrade the current service, which is growing. He added that his department spends about $30 an hour to run DASH West.  

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