Nighttime parking card working

November 21, 2008
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The pilot program that parking commissioners made permanent has been supported by students taking college classes downtown, by those seeking a night out, and by those who work evenings in the district.

But the demographic group that used the $15 nighttime monthly parking card offered by Parking Services at three ramps in August was college students. Returns showed they quit looking for free metered spaces on the streets and that they stayed downtown after class.

“Maybe our marketing efforts will target more to college students,” said Pam Ritsema, Parking Services director, who added that her department has gained about $250 in monthly revenue from the program.

“Now they have a place to park and they give downtown merchants their business,” said Parking Commissioner David Leonard of the response from the students.

Eighty-two cards were sold during the three-month program and cardholders used the cards 1,252 times from August through October. Most used it to attend classes, while others used it for a night out and for work.

“You’re creating a psychology of using the ramps,” said Parking Commissioner John Tully about one of the commission’s long-term goals to move parkers from the streets into a ramp.

The card, which is good at the Pearl Ionia, Cherry Commerce and Monroe Center ramps, was most popular with those between 25 and 34 years of age, followed by those ages 35 to 44. Most had parked on the street before they bought a card.

“Everybody has a positive spin now on parking,” said Dennis Moosbrugger, president of the Arena District Businesses, an association of 25 downtown restaurants and taverns.

Moosbrugger, who also owns Bar Divani at 15 Ionia Ave. SW, brought the idea to the Parking Commission last July, saying it had the potential to increase traffic to downtown nightspots.

“People love it. It keeps downtown more vibrant,” he said.

The form for the card is available on the department’s Web page at www.grcity.us. It takes about a week for a card to arrive in the mail. But Ritsema said the department would look into making online card purchases a reality.

“We could probably pay to have that developed. We don’t have that now,” she said.

Parking commissioners extended the $15-a-month nighttime program until all 450 cards are sold.

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