Revenue to GR parking system off

January 25, 2010
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Parking revenues from the city’s downtown lots and ramps were down for the first half of the fiscal year by nearly $245,000 when compared to last year’s figure. But revenue from on-street parking over the same period was up by $58,750.

Revenue from the 21 ramps and lots in the city’s system totaled $4.49 million from July 1 through Dec. 31. Over the same period in 2009, revenue was $4.74 million.

The biggest loser was the Pearl Ionia ramp; income from the facility fell by $109,000 for the year’s first six months. Of the city’s seven downtown ramps, only Monroe Center and Cherry Commerce had revenue increases from last year. Just four of the city’s 14 lots had income rise over the period.

Much of the revenue loss can be attributed to that fact that there are 83 fewer monthly parking cards in service now — a total of 5,641 — than were active in January 2009. Pam Ritsema, director of Parking Services, said layoffs and parking customers who transferred to the JW Marriott Hotel ramp were the main reasons the city’s has fewer monthly parkers.

Despite the revenue drop, the city has opened its eighth ramp, at Weston Street and Commerce Avenue. The ramp has 364 spaces and supports the new Thirty-Eight office and residential project being built by Locus Development. A ninth is being built at Division and Fulton and is part of the Gallery on Fulton development.

Ritsema said the renovation plan that Ferris State University and Kendall College of Art & Design have for the former federal building and art museum at Ionia Street and Pearl Avenue should generate more revenue for the Pearl Ionia ramp when the project is completed in two years.

Ritsema also said that ArtPrize, the 17-day art competition held last fall, hiked revenue for visitors’ parking. But parking income from the second New Year’s Eve event was down by about 25 percent from the first one.

Revenue was also down from the month-long holiday parking program as fewer free parking coupons were redeemed than during each of the two previous years. Kimberly Miller, an administrative services officer with the city department, said the relatively new automated pay stations forced Parking Services to change the coupon distribution method, and that led to some unintended consequences for the program.

Instead of being able to print coupons from the Downtown Alliance Web site, individuals had to go to a downtown merchant and ask for one, because the pay stations wouldn’t accept the Web version. Eighteen merchants offered the coupons and some handed out multiple coupons to customers, including a parking commissioner.

“I was handed several with my transaction,” said Commissioner David Leonard.

Miller said changes will have to be made to the system, as multiple coupons were used in up to a third of all the parking transactions during the annual promotion, which offered 60 minutes of free parking per coupon as an incentive to shop downtown. This past promotion was the first time Parking Services ran it with the validation tickets required by the automated system.

Only 768 coupons were redeemed from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. In 2008, 1,184 were used, and 1,310 were used in 2007. Revenue to Parking Services from the promotion totaled $1,179 this past holiday season, compared to $3,710 in 2008 and $3,086 in 2007. “It was a pretty significant fall off in use,” said Parking Commissioner John Tully.

Ritsema said the department received four proposals to provide booth attendants for downtown events. Companies in Detroit, Lansing and Kalamazoo responded, as did the Ellis Parking Co. of Grand Rapids. She also said she received a Freedom of Information request from a local law firm that wants to review the proposals.

“We’re in the process of filling that out,” she said.

Ritsema also said she plans to let the Grand Rapids Employee Independent Union see the documents.

Ellis Parking President Mike Ellis sits on the Parking Commission, but he wasn’t present at the meeting when the proposals were discussed.

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