Economic Development, Government, and Retail

Parking Commission green lights free holiday parking

November 14, 2012
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Parking Commission green lights free holiday parking
Downtown Grand Rapids. Photo via fb.com

The Grand Rapids Parking Commission has affirmed that it will offer its 60 minutes of free holiday parking program again this year. The coupon-based program runs from Friday, Nov. 23, through Monday, Dec. 31, and includes merchants that are selling a product or a service, which includes retail shops, bars and restaurants, hair salons and museum gift shops.

Parking Services reported that last year 953 coupons of 4,700 requested were redeemed, for a total of $1,831 in free parking. Ninety-two percent of customers using the coupons parked longer than one hour, resulting in $2,449 in revenue.

There was some discussion about the value of the program and whether it should continue. Parking Services Commissioner Andy Guy suggested that the purpose of the program should be evaluated to see if it’s serving its intended purpose.

An activity report is provided annually to the Parking Commission as part of the program.

The Parking Commission also is considering a partnership with Grand Valley State University to begin offering WeCars, which is a car-sharing membership program offered by Enterprise Holdings.

The program and others like it are growing in popularity in urban cities. Currently, GVSU has two cars available to students, faculty and staff under the program.

The technology-based program allows individuals to skip the rental lot by setting up a membership online, as well as using the website to reserve a car. The member then picks up the car from its location, uses it during the reserved time period and returns it.

Technology is installed in the car to ensure that a member card must be used to gain access and to start the vehicle.

Enterprise representatives highlighted the benefits of the program, saying it is great for downtown residents, students, businesses and the city because it reduces the need for car ownership. They also said it would enhance the Grand Rapids transportation system by offering yet another option for getting around.

In addition, the representatives mentioned the program could help companies meet green-initiative goals, reduce costs incurred through mileage reimbursement and possibly reduce the number of fleet vehicles needed.

The Parking Commission also voted to continue its exploration of a possible Monroe North DASH bus, which includes the development of a service route.

The Monroe North neighborhood is not currently connected to downtown via transit access and the Monroe North Business Association is requesting DASH service for the area, which has about 2,000 residents.

The request falls in line with priorities for several other downtown organizations, including Parking Services and the Downtown Development Authority.

The annual pilot program service cost is expected to be between $175,000 and $225,000. Partner organizations are being asked to make a two-year commitment to the project with funding for the capital costs.

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