Editorial

City parking ‘study’ was no study and assumed a conclusion

July 3, 2015
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Grand Rapids city commissioners are considering a wide-ranging distortion and redistribution of parking areas and rates along with behavior modification methods in a comparatively short range of time, and are further advised by an outside consultant that part of the solution is city-run alternative modes of transportation and an entire new division of parking services.

That is not to say that some points of the study are not worthwhile, but aspects of the process and plan are hogwash. Far from a “study,” it is a list of ideas. City commissioners and staff need to get to work.

— The study does not appear to have consulted with such groups as Disability Advocates to advise how changes may affect individuals in this employment group.

— The study does not include a survey of employers or business leaders in the downtown. It does not survey or provide impact assessment regarding the decisions of business owners who might wish to locate in the downtown, a long-time goal.

— The consultants find it necessary for the city to rent vehicles for car sharing and establish bike-share programs and services, even as private businesses have set up to do so.

— Such additional services will require hiring a “Mobile GR” manager, supervisor and at least one “outreach” person. In fact, the consultant advises the city to establish a wholly new division of parking services and call it “Mobile GR.”

Hogwash.

The Business Journal was more impressed when the city belatedly moved to tighten its budget belt after the 2008 meltdown. Was it really that long ago that lessons of excess threatened valuable core services like police and fire?

The consultant suggested “cooperation” between the city and The Rapid. That has long existed. The Business Journal further finds that suggesting The Rapid system bend its budget to provide free ride passes for a full year in a pilot program is frankly as arrogant as aspects of the “study” recommendations.

This is not a study; it is an overlay of plans used in other areas of the country and represents the consultant, not the Grand Rapids community.

The Business Journal has long held that parking fees are a double tax after committing taxpayers to bond issues to build and maintain public parking areas. Aspects of the current advice add further insult to the taxpayers, employees paying city income tax and business owners.

It is bewildering to consider why taxpayers are putting additional funds into street repairs if the city intends to limit vehicle use and establish barriers to access in the downtown.

The city must do what the consultants did not: provide full and complete impact assessments including economic impact, and gather the thoughts of those who work in River City.

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