City Parking Services sees increases in parkers, revenue

October 18, 2010
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For the first time since October 2006, Grand Rapids Parking Services reported an increase in monthly parkers. The city’s system of ramps and lots grew by 209 monthly parkers through the middle of October from the same period a year ago.

“The good news is, compared to a year ago, our monthly parking is up by 200 cards,” said Pam Ritsema, Parking Services director. “It’s good to see an uptick in monthly cards. It was going in the other direction for a while.”

Nine of the city’s parking facilities gained monthly parkers from last year. In addition, The Gallery at Fulton and Cherry Commerce ramps opened a few months ago and both combined to add 213 new monthly parkers to the system. “We’re up 132 cards from last quarter, which is good news,” said Ritsema.

Parking Services had sold 5,933 monthly cards as of Oct. 11, which is the department’s highest total in two years. The number of monthly parkers in the system peaked in 2006 when Parking Services issued 6,658 cards.

The department’s net parking fees during the first quarter also rose by nearly $255,000, or 13.5 percent, when compared to the July-September period of the 2009 fiscal year. Net revenue totaled $2.13 million for the quarter. Ritsema said almost every location had an increase in parking revenue and across all the parking categories.

“Daily parking was up by nearly 9 percent. Monthly parking was up by 12 percent,” Ritsema said of the first quarter increases. “Event parking was up by 35 percent, which was likely due to ArtPrize.”

The number of the system’s ticketed transactions totaled 86,640 from Sept. 24 through Oct. 11, a timeframe when the arts competition was going on downtown. That total beat the 66,938 transactions recorded for the same period last year, which included the first ArtPrize, and soared past the 33,801 transactions conducted in 2008 before the event started.

But Parking Manager Kimberly Miller reported that trying to determine the true impact ArtPrize had on parking revenues is difficult because other events also took place downtown during those weeks. She did note, though, that collections were higher from parking meters located near some of the well-attended ArtPrize venues.

Parking Services will again offer an hour of free parking at the system’s ramps and lots from Nov. 26 through Dec. 31. Instead of the coupons that were part of the program the past four years, free holiday parking tickets will be available from downtown merchants. Merchants can request tickets online at the department’s website. Shoppers will receive one ticket per purchase. Merchants who order tickets will be listed as offering free parking on the Downtown Alliance’s site. The alliance and the Downtown Development Authority are covering the $900 set-up fee to have the tickets printed.

Shoppers redeemed 768 coupons last year, but Ritsema expects more tickets will be used this year because the Government Center, The Gallery at Fulton and the Weston Commerce ramps are taking part in the program.

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