Parking Fines Go Up, Other Changes to Come
By, Crystal A. Proxmire
At the Dec. 14, 2009 City Council meeting, officials voted to raise the price of parking ticket fines from $6 to $10, with the additional $4 going directly into the parking and highways fund. They listened to other parking-related ideas from the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Executive Director Cristina Shepard-Decius, who says that parking is a crisis, but decided not to take any further action after several residents expressed the concern that their needs hadn’t been considered in the DDA proposals.
There are many components to the parking issue. Most recently there have been complaints from residents on Troy Street and other residential streets that their parking is being taken up by people in the daytime who don’t want to pay for parking in the lots and in the evenings and on weekends by a shortage of parking spots because of people coming to bars and restaurants. With another restaurant on the verge of opening, residents in the area are vocal about a change being made. Residents have come to council meetings, called the DDA, called the police department and approached members of city staff and council asking for help.
Additionally other downtown business owners, like Jacki Smith of Candle Wick Shoppe and Veronica Lujic of State of the Art Framing, say that lack of parking costs business owners sales.
The DDA took the lead and set up a parking committee, which concluded that Ferndale needs a new parking structure. They presented the findings of a 2006 parking study as the basis for needing a parking structure built on half of the current Withington parking lot. At the time of the study there were 2548 spots available, but that in the daytime the city is short by 115 spaces on average, and in the evenings there was a deficit of 483 spots.
Their recommendations involved making changes to the parking fee structure to help raise money for a structure. The first step, which council approved, was to raise parking fines by $4. They are also recommending that the city raise metered rates from 50cents an hour to $1 an hour in prime locations. The theory is that by raising the rates some people will be pushed out into the further lots, leaving close lots open for customers to come and go several times through the day – thus generating more meter fees and ideally welcoming more customers so they won’t have to drive around looking for spots.
The tiered parking system suggestion generated several responses from council and audience members, who feared that raising rates would only send more people into the residential neighborhoods where parking is free or that the increased rates would be a hardship for people who come to Ferndale frequently, or on a daily basis.
However, tiered parking is often used in other cities to ease congestion in busy lots and encourage turnover in the most needed spaces.
Another recommendation was to raise the price of permit parking, and to prohibit permit parking in the busiest lots. “We truly are undermining ourselves with what we are charging right now,” said Shepard-Decius at a special meeting on Dec. 7, 2009. She said that about 25% of the parking spaces taken at any given time are from parking passes, and that the rates should be raised to $60 a month, $170 for 3 months and $660 a year, and that the extra money should be earmarked for a 455-space parking deck. They also are asking the city to implement a shuttle system to help deal with parking problems while the deck is being built.
The DDA tried starting a shuttle service for downtown employees, but the service would cost employees $4 per day, which is less than they would pay with a current parking permit or by parking for free on a residential street. Shepard-Decius said that increased permit and metered parking fees would encourage employees to use the shuttle instead. The shuttle program is now on hold until more people are interested.
Councilperson Mike Lennon said that eliminating parking permits in certain lots might drive away officeworkers and might put some handicap people at risk of having to constantly make their way out to the lots to put in quarters. A representative of Foley Mansfield said that raising the parking fees would make his expense for 37 employees go from $6,600 a year to over $20,000 just so that his employees can park their cars. Without the ability to use permits in their lot, that cost would be even more.
Another restaurant owner was angry that no one had come to him asking for his input, and a resident of apartments in the area also felt left out of the decision-making process and wondered where he was supposed to park if his permit would no longer be good. Lennon also expressed concern that raising prices might cause even more overflow into the residential neighborhoods, though none of the recommendations dealt with issuing residential permits, although the DDA said it could be considered by the council.
The Parking Committee meetings are open to the public, though the date has not yet been set for the next meeting. Cindy Wilcock of the DDA said they look forward to getting more feedback and more business and residential involvement. “Sometimes when it’s a small group working on a problem it’s easy to overlook other options that might be out there. We will be working more with the city to solve this ongoing problem. It is a problem. And it will be a process to solve it. But we’ll get there.”
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