Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Parking rates restructured, meter fines raised

21. October 2005 • Murph
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I’ve been asked to describe the changes to the downtown parking system rate structure. Effective October 1, the DDA rearranged the rates to encourage long-term parkers to use the structures, leaving more convenient surface and meter parking for shorter-term, higher-turnover parking.

  • Hourly parking structure rates have been reduced to $0.80/hour.
  • Hourly surface lot rates have been reduced to $1/hour for the first three hours, $1.10/hour past three.
  • Meters have been raised to $1/hour.

The change was enacted at the DDA’s July meeting, and was designed to be revenue-neutral. (Some DDA Board members questioned this criterion, as the rent the DDA pays to the City for the parking facilities was at the same time increasing from around $100,000/year to $1 million / year, and rates had not been increased in approximately 7 years previously.) Extending meter hours into the evening was also discussed, with a similar motivation to move long-term users (such as downtown employees) into the structures and leave the on-street parking for high-turnover use; that decision was postponed until a better examination could be made of what time meter hours should be extended to.

Same-day expired meter fines were increased by the city earlier this summer; the fine is now $10 if paid within 24 hours. This change was also made to maintain on-street parking for high-turnover use – previously, the cheapest form of all-day downtown parking was to park at a meter, put no money in, and pay the $5 same-day fine.

  1. I like the DDA’s changes! Anything that can be done to encourage long-term parkers to use the structures is a Good Thing.

    I hope that the DDA resists the temptation to extend metered parking into the evening, though. I remember the last time this was tried, several years ago, there was a huge outcry from downtown entertainment businesses that charging for meters would hurt their businesses. Council reversed itself and this bad idea was dropped. This was before Council spun off the whole parking system to the DDA.
       —David Cahill    Oct. 21 '05 - 12:45PM    #
  2. David,

    My personal feeling is that extending the meters into the evening would be a good idea. If you take a walk down Main St on a Thursday/Friday/Saturday evening (or, rather, several walks down Main St.), you’ll find that turnover is extremely low in the metered spaces. Start at four, and you may even see people (for example) in Gratzi’s uniforms parking, putting enough change in the meter to run it until 6, and then letting the car sit there until 2 am. A family shows up at 6 or 7 for dinner, and there are no metered spaces – they have to go park in Kline’s or Fourth & Washington.

    As I see it, extending the meter hours would be to the same purpose as making the meters more expensive than the structures – it would free up on-street parking for people who desire it. Think of it this way: currently, evening patrons of Main St. businesses don’t have much of a choice – off-street parking is the only thing available, and they have to pay for it. (Or park in the neighborhoods and walk.) If we charged at the meters, it would cause more people who arrived early or who wanted to park for a long time to go to the structures, giving the late arrivals a choice – they now have the option of paying to park at a more convenient location.

    How many people complain that “it’s hard to find parking in Ann Arbor” rather than complaining “parking is too expensive in Ann Arbor”? The first of those is the classic complaint, and charging for the meters would help to address that.

    Of course, the problem is convincing people that, yes, this really is making it easier for them to find parking. Most have not spent as many hours as I have walking around watching parking meters.
       —Murph.    Oct. 21 '05 - 01:06PM    #
  3. Start at four, and you may even see people (for example) in Gratzi’s uniforms parking, putting enough change in the meter to run it until 6, and then letting the car sit there until 2 am. A family shows up at 6 or 7 for dinner, and there are no metered spaces – they have to go park in Kline’s or Fourth & Washington.

    Oh that poor family, that has to walk another block in order to park! sob

    This ignores the fact that the person who works at Gratzi is also much less able to afford paying $8 an evening for parking, rather than the family who is going out to eat on Main Street becuase they can afford to.

    Will the only option therefore be for low-income wage earners to park in the neighborhoods and walk in? and what if that, too, is taken away as it was in Burns park?? Is the DDA pricing out the retail and restaurant workers who help keep downtown running in the first place?
       —KGS    Oct. 21 '05 - 02:55PM    #
  4. Murph – Since you work for the DDA, maybe you can tell us why people here are so resistant to the Birmingham parking model?

    For those of you unfamiliar with Birmingham – parking in the decks is free for 2 hours or less. They also offer monthly contracts for minimal prices for downtown employees.

    Just curious.
       —Chip Smith    Oct. 21 '05 - 03:53PM    #
  5. Before First/Washington closed, there was $2 all-evening parking there, which had been intended for employee parking. (There’s also $2 evening parking at Liberty Square and at Ann-Ashley.) I hope for that option to be restored somewhere in the Main St. area – perhaps at First/William, though I don’t know that it’s been discussed yet.

    However, I certainly don’t think that free parking is the proper way to address employee needs. I think that extending AATA’s hours would be more appropriate. (Not that the $2 parking at Ann-Ashley is all that far away.)

    Meanwhile, the residential permit parking program times out at 6pm, so that option hasn’t been “taken away” from evening employees. Park at 4, use the 2 hour allowed RPP, and then it times out. Just like the meters.
       —Murph.    Oct. 21 '05 - 04:00PM    #
  6. Given that the AATA is getting clobbered by rising fuel costs, extending its hours is probably not going to happen.
       —tom    Oct. 21 '05 - 04:17PM    #
  7. Chip,

    I can’t speak as a representative for the DDA. Ask Susan Pollay (DDA Executive Director) or Leah Gunn (DDA Board Chair) or Roger Hewitt (DDA Operations Committee Chair) if you want an official response. But I’ll speak for myself as a transportation planner:

    Parking is a scarce resource. (consider: 7000ish downtown parking spaces – and how many people work downtown?) It’s also an expensive resource (we all know from recent discussion that structured parking costs between $35k and $45k / space, depending on land costs, size, and above/underground), and a valuable one (I’ve seen studies claiming that an on-street parking space can serve up to $300k/year in patronage for local businesses).

    To allocate a scarce resource, put a price on it. This ensures that it gets used by the people who need to use it.

    If you invest money into a resource, you have to recoup it. Birmingham’s parking isn’t “free” for any amount of time – you pay for it in property taxes. (Or the businesses do, and then it gets factored into their prices.) Briarwood’s parking isn’t free – its cost is included in rents and then passed on to consumers. Parking is never free, and putting a price on it encourages people to not (falsely) think of it as “free”.

    If you take high-turnover parking that supports a lot of income for local businesses and turn it into low-turnover parking, you serve fewer patrons per parking space (and, additionally, annoy potential customers and send them to places where they can find parking). Note that the parking meter was invented by business owners because they wanted to encourage high turnover in the parking spaces on the streets in front of their stores.

    So, for all sorts of reasons, it’s good to price parking and not pretend to provide it for free.

    Now, if you’re a progressive, and interested in social equity in addition to economic efficiency, you should be extra-interested in pricing parking – because where else are you going to get the cash to do things like provide go!passes to downtown employees in order to provide them with transportation choices?

    I could give you a longer answer, but I recommend you instead read Don Shoup’s “The High Cost of Free Parking.”
       —Murph.    Oct. 21 '05 - 04:30PM    #
  8. Thanks Murph –

    One can claim, however, that “free” parking – like Birmingham’s or Briarwood’s – is business development dollars at work. Yes the price of those structures is passed on to the community in all sorts of ways, however, it also helps develop better traffic for the local businesses. I don’t often hear many Birmingham residents or merchants complaining about the parking rate structure in Birmingham Principal Shopping District. And it is worth noting that Birmingham continues to have a strong retail environment. It seems like we can seek a balance.

    Based on anecdotal evidence only, I don’t get the impression that our hourly downtown employees are being provided with GoPasses. If they are, most aren’t using them.
       —Chip Smith    Oct. 21 '05 - 06:16PM    #
  9. How late in the evening are they thinking of extending the meter hours?

    I wonder if there are a lot of people like me who go downtown from 6pm on specifically BECAUSE there is free parking for a couple of hours. (If I’m there for a long evening, I park in the $2 structures). If parking at the meters was extended until much later than 7pm, I would spend less time downtown, which is definitely not the goal. (But it could be just me…)
       —Lisa    Oct. 21 '05 - 06:45PM    #
  10. Murph, all I can say is that if the DDA tries to extend the meters into the evening, Council may take away the DDA’s authority over the hours of meter operation. There was a really big stink from the merchants the last time.

    The DDA seems to be in enough trouble with Council already. Why start another fight?
       —Dave Cahill    Oct. 21 '05 - 07:14PM    #
  11. Murph, et al, I knew parking would be a hot topic!!

    Seriously, I’ll be interested to see in the long term if the change in pricing increases use of lots. I’d like to see that.

    I have personally paid a $10/24 hour ticket, and it was more painful the $5 ticket for sure. Make me think twice about letting a meter run over. I parked in a lot two days ago and was surprised by the fee change. It’s actually 40 cents per half hour, so you it’s more forgiving of the half-hour parker.

    Anyway, I think it’s a good idea. I’ll be eager to see more stats, etc.

    Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the fallout from the DDA/city hall expansion meeting. I have friends on the DDA, and I know there’s some thoughtfulness about how much the DDA can give….
       —JennyD    Oct. 22 '05 - 12:46AM    #
  12. Well, FWIW, City Administrator Roger Fraser was quoted recently in the AA News to the effect that all the DDA’s money belonged to the City, anyway. That’s one more signal that the DDA is in bad political trouble with the City itself.

    Under the state law governing downtown development authorities, City Council can dissolve the DDA at any time.
       —Dave Cahill    Oct. 22 '05 - 02:07PM    #
  13. Dave,

    I’d expect you to be the last person to support King Fraser on that! I kind of thought you’d be quick to remind that some of the DDA’s TIF is the Library’s, and not the City’s… (And some is the County’s, and so on.)

    I’d hate to think that the City would disband the DDA over something so petty as changing the meter hours. I don’t think they would, either, not least of all because the City has final authority over whether or not to actually implement the DDA’s desired changes.
       —Murph.    Oct. 23 '05 - 12:35AM    #
  14. To other comments about evenings, AFAIK:

    * I don’t think anybody is sure when the meters “should” stop charging. (Which is why no action has been taken.) They currently have hours that pretend downtown Ann Arbor has a predominantly 9-5 use pattern, which is obviously false.

    * Jenny, everybody wants to see more data! :) This should probably involve (in my mind) a pretty in-depth study of people’s attitudes. Do they prefer convenience? Or the option of circling the block for a chance at free parking? If they parked off-street, did they look for on-street parking?

    * Yes, merchants have objected at the idea of changed hours in the past – but, as I mentioned, merchants were the ones who created for-pay parking to begin with, because it provided their customers with convenience. It’s a matter of discussion/education, not an automatic “businesses won’t like this” issue.

    * Chip – do you frequently hear people in Ann Arbor complain about the parking rate structure? I don’t. I’ve always heard the complaint that parking is hard to find…

    * And, true, lots of downtown hourly employees don’t have go!passes. Approximately 400 of 1200 downtown businesses (note, includes 1- or 2-employee offices in that 1200) subscribe to the go!pass, and people who have them use them on average fewer than 10 times/month. I believe Jonathan Levine (my advisor) was recently working on the second or third iteration of audit/review of the go!pass system to look at things like why businesses do or don’t subscribe and why card holders do or don’t use them. I don’t think that has any outcome yet.

    I’ll note that, to my knowledge, I’m much more hawkish on pricing parking than almost anybody on the DDA Board, so, again, don’t take my opinions to be anything resembling the opinion of the DDA.
       —Murph.    Oct. 23 '05 - 12:50AM    #
  15. Murph, I haven’t got a position one way or another on what Roger does with the DDA money. My point was that his comment is a symptom of growing bad blood between the City and the DDA.

    Plus – people can make any number of arguments pro and con about the hours of meter operation. However, past experience has been that the merchants affected don’t believe the arguments. They perceive that their interests will be adversely affected, and they will make their opinions known to Council.

    In politics, perception is reality.
       —David Cahill    Oct. 23 '05 - 01:27AM    #
  16. in politics, perception is reality

    I agree completely. What I was trying to say is that perception is not static, and, therefore, reality is mutable. (Just like the Matrix. “Whoa…”) In the policy world, if people disagree on what’s a good idea, it’s not right to just sit back and say, “Oh, well, that’s that, then.” There’s a duty to sit down and figure out exactly what everybody thinks and how to how to reach a point that everybody agrees upon. Call it “building consensus”, if you will. Or maybe, “seeking pareto optimalities,” if you’re a big geek. (That latter is game theory speak for “finding ways to make at least some people better off while making nobody worse off”.)

    I’d be curious to see which merchants cried loudest when such a thing was proposed in the past, and to see what, exactly, their objections were.
       —Murph.    Oct. 23 '05 - 01:08PM    #
  17. Oh, as another note on politics and policy –

    As a recent committee meeting, it was noted that Corner House Lofts has a several-year contract for a block of parking permits (70+) in Liberty Square at $20 or $30 above the “market”/going rate of $105. McKinley is trying to get the DDA to contract them 250 permits for 20 years, and also sounds willing to pay a premium for the spaces.

    I asked a DDA board member afterwards, “If so many people are willing to pay so much above ‘market’ rate, doesn’t that mean that the market rate is higher than what we’re charging?” Well, sure, I’m told, but try telling Council that when the public screams at increased parking costs.

    Policy changes that would encourage use of alternative transportation, make more efficient use of parking facilities, and provide more money for other projects can’t happen because the DDA has been forced to walk on eggshells and not annoy anybody. Great.
       —Murph.    Oct. 25 '05 - 05:56PM    #
  18. the DDA has been forced to walk on eggshells and not annoy anybody. Great.

    Hmmm, if this is the DDA walking on eggshells, I’d hate to see the DDA when they aren’t trying to walk on eggshells. They certainly need a better publicist at the very least. Somehow someone on the DDA manages to say the one thing guaranteed to piss people off.

    What I don’t understand is how the situation came to be so adversarial between Council and the DDA. It seems like these two entities should work together. It is not serving the City or the citizens very well to have them at each other’s throats. Council is charged to represent the interests of their constituents (voters) so they tend to listen more carefully to what residents are saying (not wanting to be voted out of office). The DDA’s mission is “to undertake public improvements that have the greatest impact in strengthening the downtown area, and attracting new private investments.” In a good situation, the two groups would work together to strengthen the downtown, attract new private investments, and represent the positions of the residents and downtown businesses, but I don’t see that happening here. I think the DDA is a good concept, I agree with the statements they have on their web site, and I like many of the people on the DDA, but it feels like they have developed an “us vs. them” mentality with Council and (to use the words of one DDA member when talking about local citizens) “NIMBYs” on the other side. Seems to me we need to figure out a way to strongly encourage these groups to work together to move forward for everyone’s good, and not just play the blame game.
       —Juliew    Oct. 25 '05 - 08:00PM    #
  19. It appears to me that the issue is that the DDA knows how to manage its money, while the Council pisses its money away. And the Council is jealous. That is, it’s jealous when it isn’t busy jerking off whichever selfish, greedy, “public interest” group that happens to show up with a hard-on.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Oct. 25 '05 - 08:17PM    #
  20. Juliew, I’m certain I’m biased, but, why again are we scapegoating the DDA?

    it feels like they have developed an “us vs. them” mentality with Council and (to use the words of one DDA member when talking about local citizens) “NIMBYs” on the other side.

    I hardly think the DDA bears sole responsibility for the friction. Nor even the lion’s share. (Not saying Council does either. I’m told by people who have fled city employ that King Fraser’s hardly a paragon of diplomacy, and there have certainly been enough people stirring up trouble from the peanut gallery.)

    And, definitely, definitely, definitely not responsibility for starting the name-calling. Sure, Rene probably shouldn’t have stooped down towards the level of the Friends’ rhetoric, but having one Board member respond harshly to a booing crowd of a hundred? Nobody ever said being an appointed official involved being a martyr…

    The DDA has watched as a project they’ve put years into has been whittled down by Council into something that fits fewer and fewer of the original goals (as far as I can tell, affordable housing is pretty much gone, thanks to Council’s constraints), and is then told that all of their other projects are also unimportant, and that their real role is as a piggy-bank for the Council. Pay up or be disbanded.

    So they stick up for their projects and try to carry on the mandate that they’ve been given, even when that doesn’t exactly coincide with the short-term goals of the City Council. Yes, naturally that’s going to lead to friction. All the DDA’s fault? Definitely not.
       —Murph.    Oct. 26 '05 - 05:16PM    #
  21. Now, I’m not saying I think that a City Hall expansion is totally a bad idea. Nor is the DDA, as far as I can tell. (Nor are they even saying they don’t think they should put cash towards it.)

    What is the DDA saying about a City Hall expansion? AFAICT, the message is,

    “We need more information before we commit to anything.”

    And that’s something I wholly agree with. Given that the DDA are supposed to be the champions of downtown, and the current City Hall is the single worst example of site use & built form in the downtown, I certainly wouldn’t want them to rubber-stamp support for a “trust us” expansion to it. I’d want to see a site plan, designs, and explanations of the reasoning behind all of the choices involved. Any investor would, and the DDA isn’t just being asked to make a ten-year investment in x random private development; they’re being asked to make a permanent investment in downtown, at the opportunity cost of other permanent investments.

    What hostility exists over the City Hall issue could be fixed if the City simply said, “Okay, what do you want to know before you can make this decision?” and stopped making threats about disbanding the DDA. (And, bringing this thread back to the original topic a little bit, does anybody really want the DDA disbanded? We all know what happened to the parking structures the last time the City was managing them…)
       —Murph.    Oct. 26 '05 - 05:30PM    #
  22. True, it isn’t fair to blame the DDA entirely, both parties are part of the problem. The DDA is (currently) the group doing the name-calling so they bother me more. The DDA has been in existence for 23 years now. Yes, they have updated the parking structures and added spaces, but they have little utilization data for these structures, which I find irresponsible at best. There are also simple things that could be done to make parking easier for people, like giving directions from a full parking structure to one that has spaces or having better signs, but that hasn’t happened. The City and the DDA need to stop fighting and work together, but I agree that is unlikely to happen with Fraser (and some DDA members) in those organizations. Collaboration doesn’t seem to be the strong suit here.
       —Juliew    Oct. 26 '05 - 08:34PM    #
  23. Something happened last spring that has caused a lot of bad blood between City Council and the DDA.

    When the City wanted the DDA to bail it out of its budget deficit, Council members Chris Easthope and Leigh Greden came to the DDA and said that if the DDA gave the City the money it wanted, there were enough votes on Council to approve the DDA’s three-site plan.

    The DDA paid, keeping its part of the deal.

    Then Council reneged. After the Friends of the Greenway went public, Easthope said he couldn’t go along with the three-site plan because his ward (the Fifth Ward) didn’t want it. And Leigh Greden changed his mind.

    The DDA has decided not to go public with this betrayal. But this stab in the back has contributed to the high level of bad feeling.

    My sources: Former Council member Kim Groome and Ray Detter.
       —David Cahill    Oct. 27 '05 - 12:47PM    #
  24. David-

    I feel compelled to respond. That is absolutely false.

    First, neither Chris Easthope nor I ever proposed such a deal at any time before, during, or after the parking negotiations.

    Second, such a deal was never agreed to by any of the parties involved in the negotoations.

    Third, there were, in fact, a few DDA members who demanded a quid pro quo linking the parking renegotiation with the 3-site plan… but it was neither me nor Chris… nor was it any DDA member who participated in the parking negotiations. These individuals said (paraphrased), “if we vote to change this parking contract, we want a guarantee that the 3-site plan will be approved.” Chris and I refused, and we both said it was inappropriate to link the two.

    Fourth, Chris’ position on the 3-site plan never changed. Throughout the DDA negotiations, he made clear that he would not support the 3-site plan. I publicly supported the 3-site plan, but I accepted Chris’ compromise plan because it allowed appropriate downtown development to move forward without being bogged down in an endless debate about 1st/William.

    Fifth, with all due respect to Kim Groome and Ray Detter, neither one of them participated in any of the DDA parking negotiations. They therefore have no information about those negotiations.
       —Leigh Greden    Oct. 27 '05 - 06:19PM    #
  25. Leigh is correct, and I know because I was there.
       —Leah    Oct. 27 '05 - 07:39PM    #
  26. Oh, they might have information – just not necessarily accurate information…

    And, David, I don’t think the meter rent issue is nearly as big a deal as you suggest; I don’t think I’ve ever heard a DDA member gripe about paying more to the city. Reaction seems, really, to be more about belt-tightening – plugging the new numbers into the long-range forecasts and saying, “Oh. Well, I suppose we’re going to have to deal with that there negative balance, aren’t we?”

    Nor do I see a tiff nearly as big as the one that Gantert wants us to believe in. Sure, I think several DDA members are still disappointed in the death of the three-site plan, and not happy with Gantert extracting quotes from Fraser about disbanding the DDA if they don’t cough up the cash. If we assume Rene to be the most Council-hostile of the DDA Board by merit of being the Board member with the best quotes in the paper, well, she’s working gung-ho on the Two-Site Plan rfps, and talking about where to find money for City Hall. Schism? Nah. Spat.
       —Murph.    Oct. 27 '05 - 08:55PM    #
  27. Well, Kim and Ray both seemed to know what they were talking about, so I stand by my sources. It is natural for people participating in a failed deal (plus those standing around) to have varying perceptions of what happened after things fell apart, I suppose.
       —David Cahill    Oct. 28 '05 - 12:38AM    #
  28. Actually, I should provide some more details. Kim told me the story originally. Then, after one of the First Ward meetings about picking her successor, held at the Ann Arbor Community Center, I talked with Ray in the parking lot, in the presence of my wife Sabra. I said to Ray that Kim had said that Chris and Leigh would vote for the 3-site plan in exchange for the budget bailout. Ray said Chris and Leigh went further than that: he told me “they said they had the votes to approve the three-site plan.”

    Mind you, it is not illegal or even a bad thing to make a deal to trade parking money for votes for the three-site plan.
       —David Cahill    Oct. 28 '05 - 12:43AM    #