GRAND RAPIDS — With the Grand Center parking ramp expected to close today, the city will lose about $700,000 in annual parking revenue over the next fiscal year from the closing. As an effort to regain part of that income loss, Parking Services recently unveiled rate hikes that would add $351,650 to its FY2002 balance sheet.
The proposed monthly parking increases for a dozen of the city’s popular downtown ramps and lots range from 2 percent to 25 percent. These hikes are targeted to give the city an additional $246,000 in revenue starting in July, and account for nearly 70 percent of the parking system’s overall projected revenue gain.
But even with the increases, the highest proposed monthly parking fee at a city-owned ramp — $120 for the Government Center and Pearl/Ionia ramps — still runs about $10 a month less than the rates at privately operated ramps.
Parking Commissioner Jack Hoffman said he supported the increases, including those that exceed the annual inflation figure. He felt the business district would evolve in a more orderly manner if the city didn’t drastically undercut the rates offered by Ellis Parking, the largest private-parking firm in the city.
“I think the more people we can get into market-rate parking, the better off downtown will be,” said Hoffman.
Parking commissioners are likely to vote on the new rates in May. Rates for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts on July 1, also must be approved by the City Commission.
The biggest percent increase is proposed for the DASH lots, a 25-percent jump from $16 to $20 a month at both DASH South and DASH West — a fee that includes shuttle rides to and from downtown.
Parking Services Director Ted Perez said the increase was necessary because the $16 monthly charge was $8 less than the $24 it costs his department to maintain each space in both lots every month and to run the shuttle service.
“The move should get us to the question of what is inexpensive parking,” said Perez. “The city thinks this is inexpensive parking.”
A 17-percent increase has been proposed for the Monroe North lot on Monroe Avenue at Trowbridge NW, which would lift that rate from $30 to $35 a month. Despite the increase, Perez said the parking rate there could be higher given the high demand for spaces.
“The market for parking in that neighborhood is easily $50 a month,” he said.
Proposed increases just for the city-owned downtown ramps range from 2 percent at Pearl/Ionia and Louis Campau to 12 percent at Government Center.
Demand is expected to be high at the Government Center ramp. It’s likely to pick up parkers from the nearby Grand Center ramp. Demolition of the Grand Center ramp is set to begin next week as part of the convention center renovation project.
Finally, the proposed rate for the aging City Centre ramp at Fulton and Division would rise by 6 percent from $66 to $70 a month.
“Parking in that ramp was more expensive 10 years ago than it is today. The market in that ramp is probably closer to $90,” said Perez.
Hikes are also proposed for the half-hour and daily maximum rates. But the special event rate remains unchanged at all but one of the city-owned ramps and lots. If approved, the rate would only rise at the Government Center ramp — by 11 percent from $4.50 to $5.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” said Perez of the city’s parking-business situation. “We can accommodate more growth, and we are doing well financially.”