Downtown parking up last three months


    Monthly parking at city-owned ramps and lots has declined ever so slightly from 2002 to this year, dropping by just 44 issued cards from October of that year to this October.

    But the same comparison to October 2006 reveals a much larger decline.

    Back then, there were 6,744 active monthly parking cards in the city’s system. As of earlier this month, only 5,724 were in play — 1,020 fewer cards than three years ago.

    More than a third of those cards, 376, went inactive over the last 12 months.

    “We are down a little bit,” said Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema.

    The largest recent loss in monthly parkers has occurred at the Louis Campau ramp. The latest report showed Louis Campau had lost 44 parkers over the last quarter.

    The reasons behind the drop aren’t clear. It could be the economy, as unemployment remains high in the city. And it could be competition coming from the private sector, which is somewhat unusual as rates are usually higher at privately owned facilities than at those owned by the city. But Ritsema recently told parking commissioners that the JW Marriott ramp on Campau Square Avenue was charging a lower monthly rate than the Louis Campau ramp. The Marriott ramp is across Campau Square from Louis Campau.

    Ritsema said Louis Campau is an older facility with smaller parking spaces and narrower driving corridors than the newer and wider Marriott ramp. The hotel negotiates monthly rates with companies and sets charges based on the number of spaces a firm wants to lease. But for an individual, the going monthly charge at the Marriott ramp is $124, while the rate at Louis Campau is $130 a month.

    “That’s about a $300,000 revenue hit,” said Ritsema of a potential annual loss at the ramp.

    Parking commissioners asked if the monthly rate at Louis Campau should be lowered by $20 or $30 to compete with prices the Marriott is offering. “With the market conditions and we’re seeing a loss, maybe it’s something to consider,” said Commissioner Joan Rosema-David.

    Ritsema said they should hold off doing that because the Marriott ramp has a finite number of spaces that may be filled soon. She also asked where the city would draw parkers from to the Louis Campau ramp with all the facilities the city has downtown. Ritsema said the annual loss at the current rate would likely be less than the amount the department would lose from lowering the ramp’s monthly rate.

    “That’s would be a significant loss to go to $110 (a month). But it’s something to look at,” said Commissioner Monica Sekulich.

    “It would be a race to the bottom,” added Commissioner David Leonard.

    The good news for Ritsema and the commissioners is that the number of monthly parking cards issued over the last quarter went up by 91. In July, the number was 5,633. In October, it was 5,724.

    Ritsema added that ArtPrize was good for the parking system; the daily parking numbers doubled during the competition.

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