Gross parking revenue to the city’s assortment of downtown ramps and lots was down by 4.5 percent at the third-quarter mark of the current fiscal year when compared to the previous year. Revenue totaled $8.57 million through March 31 of this year, a figure that was off by $401,850 from last year.
“The decline in gross revenues has been steady for the last six months. I would expect us to end the year down by 5 percent,” said Pam Ritsema, Parking Services director.
Parking Services operates eight ramps, 13 surface lots and a few hundred meters in the downtown district. A closer look at the revenue figures reveals that gross income from the off-street facilities was down by 6 percent for the year’s first nine months, while gross income from metered parking was up by 6.5 percent.
The gross revenue from ramps and lots totaled nearly $7.4 million, about $475,000 less than last year’s take for three quarters. Income from the Pearl Ionia ramp was down by almost 20 percent, at $721,866, for the largest percentage drop. The biggest percentage gain for a ramp was at the Cherry Commerce facility, where gross income rose by 21 percent to $410,498.
While monthly parking revenue was down overall in the city’s system by 14 percent and event parking was off by 15 percent, income from daily parking charges was up by nearly 30 percent for the first three quarters. All but two of the city’s ramps, Pearl Ionia and Monroe Center, have a daily maximum rate, but parking commissioners may change that scenario next month. “We have more people getting caught in a very-high paying situation,” said Ritsema of parkers at those two ramps.
That situation stems from the department having switched to an automated pay station and leaving the exit gates to the ramps down, resulting in the $2-an-hour parking charge running day and night at those facilities. Although both ramps have signs posted that neither has a daily maximum charge, Ritsema said some parkers have been shocked by their parking tabs. She added that downtown restaurant owners have complained that it’s difficult to explain to customers that some facilities have a maximum charge and others don’t.
Parking commissioners are considering creating a $12 or $14 daily maximum charge for the two ramps. “The concept makes sense,” said Parking Commissioner Michael Ellis, also president of the Ellis Parking Co. He suggested that Parking Services check with downtown business owners to get their opinion before the commission makes a decision, and Ritsema said they would be contacted. “We can check with the businesses and come back with more,” she said.
Ritsema said if the commission adopts a $12 daily maximum charge for the ramps, which she recommended, Parking Services would lose an estimated $14,400 in gross annual revenue from the Pearl Ionia ramp and $10,000 from the Monroe Center ramp, which also offers an hour of free parking during the day.
The number of monthly parking cards Parking Services had in effect early this month was down by 357 from April 2008 to 5,799. The drop likely reflected the recession as downtown employers are the single largest purchasers of the cards. At the same time, the number of monthly parkers at the lower-priced surface lots has grown. “The parking lots tend to have most of the parking cards sold,” said Ritsema.
Parking commissioners did not raise rates last year, and they may make a decision next month on whether to do so for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Here is a breakdown of parking services’ major revenue categories from July 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010, and a comparison of that income from the previous year.
Ramps & lots
Meter hood rental
Gross Revenue YTD FY2010
Gross Revenue YTD FY 2009
Note: The 2010 gross revenue figure for ramps and lots doesn’t include the Monroe Place lot as the city sold it. In 2009, the lot grossed $148,411 for the first nine months. ParkMobile is the new Internet payment option offered to city customers.
Source: Parking Services Department, April 2010