Increased parking fees proposed for downtown Great Falls

One of Great Falls’ perpetual headaches, downtown parking, is back on the City Commission’s agenda this month.

A number of changes have implemented by the city, but the dynamic has also changed downtown.

In December 2014, the Parking Advisory Commission brought recommendations to commissioners for generating revenue for the parking program, which is in need of dollars to make needed repairs and improvements to facilities.

An April 2014 memo to the commission that found revenues being collected by the parking system were insufficient to address substantial deferred maintenance needs and would soon be insufficient to support operations.

In 2015, city planning staff sent another memo detailing the need for additional revenue and outlining challenges facing the program.

Great Falls staff is now proposing some fee increases, that were originally proposed in 2014, to generate about $50,000 annually in additional revenue until the PAC can conduct a comprehensive budget assessment.

City planning, parking boards have struggled with quorum issues, delaying some projects

These recommendations will go to the commission for a first reading on Tuesday and again for a public hearing and a vote on Sept. 19.

The meter rate for downtown parking will remain 50 cents per hour with a two-hour limit.

City staff working to address continued parking woes

The monthly rates for either of the city’s two parking garages will be increased to $51 from the current $41. Only the north garage has hourly parking and that rate is 50 cents hourly, capped at $5 per day, that rate will remain the same.

The proposal would also increase the monthly rate for surface parking lots to $35 from the current $30.

Parking fees in Great Falls are generally lower than other large Montana cities.

In Missoula, most garages and on street rates are $1 per hour, though some areas offer the first hour free. Monthly rates for garages start at $75 monthly. On-street meters start at $1 per hour and increase by 50 cents for every additional hour after the two-hour mark. Missoula also uses the Passport Parking smartphone app that’s available in Great Falls.

In Bozeman, on-street parking is limited to two hours of free parking, but after that citations are issued. In garages, the first two hours are also free and $1 hourly thereafter for short-term parking. Monthly rates for surface lots at $45, garages start at $60 and there’s a 10 percent discount for annual permits.

Billings parking garages offer a monthly $26.25 rate for the roof, $52.50 for covered spaces and $105 for assigned spaces. Some garages have no hourly parking, but most offer the first hour free, then increasing by a dollar each hour thereafter for a daily maximum charge of $7. Most parking meters are 75 cents an hour, though some 10-hour meters are cheaper and some meters are $1.50 hourly and half the proceeds go to the Downtown Billings Alliance for beautification efforts.

 

The proposed resolution would allow the city manager to negotiate and authorize special incentive rates for bulk parking leases in the garage and surface lots for customers who either lease numerous garage spaces and/or pre-pay leases for a period of one year or more. All fees for leases are non-refundable.

Staff is hoping the city can generate new revenue by attracting new customers to the parking system with the bulk or group discounts and pre-pay incentives for the monthly lot leases.

Fines for meter violations will remain the same. Currently, the first violation gets a courtesy ticket, the second violation is a $5 ticket, the third is $10, fourth is $15 and all subsequent violations in one year are $20 each.

Pedlet has arrived in downtown Great Falls

The proposal will also create a pedlet program since their use is expected to grow after the success of the first one this year at Mighty Mo Brewing Company. The of leasing each on-street parking space for the construction and occupancy of a pedlet will be the same as the courtesy space, prorated by month for the duration the pedlet fills an on-street parking spot. The courtesy parking program is $400 annually for each space on Central Avenue and $300 annually for spaces within the Downtown Parking Management District but not on Central Avenue.

According to city staff, these increases will “marginally provide” for some needed funds while the PAC and staff completes the budgetary review. Staff writes in the agenda report that it should be anticipated that additional revenue generating measures will be required in the future.

Last year, the parking program generated about $12,000 more than projected in the budget and staff cut expenditures by almost $85,000. The budget had projected that the parking program expenditures would be $100,000 more than revenues but were able to cut that to $3,000.

The city has contracts with SP+ to develop a strategic framework for the parking program. That study is not to exceed $20,000. Another recently approved professional services agreement not to exceed $58,000 with McKinstry Essention, LLC to perform an investment grade energy audit and develop a comprehensive energy services proposal for the parking garages.

There have been security concern’s at the city’s two parking garages and the north garage was recently vandalized. City staff has been working on options for adding security gates and pay stations, for an estimated $230,000, as well as a new surveillance system, estimated at $50,000.