Parking program resumes generating revenue, begins COVID recovery
From April 5-14, the paid parking system has generated about $5,650 in revenue for the downtown parking system.
The new pay stations were installed in March and paid parking resumed April 2.
According to the city, the meters have generated $540.36 by cash; $732.82 by credit card; and $397.50 through the Passport Parking app for a total of $1,670.88 on Central Avenue. All other meters have generated $3,980.20, for a total of $5,650.88, according to the city’s data.
That puts the program close to pre-COVID monthly meter revenues. In April 2019, on-street meters generated $18,753 and Passport Parking app generated $1,674 for a total of $20,428, so if the city parking program generates about $5,000 weekly for the next month, it will come close to that April 2019 number.
The revenue from meters goes into the parking fund, which is an enterprise fund, meaning it does not received general fund, or taxpayer support, and is instead funded by fees and fines from the parking program. In 2019, the Commission approved $470,000 from the downtown TIF fund for repairs to the city’s garages.
The city suspended parking fees in March 2020 due to COVID-19 and didn’t collect any parking fees until paid parking resumed this month. They city did resume parking enforcement in June 2020 and so it did collect some fines from parking violations such as exceeding the two-hour limit, improper parking and other infractions.
In March 2020, the parking program had a balance of $400,000 and most had been budgets for infrastructure improvements.
Those reserves had been depleted by March 2021 and Craig Raymond, city planning director, and the program now has a negative fund balance.
The lost revenue is “significant and detrimental to the program over all,” Raymond said during the March 18, 2021 parking board meeting.
The city is slated to receive about $20 million in federal COVID-19 stimulus funds and department heads are submitting ideas and requests for those funds.
Raymond said he’s requested about $500,000 to replenish the parking fund and believes that the fund will get at least some of it since it’s a direct loss attributed to COVID-19. He’s also requested about $1 million for facility maintenance in the garages and surface lots, some of which had already been planned and was delayed due to COVID-19.
Included in the projects he requested funding for 10 electric vehicle charging stations, likely split between the city’s two garages. Raymond said that since the city doesn’t have any in its parking system currently and it’s a growing use nationwide, that it might help attract some monthly parkers to the garages.
The request also includes about $100,000 toward security camera installation in the garages, another planned project that’s been delayed due to cost and COVID-19.
The city hasn’t yet made any determinations on how the COVID relief funds will be spent as they’re still awaiting guidance from the federal government. Staff are scheduled to discuss their recommendations with City Commissioners during a May 18 work session.
During the April 15 parking board meeting, the group discussed the rollout of the new pay stations and associated software. Raymond said that most systems went live April 2, but the city isn’t able to migrate to some of the new software yet because the old vendor, T2, hasn’t provided the data. In March, Raymond told the board that T2 wasn’t willing to give the city its data in a usable format, which was causing issues.
Now, the company is willing to do it but charged the city an additional $7,000 for the formatting and hasn’t moved quickly to transfer the data, Raymond said.
The city can’t use the citation module in the Passport Parking system until it has that data, according to parking staff.
The data is also necessary for the city since state law requires it to retain parking citation records for three years.
Two of the new pay stations weren’t functioning properly either, but the vendor is sending parts to resolve the issue.
Raymond said a rumor had been circulating that many pay stations were working because they were solar, which isn’t true.
During the meeting, Raymond also apologized and said the error in understanding that there would be transaction fees per parking session when using the “wallet” option in the Passport Parking app was his mistake.
“I apologize, it’s a big mistake,” he told the board.
So far, there had been no requests for refunds from anyone who had loaded funds into their digital wallet in the app.
Raymond said he’d asked the vendor for some options for that function since if there’s a charge per use, there’s no point to it and that the city wouldn’t encourage its use in that case.
They are still discussing a validation program for downtown business owners.