Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.
I recommend email readers click through to the website to see the embedded video.
Parking in downtown Raleigh is being discussed once again. If you haven’t heard yet, this latest city budget added some new fees to our downtown decks at times that were previously free.
Please keep in mind that this only applies to the city-owned parking decks that predominantly are located in the core business district. There are no city-owned decks in the warehouse district or Glenwood South, for example, so this wouldn’t apply to anything in those areas. State, county, and private decks do their own thing but with the city owning eight decks total, this change is big enough to take note of.
A quick side note. This change does not apply to the convention center deck, the performing arts deck (that one to the south of the convention center), and the Blount Street deck so only five of the eight city-owned decks would have the new changes.
To start things off, I went straight to the budget and found a few interesting snippets.
In order to better support the maintenance and cleanliness of the decks, a flat $5 night and weekend parking fee is included in the budget and will take effect December 31, 2015. This new fee will fund a dedicated cleaning crew, equipment upgrades, and additional staffing for the parking attendant booths.
– Page 10
Implementation of night and weekend paid parking is expected to generate $950,000 in revenue during the initial six month period beginning December 31, 2015. This revenue will offset the cost of a dedicated janitorial crew to provide 24-hour coverage for cleaning and sanitizing the parking decks ($250,000 for first six months). Funds are also budgeted for increased contractual services to staff the parking decks during the night and weekend hours ($250,000) and to upgrade parking deck equipment and software ($450,000).
– Page 127
Some additional actions listed in the budget here are:
Work with McLaurin Parking to sub-contract a janitorial crew of 12 workers dedicated to cleaning and sanitizing the parking decks to address the challenges of increased nighttime and special events activities in the decks.
Begin priority structural repairs in the Wilmington Station, City Center, Cabarrus and Performing Arts Decks based on priorities identified in the 2013 Kimley-Horn Deck Assessment Report.
Engage a consulting firm to conduct a parking study of current parking space inventory, space commitments and future obligations and provide recommendations for new deck locations and capacities on the east and west sides of downtown. This study is essential for the city to maintain an available parking supply that can accommodate the demands of new business development, downtown residential life and the increasing number of downtown activities.
– Page 127
The proposed $5 flat fee would go into place 7pm-7am every weeknight, all-day Saturday, (that’s up until 7am Sunday morning) and after 1pm on Sunday. This plan is already approved per the budget.
The daytime worker versus the nightlifer is a bit different and it seems the decks are getting pretty dirty with this rise in nighttime use. The current funding model is seen as outdated for handling today’s use of the city’s decks and a change is needed.
A group of downtown business owners have gotten together and are trying to work with the city. They see the proposed change as too drastic and want to see the hours reduced and/or a phase-in approach take place.
Below is the presentation to the city council from Public Works about the changes and some follow-on discussion. If you can’t see the embedded video, click here.
Unfortunately, some raw numbers would have made this presentation great and allowed us to have some data to play with. There was a bar chart shown but the point it was trying to make wasn’t too clear so I won’t share that in this post.
It’s irrelevant though as most of us can agree that Friday and Saturday are seeing increased parking deck use, some filling up completely, and we’re capturing no revenue here to offset the needed repairs and keep them clean.
As a city, we’ve decided to run our parking as an enterprise fund. In short, that means it has to pay for itself. By that adopted process, we must explore ways to get more revenue flowing as the fund is currently in the negative.
In addition to paying off debt, what I’m most interested in is what the new visitor experience will be like as a result of this $5 flat fee. Currently, six staff members are in charge of the eight city-owned decks. They take care of maintenance and cleaning. With the added fees, this number would increase to 12, according to the presentation.
Does that result in a better looking, better operating facilities or are we just keeping pace? That’s yet to be seen.
A compromise between the approved plan in the budget and the downtown business owners that think this is too much, too fast was looked at. A number of alternatives were put together, changing hours, changing the fee rates. The preferred alternative from city staff looks like this:
- $5 flat fee
- Thurs 7pm to Fri 7am
- Fri 7pm to Sun 7am
Note the weekend enforcement drops Sunday and goes from Friday night through Saturday until the early morning hours of Sunday. Saturday all-day hours seem to be the key capture time here and revenues from Sunday to Wednesday night are not that significant.
In addition, the decks would be color-coded to help in locating the deck that you parked in, (a common complaint by the way) reduced monthly spaces for downtown employees, and a special program with Marbles Museum for complimentary parking.
Here is a breakdown of some nearby cities and what they charge in downtown on nights and weekends.
A $5 flat fee, when compared around the state/region, is not ridiculous by any means. Still, some feel that the fee would deter visitors and be yet another obstacle for retail in downtown to grow.
Personally, I welcome this $5 flat parking fee during our busiest nights and weekend days. I even think Sunday should be included. What I hope to see in exchange are spotless parking decks, well-designed wayfinding, new elevators, and top-notch customer service. (in-person and through technology) People are willing to pay if the experience is very positive.
I even think on-street metered parking should continue to run, that way parking in a deck is more attractive and removes congestion off the streets.
If the city won’t do it, we’re just making private parking decks and lots more likely to rise up. The conversation on this topic continues, at the city council, during their Nov 3 meeting.