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Ferndale

January 23, 2013

Council approves increase of downtown parking rates

By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
The Ferndale City Council voted Jan. 14 to raise the city’s downtown parking rates, which is part of a strategy to decrease the congestion around popular bars and restaurants like Rosie O’Grady’s, pictured here.

FERNDALE — As it rolls out its new multi-space digital pay stations, Ferndale is increasing its downtown parking rates to be more in line with those in cities including Royal Oak, Birmingham and Detroit.

On Jan. 14, following a discussion that lasted nearly 90 minutes, the City Council voted 4-0 in favor of the proposed changes from City Manager April Lynch and the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority. Councilman Mike Lennon was absent from the meeting.

Lynch pointed out that this is the first time that Ferndale has increased its parking rates since 2004. The city will also change to a tiered parking system, in which downtown lots and spaces with higher demand are priced higher than those with lower demand.

“One of the key reasons for these rate changes is that this tiered system will really help with the movement of cars,” Lynch explained. “Right now, with just parking meters and quarters, it’s a very simple parking system to manage. But with the new multi-space meters, it’s going to be a whole new animal.”

While the current parking rates are 50 cents per hour across the board, the new rates will be 75 cents per hour in 14 of the city’s 15 downtown lots, as well as $1 per hour in all lots after 7 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The cost of on-street parking will also be set at $1 per hour. In addition, the under-utilized lot on West Breckenridge Street will serve as a discount lot, where parking is just 50 cents per hour, while the former Ferndale American Legion lot on Livernois Street will continue to offer free parking every day.

The cost of long-term parking passes is increasing, as well. The current rates are $40 per month, $80 per quarter and $240 per year for all downtown lots. However, the new rates will increase to $84 for quarterly passes and $252 for yearly passes in the discount lot; $108 quarterly and $324 yearly in standard lots; and $120 quarterly and $360 yearly in premium lots, such as those on Withington and West Troy streets and along East Nine Mile Road. Monthly long-term parking passes will no longer be available.

The good news for residents who live within the city’s central business district is that their parking costs will be going down significantly. They currently pay the same rates as other long-term parking pass holders, but under the new system, those rates will decrease to $75 for a six-month pass and $100 for an annual pass. Monthly and quarterly passes will no longer be offered.

According to Annaka Norris, parking planner for the consulting firm Rich & Associates, who worked with Ferndale officials to develop the new parking rates, simplicity was a key goal for all those involved. “We wanted to make sure that we did not have a complicated (parking) system — that it was very straightforward and easy,” she said.

She added that the city and DDA will be encouraging downtown employees to park in the discount lot on West Breckenridge, not only to save themselves some money, but also to free up some of the more in-demand lots and spaces located closer to the district’s many popular bars and restaurants.

The council also voted 4-0 to increase Ferndale’s parking- enforcement hours by one hour in both the morning and evening. The current hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday will be expanded to 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on those days. Still, Lynch admitted that parking enforcement under the new system is a work in progress.

“Once we get these mechanisms in place, I think we’re going to be sitting down to develop a comprehensive plan on parking enforcement,” she said. “We’re going to continue to review and recommend future parking improvements.”

These changes are all part of the new Ferndale Park+ program, a collaborative effort between the city and DDA that is intended to upgrade Ferndale’s downtown parking system. Under Ferndale Park+, more than 900 individual parking meters are being replaced with 19 solar-powered, digital pay stations that can service multiple parking spaces in each lot. Drivers can park in one of the numbered spaces and then use the digital stations to pay either via cash, credit card or the city’s Parkmobile cellphone option. Lynch noted that installation of the new system is scheduled to begin the week of Jan. 28 and will take two or three weeks to complete.

Not everyone at the council meeting was on board with this new plan, however. George Gize, co-owner of Assaggi Bistro at 330 W. Nine Mile Road, was angered and disappointed by the city’s decision to raise its parking rates, telling the council that they were “scaring” business owners with a program that could drive customers away.

“Thank you for killing the city; thank you very much,” he said sarcastically. “People sitting in an office don’t know these streets. And even you, your highness (Mayor Dave Coulter), you do not know the streets. Why do you want to impose on people? They will just go to the suburbs, where they can park for free. … You have to facilitate for the customers to come in. If you don’t do that, you are going to lose the city.”

Gize became increasingly agitated as he spoke, eventually shouting at the council, “Why are you doing this? Don’t kill your city. Shame on all of you! … Don’t just listen to these people who sit in their offices. No, you listen to us (the business owners). We bring the people to Ferndale, not the DDA. … What are you doing? Wake up!”

Resident Sherry Wells and others also complained of downtown visitors parking on residential streets, noting that the problem has been especially bad at night and on weekends, when the bars attract big crowds. Wells suggested that the city make parking on West Troy, West Saratoga and Withington streets residential only.

Members of council took these comments in stride but expressed overall support for the Ferndale Park+ system. Councilman Dan Martin acknowledged the challenge of making everyone happy in this situation.

“This is really hard,” he said. “It’s a tough quandary, in that you need to create an environment that supports parking and supports (downtown) businesses and is respectful of the residents. But in addition, you need to be able to invest in the long-term parking system. Our parking system has many opportunities, and we know it … but it is a process.”

Coulter said that he was glad to see Ferndale bringing its parking rates more in line with some of the surrounding communities. He declared that the city was “growing up” from a traditional system of coin-operated parking meters to “a real parking system” that utilizes modern technology to give people more options.

“We actually have a lot of parking lots,” he said, “but we have a couple of lots, in particular, that are jammed all the time. So we need to be able to change people’s behavior, and I think you’ve taken a good step with the tiered pricing system here. We want to motivate people to park in lots that are less utilized, and I think you’ve created a plan that does that. … This plan does a reasonable job of beginning to collect (the money) that will probably be necessary to change our parking system in the long term. I was glad to hear about the communication plan because I don’t think we can stress enough that this is going to be an adjustment for people. … We don’t want to drive people mad while they’re adjusting to our new system.”

One area where the council was not able to come to an agreement was in establishing a vision for the city’s long-term parking system. The city and DDA had proposed allocating all parking revenue generated under Ferndale Park+ into the city’s auto parking fund — which currently has a fund balance of just $271,000 — to put toward the construction of a long-discussed downtown parking deck. But Councilwoman Melanie Piana argued that this plan was “a bit short-sighted” and focused too heavily on growth and expansion. Still, she was supportive of Ferndale Park+, as a whole.

“Since we started investing in the changes in our parking system, we’ve made some great strides,” she said. “So I feel like we’re at a real point of change here and really moving to a demand-pricing system. This is a policy change and behavior change for everyone. Ferndale is not a strip-mall, retail, free-parking-lot environment, and so I think that we are changing our parking policy to meet the demands of an urban environment. And we are capitalizing on our opportunities, as challenging as it may be at times to get there.”

For more information on Ferndale’s new downtown parking system, go to www.ferndaleparkplus.com or call the Ferndale DDA at (248) 546-1632.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jeremy Selweski at jSelweski@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5004.