Ferndale council extends parking enforcement to 9 p.m.

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published May 22, 2013

FERNDALE — It’s been a long and bumpy road for the Ferndale Park+ system since its inception Feb. 7. Insufficient pay stations caused long lines in cold weather, while increased rates were met with much criticism.

The city and the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority have met most complaints with a solution, and with concerns coming in less and less, the City Council at its May 13 meeting approved extending parking enforcement hours to 9 p.m., starting June 3.

After offering free parking through the end of March, the Ferndale Park+ system came back with 14 additional digital pay stations and rates back at 50 cents per hour, down from 75 cents per hour when the system launched. Council chose to keep the enforcement hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. because lighting was not available at every station.

“When we originally started the program, we wanted the hours to be from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., but only some locations were under street lights and it wasn’t safe,” City Manager April Lynch said. “We had it end at 8 p.m. because it was still light, and now we feel on June 3 we can make it 9 p.m. because it will still be light at that point. It will stay that way until we have lights at every station.”

The city is still testing out two lighting prototypes, one at City Hall and one at the corner of Planavon Street and West Nine Mile Road. Department of Public Works and police officials will monitor both prototypes closely to decide which one is better for the system and make sure it gives off enough light.

Mayor Dave Coulter said the city will take as much time as it needs to make the right decision and make sure those using the parking system are safe when they are at pay stations.

“We said in the beginning that we are going to make sure we get this right, so the reason we are slowly moving the hours back is because all the lights aren’t up yet,” Coulter said. “We are erring on the side of being cautious because we don’t want people to stand at the pay station in the dark. We will wait as long as it takes; it is more important to do it right than to collect a few extra hours.”

While many of the early complaints were on the long lines at pay stations, others voiced their concerns on the price increase. The 900 individual meters that the Ferndale Park+ system replaced charged 50 cents per hour, while the new system boosted the price to $1 per hour in all lots after 7 p.m. and on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Many business owners and residents also thought the city and DDA should have rolled the system out slowly to test how it was received, instead of all at once.

Complaints are few and far between at this point, Coulter said, and he feels people are getting more used to the system. Coulter doesn’t believe the extended hours will cause an issue, as parking fees have always extended until dark.

“I think we are a long way to having the system fixed, and the complaints have died down to hardly any, and that is because of the super job the staff has done addressing all the initial bugs,” he said. “We are committed to getting a system that works as it is supposed to. I think people are getting more used to the system and we are not hearing nearly the level of complaints we did.”

When the lighting is in, the enforcement hours will be from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. at all times. At that point, the city can digest the data and decide on the future of the Ferndale parking system.

“Once we get (the lights) up and go on full enforcement, then we can do a true assessment with not only the number of transactions, but monitor where they occur and possibly move machines,” Lynch said. “When the normal hours start, we can address and assess the revenue sources and discuss increased parking capacity, which was one of the purposes of the new system.”