The board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority will face a relatively light agenda for its post-election-day meeting scheduled for Nov. 7. But the meeting will include the usual routine update on usage statistics for Ann Arbor’s public parking system.
And while the most recent figures show revenues to be slightly better than expected for the quarter ending Sept. 30, revenues for just the month of September 2012 showed only a 3% gain against September 2011.
All other things being equal, the 3% revenue increase could be analyzed as increased usage of the parking system. But a couple of significant factors were not equal: total spaces available in the system, and parking rates. Both factors increased significantly more than 3%, indicating a dip in usage.
In September 2012, Ann Arbor’s public parking system offered about 12% more spaces than in September 2011 – 7,824 compared to 6,974 a year ago. Much of that increased inventory is due to the 738 spaces in the new Library Lane underground parking garage.
And parking rates increased 7-9% system-wide in September: Hourly parking structure rates increased from $1.10/hour to $1.20/hour; hourly parking lot rates increased from $1.30 ($1.50 after 3 hours) to $1.40 ($1.60 after 3 hours); hourly parking meter rates increased from $1.40/hour to $1.50/hour; and monthly parking permit rates increased from $140/month to $145/month.
The count of hourly patrons in the system is also consistent with a usage drop for September 2012 compared to September a year ago – 171,107 compared to 194,034 last year, or nearly 12% fewer patrons.
Discussion of the September parking system revenue totals at the DDA’s operations committee meeting on Oct. 31, 2012 included several factors that might account for the usage drop. In September 2011, the University of Michigan played four home football games, compared to just two this year. And September 2012 included one fewer business day (24 compared to 25) and one fewer weekend day (8 compared to 9) than September 2011. In addition, September 2012 did not include the Friday before Labor Day.
September revenue totals also reflect the fact that one segment of parking customers paid less, despite consistent usage. Holders of monthly permits in structures near the UM campus were offered a substantial discount to move their permits to the new underground Library Lane parking garage – $95 compared to the $145 regular rate. So a portion of the roughly 415 monthly permits that have been sold for the Library Lane garage reflect the discounted rate.
September was the first full month the Library Lane garage was open, without any part of it closed off for construction inspection activity. The garage showed modest revenue gains compared to last month. But somewhat as expected, it is initially lagging behind other facilities measured by revenue per space – $77 per space compared to a system-wide average of $196.
The public parking system will be adding more spaces sometime in mid-March 2013. At the DDA’s operations committee meeting, DDA executive director Susan Pollay indicated that current projections are for the DDA to take possession of the first two floors of Village Green’s City Apartments project on March 15, 2013. The building – located at First and Washington – will contain a 244-space parking deck on those first two floors, 95 of which are to be available for public parking. The rest of the spaces will be used by residents of the 146-unit project, when the construction is completed.
Graphs and some discussion of other ways to measure parking system performance are included in this report.
The number of hourly patrons in Ann Arbor’s public parking system for September 2012 was the lowest of any September in the last four years:
After consistently significant year-over-year revenue gains for the last three years, the 3% increase for September 2012 compared to September 2011 suggests a possible slowing of usage growth – especially in light of the increased capacity of the system and the increase in rates:
System-wide, the growth in average revenue per space appears to have slowed, relative to rate increases. The 738 spaces in the new Library Lane parking garage account for roughly 10% of the system total, so adding 10% to the denominator of the fraction, without a commensurate gain in revenue, will result in a smaller number:
Performance by Facility
The surface lot at Huron/Ashley/First continued the trend of generating the highest amount of revenue per space for any surface lot (or actually any facility) in the system:
The new Library Lane garage – somewhat as expected – is showing initial revenue per space performance that is significantly less than other structures in the system. As some monthly permits are transferred from the Maynard and the Liberty Square structures to the new Library Lane garage, the revenue per space in those structures should start to climb – as spaces are used by more hourly parkers, who pay relatively more than permit holders:
Measures of Performance
Despite the apparent drop in usage of the public parking system for September 2012 compared to September 2011, the DDA’s budgeted revenues for the parking system are still on target for the first quarter of the fiscal year 2013, a three-month period that ended Sept. 30. [.pdf of parking budgeted revenues]
The DDA had budgeted $4,520,989 in total parking system revenue and the actual revenue came in at $4,629,763, or about 2.4% better than budgeted.
While financial performance is correlated with usage, conclusions about actual usage can’t be read straight from revenue figures, especially when rates increase – by different amounts for different categories of parking – or when capacity increases.
The number of hourly patrons is a measure that the board receives as part of its monthly reports – a measure that is independent of revenue. But the hourly patrons statistic doesn’t include any information about how long patrons are staying – which sometimes results in speculative conclusions. One such speculative conclusion might be this: Hourly patrons are down, but revenue is up, so they must be staying longer.
The DDA board has in the recent past used other, non-financial ways of looking at system performance, but on a more or less ad hoc basis.
Those methods include looking at peak occupancy by facility, which essentially convinced the board that most of the public parking facilities “max-out” their capacity on a daily basis. [.pdf of peak occupancy data]
A non-financial method that includes off-peak usage focuses on the number of parking hours used. In the summer of 2011, the DDA board’s operations committee was presented with charts showing the ratio of parking hours sold to parking hours available – a statistic which is independent of revenue.
However, the idea of including efficiency data as part of the routine reporting on the parking system has not gained any traction on the DDA board.
The Chronicle could not survive without regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!