City-DDA Parking Deal Possible

Fifth & William revenue, evening meter enforcement

At the Dec. 16 meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s operations committee, DDA board member Sandi Smith previewed a city council resolution on parking she said she expected would be on the Dec. 21 city council agenda. Smith also serves on the city council.

Ann Arbor parking meter

Ann Arbor parking meters are currently enforced from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Saturday. (Photo by the writer.)

Key elements of the draft resolution that Smith shared with fellow DDA board members included: (i) net revenues from the Fifth and William (old YMCA) lot would go into city rather than DDA coffers, (ii) downtown parking meters would operate and be enforced until 10 p.m., which is later than their current cutoff of 6 p.m., and (iii) the city would discontinue its plan to install its own parking meters in neighborhoods near the downtown.

The city’s plan to install its own parking meters in neighborhoods near downtown was formulated as part of the city’s FY 2010 budget (the current fiscal year), but implementation was not immediate. Reference to the city’s installation of “its own meters” alludes to the fact that the DDA manages the public parking system via an agreement with the city – the new meters would not fall under that agreement.

Although the specific wording of the draft differed in parts from the resolution that was added to council’s agenda on Friday, the key points remained.

Within hours of its appearance on the agenda, the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce had sent a memo to city councilmembers asking for postponement of the resolution.

Smith’s resolution puts one question that’s been simmering for nearly a year closer to the front burner: Will the parking agreement between the city and the DDA be renegotiated as part of the FY 2011 budget?

FY 2010 Adopted Budget, FY 2011 Budget Plan

The city of Ann Arbor plans budgets in two-year cycles, though it formally adopts budgets only one year at a time.  When the city council adopted the FY 2010 budget in May 2009, that was the first year of a two-year plan, which included FY 2011 as the second year. The city’s fiscal years run from July 1 through June 30 – FY 2011 begins on July 1, 2010.

The FY 2010-2011 city budget planning cycle included parking and the Downtown Development Authority in two significant ways.

The FY 2010 adopted budget included an assumption of $380,000 in additional annual revenues per year through the installation of parking meters by the city in areas outside the DDA district. [.PDF file of the DDA district boundaries]

The FY 2011 budget plan included an assumption that the parking agreement between the city and the DDA could be renegotiated to result in a $2 million payment by the DDA to the city, which the DDA is not compelled by the current agreement to make. That agreement, struck in 2005, called for the DDA to pay the city up to $10 million through 2015 – the DDA has made payments of $2 million in each of the first five years of the agreement, for a total of $10 million.

Since January 2009 , there’s been political jostling on the side of the city council and the DDA board on the question of the parking agreement, but no actual discussions between the two bodies through their respective “mutually beneficial” committees.

On the question of parking meter installation, the DDA  has expressed skepticism about the amount of revenue those meters could generate. [Chronicle coverage: "DDA to City on Meters: We're Skeptical"] Sandi Smith (Ward 1) has, since June 2009, worked on the city council to delay the installation of the meters until alternative revenue sources could be identified to replace the $380,000 the city expected to collect from the new meters.

Before summarizing the discussion at the DDA operations committee on Wednesday, we provide two separate timeline overviews: (i) the political jostling on the city-DDA parking agreement, and (ii) the city council actions on installation of additional parking meters outside the DDA district.

History of the Mutually Beneficial Committees


  • Jan. 20, 2009: City council passes a resolution asking the DDA to begin discussions of renegotiating the parking agreement between the city and the DDA in a mutually beneficial way.
  • March 4, 2009: DDA board establishes a “mutually beneficial” committee to begin discussions of the parking agreement between the city and the DDA. On the committee: Roger Hewitt, Gary Boren, Jennifer S. Hall, and Rene Greff. The DDA’s resolution establishing their committee calls on the city council to form its own committee.
  • May 20, 2009: During the mid-year DDA retreat, mayor John Hieftje states publicly that city councilmembers object to Jennifer S. Hall and Rene Greff’s membership on the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee.
  • June 3, 2009: DDA board chair Jennifer S. Hall removes herself from DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee, replacing herself with Russ Collins.
  • June 15, 2009: Mayor John Hieftje nominates councilmembers Margie Teall (Ward 4), Leigh Greden (Ward 3) and Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) to serve on the city council’s “mutually beneficial” committee, and they’re confirmed at the city council’s July 20 meeting.
  • July 1, 2009: DDA board chair Jennifer S. Hall appoints Sandi Smith to replace outgoing DDA board member Rene Greff (whose position is filled with Newcombe Clark) on the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee. Smith is also a city councilmember, representing Ward 1.
  • August-December 2009: Sandi Smith, the chair of the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee, reports at each monthly DDA board meeting that there is nothing new to report.
  • Dec. 5, 2009: Dissolution of the DDA is included in an “everything is on the table” list for discussion at the city council’s budget retreat.

[For background on the tax-increment financing that funds the DDA and the political tension between the city and the DDA, see previous Chronicle coverage: DDA Retreat: Who's on the Committee]

History of FY 2010 Parking Meter Installation


  • May 18, 2009: City council adopts its FY 2010 budget, which includes an assumption of $380,000 in revenue from installation of parking meters in near-downtown neighborhoods.
  • June 15, 2009: City council passes a resolution authorizing only a limited implementation of parking meters in a limited number of new locations, with an Oct. 5 deadline for development of an alternative revenue plan.
  • June 15, 2009: City council passes a resolution that redefines the parking rate and revenue deal between the city and DDA on the 415 W. Washington parking lot (which was not covered in the general city-DDA parking agreement) in favor of the city. Annual net to the city is projected to be $164,000.
  • July 1, 2009: DDA approves, with dissent, its side of the 415 W. Washington parking lot deal.
  • Oct. 5, 2009: City council extends a moratorium on installing additional parking meters to Dec. 14.
  • Nov. 16, 2009: City council separates consent agenda item to purchase parking meters for $87,000 and postpones that action.
  • Dec. 7, 2009: City council again postpones action on the purchase of parking meters for $87,000.
  • Dec. 21, 2009: City council to consider action on purchasing parking meters for $87,000, along with Smith’s separate resolution addressing Fifth & William lot revenues and extending meter operation and enforcement to 10 p.m.

Discussion at DDA Operations Committee

At last Wednesday’s DDA meeting, Sandi Smith apprised her DDA board colleagues of the resolution she intended to place on the council’s agenda that would have the effect of forestalling permanently the city’s plan to install its own parking meters outside the DDA district. The resolution would also extend the hours of operation and enforcement for downtown meters.

Revenue Replacement: Fifth and William Lot

The revenue replacement for those outside-the-DDA-district meters would come from proceeds of what is now the surface parking lot at Fifth and William, known as the “old Y” site. That surface lot, created relatively recently, is not envisioned long-term for parking. It’s slated for redevelopment.

In that respect, the Fifth and William lot is similar to the surface lot at 415 W. Washington, which was also converted to surface parking, pending planned redevelopment of the site. Both lots are thus considered temporary, and are not covered explicitly in the 2005 parking agreement between the city and the DDA.

As the previous timeline indicates, in the summer of 2009, proceeds from the 415 W. Washington lot were renegotiated in favor of the city, as a part of Smith’s effort to replace the revenue estimated by the city from installation of additional meters in near-downtown neighborhoods.

With the closure of the Fifth Avenue “Library Lot” for surface parking – because of construction starting on the underground parking garage at that location – use of the nearby Fifth and William surface lot has jumped dramatically. In October 2009, the lot generated $26,742 in revenue, compared with only $8,659 in October 2008.

Not all of the estimated $300,000 in annual revenue from the Fifth and William lot would go to the city of Ann Arbor – the DDA would be fully reimbursed for installation costs. Those installation costs would include items like the paving of the lot and the parking gates and payment kiosk, but not the demolition of the old YMCA building that previously stood on the lot or the environmental remediation that was required. DDA executive director Susan Pollay told The Chronicle in a phone conversation Friday that the DDA spent roughly $1.5 million on demolition and asbestos abatement at that site.

At the DDA operations committee on Wednesday, Newcombe Clark expressed some similar concerns about the proposed deal to those that Rene Greff had expressed earlier in the year about the 415 W. Washington deal. [See Chronicle coverage on: "Split DDA Board Agrees on Splitt"] Clark was appointed to replace Greff on the board, when her term expired at the end of July 2009.

Clark was concerned that what was proposed was not transparent – the deal was a mechanism to transfer money from the DDA to the city, which was more appropriately an issue for the two “mutually beneficial” committees to explore. “It creeps into the ‘mutually beneficial’ committee’s responsibility,” he said. “If the city needs money, do it transparently.”

Clark said he feared that there would be perhaps seven or eight smaller deals done before the “mutually beneficial” committees ever met.

Smith responded to Clark by saying, “It’s wishful thinking that anything will happen at a meeting between the committees that is really mutually beneficial.”

As far as whether it was transparent what the proposal meant, Smith said, “It’s clear – it says, ‘Back off the installation of new parking meters!’”

Also focusing on the aspect of the proposal that put a stop to the city’s planned installation of new parking meters, Pollay pointed out that the DDA’s strategy in responding to the city had been to express its skepticism about the projected revenue that the new meters would generate, rather than to contest the city’s authority to install the meters.

The supporting material for Smith’s upcoming council resolution on parking alludes to the fact that there is only one public parking system in Ann Arbor, and that the DDA, per its parking agreement with the city, has authority over it. That material reads, in relevant part, [underlining in the original]: “The DDA/City Parking Agreement states that the DDA shall have uninterrupted operation of the public parking system …”

Extension of Meter Operation Hours

Smith’s resolution also includes the extension of meter operation and enforcement to 10 p.m. – meters are currently not enforced past 6 p.m.

The rationale for extending meter enforcement is the complaint that downtown retail/restaurant employees use the free street parking after 6 p.m., which is counter to the goal of promoting turnover of vehicles to allow customers of the downtown to use the spaces.

There’s resistance to the extension of meter enforcement by downtown merchants; there was also vocal resistance to  the city’s intended installation of parking meters in near-downtown neighborhoods by residents of those neighborhoods.

Smith’s resolution is part of her continuing effort to forestall the city’s meter installation, which could be analyzed as an effort to address concerns of near-downtown residents. So, at the operations committee meeting, Clark questioned whether Smith – by proposing extension of meter enforcement hours – was simply afraid of “getting yelled at” by residents of neighborhoods.

At that, DDA board member (and county commissioner) Leah Gunn gave Clark a poke back, by asking if Clark was afraid of getting yelled at by Main Street merchants. [Clark is president of the Main Street Area Association board.] Gunn herself said she supported the extension of meter enforcement.

With a detectable weariness in her voice, Smith assured her DDA board colleagues that she was getting yelled at by everyone.

Next Steps: Postponement? Committee Meetings?

If the city council listens to the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce, they’ll postpone consideration of Sandi Smith’s (Ward 1) resolution on parking. Within hours of its appearance on the online council agenda, an emailed response to councilmembers came from Kyle Mazurek, the chamber’s vice president of government affairs:

Dear Ann Arbor City Council Members,

I am writing in regard to the attached document entitled “Resolution Regarding New Parking Meters.” Presumably you will take action on this resolution on the evening of Monday, December 21.

Given that it’s now the holiday season and many are traveling, and given that this resolution was not uploaded to the City’s website until today (Friday) at 11:57 a.m., the Ann Arbor Chamber respectfully requests that you postpone consideration of this matter to a later date.

All interested parties should be given sufficient time and opportunity to examine it. Its implications for the downtown area business community should not be taken lightly.

This Council clearly values public input. For consistency and fairness sake, let’s not now stymie it by hastily considering this matter.


Kyle Mazurek

While the exact text of the resolution was not finalized until Friday, Smith has indicated to her council colleagues at the last two council meetings that she would be bringing forward a resolution on parking. That has been the basis of her request to her council colleagues to postpone consideration of the purchase of parking meters for installation on Wall Street – a request they’ve respected twice now.

If and when the two “mutually beneficial” committees from the DDA and the city council meet, it’s reasonable to expect that the meetings will be open to the public and announced in accordance with the Open Meetings Act.

While the committee membership from the city council would not amount to a quorum, a resolution passed at its Nov. 4, 1991 meeting by the Ann Arbor city council expresses the council’s will that its committees adhere, to the best of its abilities, with the requirements of the OMA:



Whereas, The City Council desires that all meetings of City boards, task forces, commissions and committees conform to the spirit of the Open Meetings Act;

RESOLVED, That all City boards, task forces, commissions, committees and their
subcommittees hold their meetings open to the public to the best of their abilities in the spirit of Section 3 of the Open Meetings Act; and

RESOLVED, That closed meetings of such bodies be held only under situations
where a closed meeting would be authorized in the spirit of the Open Meetings Act.


  1. December 19, 2009 at 1:30 pm | permalink

    Thank you (again) for your careful and comprehensive coverage of this.

    I support Councilmember Smith’s initiative on this. First, because installation of parking meters in residential districts is odious. Second, because later hours for the parking meters downtown make sense, as they have for the many years this has been discussed. Some of these arguments are alluded to in the story but I will recap.

    1. It is an open secret that workers at downtown restaurants grab those spots immediately at 6:00 p.m. so they are not available all evening to patrons.
    2. The DDA has made low-cost permits available for afterhours parking in structures to accommodate those low-income workers.
    3. There would be more turnover and therefore more opportunity for downtown visitors to find an on-street parking place.
    4. The actual expenditure per visitor would not be at all great, especially compared with the cost of a restaurant meal. OK, we all love free parking, but in the greater scheme of things this would be a minor annoyance at best. I doubt seriously that it would inhibit anyone from coming downtown who would otherwise.

  2. By ChuckL
    December 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm | permalink

    From the article, “The rationale for extending meter enforcement is the complaint that downtown retail/restaurant employees use the free street parking after 6 p.m., which is counter to the goal of promoting turnover of vehicles to allow customers of the downtown to use the spaces.” Do people remember the 400 free deck parking spaces given to Google for the alleged 1000 downtown jobs? The jobs have not materialized so the city should not be obligated to continue supplying Google with 400 spots. Google apparently only needs 200 of these spaces. Why not take back the 200 spaces not being used by Google and make them available to downtown employees for free? If there are any costs, why not make the employers pay for their employee’s parking? Create a fee levied on downtown businesses to pay for employee parking.

  3. By lorie
    December 19, 2009 at 2:26 pm | permalink

    I think the logic leap that restaurant employees use up all the available parking is just that, a leap. Further, the pain in the rear to someone like me who will have to get up in the middle/end (watching my watch during) said meal/show/shopping expedition to fee said meter might be enough prevent me doing that in downtown to begin with.

    I guess I am unimpressed with a city that is working to pick my pocket book more than trim expenses or choose what services is can rationally provide. (eg. community standards enforcement is a joke – trash can patrols really?)

    take a close look, quit trying to grow the city bureaucracy and do less with less.

  4. By Leah Gunn
    December 19, 2009 at 3:42 pm | permalink

    You can avoid having to “leap up” from whatever you are doing to feed a meter by parking in a lot or structure. That avoids your both leaping up and also getting a ticket altogether. The customer surveys done by the DDA indicate that people are looking for convenience in parking, and price is not a factor. 90 cents per hour in a structure is very cheap.

    Asking businesses to pay for their employees’ parking is one thing – requiring them to do it is something else. I don’t think the city can do that. Validation programs are available through the DDA but not used very much.

    The DDA did some research awhile back, and determined that restaurant workers were the ones using metered spaces. (Yup, that is an open secret.) Actually, they arrive about 4-5 PM, put in coins, and then are parking free until the end of their shifts. This is detrimental to customers for downtown businesses. It was a strong recommendation from the parking study (Nelson-Nygaard) that the city extend the hours of enforcement. This issue has been discussed for a long, long time, and the AA Chamber’s memo is disingenuous.

    I agree with Vivienne that meters in neighborhoods are odious (good word!). Parking in near downtown can be regulated by residential permits.

    As to the Google parking, that which is not being used by Google is being used by permit parkers moving from Maynard (always full) to Liberty Square. There is also a plan to sell permits to the construction companies building the UM dorm to get their trucks out of Maynard, thus making more room for customers.

    I support the Council resolution for extending the hours.

  5. December 19, 2009 at 4:44 pm | permalink

    I see no reason to have paid on-street parking at night. If you want to attract people to downtown, don’t have hidden fees. Simply, make it more inviting. Parking fees and tickets are not the way. Make it inviting. If people aren’t rushed to feed the meter and leave, maybe they’ll stay and spend more. I’d also like to see the garages go no-cost to encourage more people to come. Free parking is something that is easy to promote.

  6. By David
    December 19, 2009 at 7:12 pm | permalink

    I fail to understand the complaints I have seen on this site and about the proposed parking changes. The complaints seem to be focused on cost and convenience.

    Parking in Ann Arbor is very inexpensive, $0.90/hr for the parking structures. How can someone reasonably complain paying $3.60 to park for a 4-hour meal when it would cost a couple at least $75 to eat at one of the Main Street places. Sure it is a bit of extra money, but I look it as being the same as Royal Oak, a lot cheaper than Chicago, a lot nicer than Kalamazoo and much safer than anyplace in Detroit. There are ways to avoid paying for parking, just find a neighborhood spot and have a nice walk (like some of my UM friends do to avoid buying a UM parking pass).

    For those dining downtown in the evening, there are convenient structures that get one within a few blocks of their intended destination. From my antedotal experience, there are always available spaces in these parking garages. I don’t understand this pent-up need for on-street parking, maybe no one wants to walk a few blocks(?). There could be a valet business opportunity for someone: drop-off and pick-up at the front door of your favorite restraurant.

  7. By ChuckL
    December 19, 2009 at 8:04 pm | permalink

    David said, “I fail to understand the complaints I have seen on this site and about the proposed parking changes.” The reason we are seeing these changes is that the city is trying to fill a hole left by significant financial mismanagement. The city has been using operating revenues to pay bonds used to build things and give money away to developers in the city; meanwhile, city firefighters are laid off. The trend that disturbs me is that in the past, city services were paid for mainly with property taxes (in other words, ability to pay); residence of this town will increasingly see the mean side of their government as user fees and fines (based on need) are increasingly the norm.

  8. By Piotr Michalowski
    December 19, 2009 at 8:26 pm | permalink

    The city needs revenue, but it must find more creative and less odious ways of doing achieving its goals. There are parts of downtown that are not that close to parking structures and yet have nighttime restaurants and events, such as Kerrytown. The new parking regulations would discourage customers, especially older ones, from frequenting these areas at night, especially in bad weather. This is a very bad idea.

  9. December 20, 2009 at 12:18 am | permalink

    I fail to understand the need for payment of visiting public property. Going downtown by car costs in essence a dollar per hour. Going to Royal Oak, you can find free parking local to the area as well as lots and structures that will validate parking. I also think Royal Oak can do well with offering free parking, but thats something to address in that locality.

    There are many places where a couple of two can enjoy a fantastic meal downtown for under $75.00. Of course, if you were going downtown to walk, window shop, or just have a dessert, you might spend less. If I were going to buy a product, I’d have to factor in the cost of parking into the price of the items.

    That being said, there are alternatives such as malls, shopping centers, and other localities where one can walk around, browse, shop, and not pay a single cent for parking. And, in the mall, there’s even security patrolling the parking lot. When my wife was hit inside a public, city parking garage by someone refusing to exchange information, the city police refused to come — stating it was private property.

    To me, it’s ironic that parking on private property with security is free, where simply parking downtown on public property is assessed a fee.

    Want more people downtown? Free parking.

    Want to get people in the garages? Offer free parking as well. Or even free parking with any receipt from a downtown business.

    Something that costs little that can be easily promoted and perceived as a good value is a good idea. Nickel and diming people doesn’t make the city more attractive at all.

  10. By ArborJack
    December 20, 2009 at 5:53 am | permalink

    Hold on a sec, if downtown business employees are grabbing metered spots (which would be free from 6 PM onward), then why not PROVIDE these employees with spots in the SEVERAL downtown parking structures?

    SOME way to fund these “employees only” spaces can be found. On the face of it, those employees are PART of the concept of making downtown A2 “a place to patronize” by visitors and townies alike.
    Many of these workers who contribute so much to the “atmosphere” of good dining, etc. are NOT in the top income level. So why not recognize their contribution while NOT “making them a problem” that generates a NEW problem for customers wanting free parking past 6PM?

  11. December 20, 2009 at 9:42 am | permalink

    Fred, you apparently have not been following the recent history of the DDA. The City Council has been withdrawing $2 million from the parking fund a year for – is it 5? years now and there is negotiation about their keeping up the payments to help keep the city afloat. Further, they have sold bonds for the new parking structure predicated on a high rate of return from parking revenues for much longer than my likely lifetime. The DDA’s flexibility to adjust the cost of parking to serve the community is long gone.

    ChuckL, you are on to something there with the property taxes vs. user fees. A favorite crusade of mine. But this isn’t the hill to fight that one on.

  12. By Leah Gunn
    December 20, 2009 at 10:23 am | permalink

    Anyone can park at Liberty Square or Ann Ashley Parking structures after 3 PM for a $3.00 drive in fee. Exit is automatic. But, restaurant workers do not use this opportunity. The DDA has tried many programs to get employees into structures in the evening, but they have had little effect. The DDA funds the GoPass for employees to ride the buses, but they don’t run late enough. The DDA has also offered them a shuttle to take them to their homes, but that has not met with much success either. Do you have any ideas?

    I was told by a restaurant owner (who shall remain anonymous) that the employees do not want to plan and therfore are not interested in using these offered services. I agree that they are part of the ambience and economic success of downtown, but after all, it is the customer who is actually spending money.

  13. December 20, 2009 at 10:44 am | permalink


    I have been watching it. I also don’t find the new garage justified by any means. When’s the last time all garages were filled at capacity for something other than Fine Arts Festival, etc?

  14. December 20, 2009 at 11:38 am | permalink


    Even though the parking garages are rarely full, there is a perception among people who don’t live here that parking is impossible in Ann Arbor. Friends of mine from out-of-town who visit always complain about how much trouble they have finding a place to park. I think the difficulty arises because:
    – they find Ann Arbor challenging to drive in because of one-way streets, dead-ends, streets that go off at odd angles, and random construction projects.
    – they don’t know where to find parking when they do get downtown.
    – many, especially women, think structures are scary and unsafe but can’t find a surface parking spot because those *do* fill up.

    Those of us who live here don’t have those problems because we know how to get around and where to put the car (if we even have one). But the perception of people who stream here on evenings and weekends and patronize local businesses is that parking is difficult

    None of this justifies building yet another structure that will go unfilled. But the perception is there and needs to be addressed.

  15. By David
    December 20, 2009 at 11:42 am | permalink

    ChuckL, I agree that our current leaders have gotten us into an undesirable financial situation and that the parking fee proposal is a means to fill one of the gaps (I am sure more gaps and fees/taxes are in our future unless something drastically changes). This situation is not unlike that being experienced by other local governments, state governments and our federal government.

    For Ann Arbor, remember these are the leaders of the party we vote for year after year. The Democratic party has carte blanc control over the city and attempts to dislodge the status quo have been for the most part, unsuccessful (except for the recent e-mailgate casualty). Our voters even re-elected a candidate who, by her own admission, is hard pressed to attend her elected job due to a serious family issue. Unless our current leaders wake-up and realize we really facing significant money shortages for the next several years, the only way we will be able to make significant changes to the city’s financial landscape could be an overhaul of our elected bodies and their political appointees.

  16. By Karen Sidney
    December 20, 2009 at 12:05 pm | permalink

    Has anyone considered that employees, and probably downtown customers, prefer street meters to parking structures because they feel safer? There are signs in the structure warning patrons to lock their cars to avoid theft. Why would someone want to walk several deserted blocks to a deserted, unattended parking structure late at night?

    It’s an open secret that much of our homeless population spend the night in the parking structures. I don’t blame the homeless for trying to survive but I also understand their presence makes people feel unsafe. Reduced police presence resulting from cutting the downtown patrols makes people feel even more vulnerable.

  17. By David Lewis
    December 20, 2009 at 1:23 pm | permalink

    Tom has it right, if you don’t live here finding a spot to park is tough but it is not just a perception. If you look at the the parking study most of the parking structures fill sometime up every day. If I remember correctly the system is at approx. 90% utilized and in the parking industry anything over 85% is considered full.

    You may not have caught it but sometime back either here or on arbor update 1st Ward Council member Briere posted a list of the parking lost in the downtown and what parking will be lost in the next 5 to 10 years. The new structure is being built to replace that and avoid an even greater shortage of parking downtown.

    Any planner will tell you parking should be underground. It is silly to use up the most valuable land in the county (some of the most valuable land in the state) with surface parking when it could be generating tax revenue and fighting sprawl. Without adequate parking downtown new businesses are driven to the townships.

    The most recent DDA data shows there are more people parking downtown than before the recession. Parking downtown is going up in the worst economy anyone except the oldest can remember.

    Unsafe? I don’t know who has the numbers but I bet the structures are just as safe as anywhere else downtown.

  18. December 20, 2009 at 3:40 pm | permalink

    Being safe and feeling safe are two different things. I bet as well that the structures are no less safe than surface parking, but many people feel less safe nonetheless.

  19. December 20, 2009 at 3:49 pm | permalink

    That list that David Lewis refers to was actually the list the Mayor has given. (I think CM Briere referred to it but the Chronicle quoted from the Mayor earlier, I’m pretty sure.) But the underground parking structure bond payments are expected to be paid from fees from the whole system and they’ll need everything. Also, a number of items on that list are suspect. Does anyone really think that Maynard will be taken down? And I’m sure that Bill Martin has no immediate plans to develop the Brown lot. The Fourth and William structure was on that list, but it has only recently been renovated and a new floor added.

  20. December 20, 2009 at 6:38 pm | permalink


    Great point on feeling safe. And again, based on the police response (lack of) when my wife needed it, I now rarely use the garages. Having worked with the parking data, I can say without hesitation that I do not trust any number presented by the city or DDA in regards to parking occupancy or usage. We monitored this very closely last winter and did not see occupancy issues. And I won’t get into the DDA then blocking access to their availability information.

    I drove downtown today and it was packed. I drove by yesterday at the same time, and it was much less populated. I wonder if this is due to graduation, free parking on Sundays, or something else. But the only thing I know, downtown was packed this afternoon. With the amount of bags in hands, I can only assume the state made some good sales tax revenue today. Would be great to see a push for a local sales tax vs taxing via parking. A 1% sales tax kept local would be a great source of revenue for the county.

  21. By Mark
    December 21, 2009 at 9:27 am | permalink

    I have never had a problem finding a parking spot in a parking structure downtown. If people feel unsafe in one here, they should visit Detroit sometime. Based on crime reports, the main campus area of UM is far more dangerous, and then it’s the hours between 11 pm and 3 am. Parking on the street can be convenient IF you find a spot without having to hunt. I would much rather go into the structure and be done with it.
    I’m not a fan of extended hours on the meters, but in a city that seems to find ways to spend lavish sums of money on things of questionable value (i.e. the wayfinding signage), the DDA feels it must extract the last quarter from someone’s pocket.

    I’m glad the parking meters won’t insidiously appear in neighborhood streets. Otherwise, I suspect some sawsalls would have to remedy that disaster.

  22. December 21, 2009 at 11:39 am | permalink

    Vivienne writes: “2. The DDA has made low-cost permits available for afterhours parking in structures to accommodate those low-income workers.”

    Then why is it that not ONE of my many friends who work in these downtown restaurants seems to know about them? I worked in downtown restaurants for years and I never heard of these (or any of the other plans mentioned).
    Do we have usage information on these permits?

    The argument from another commenter that says that “restaurant workers don’t want to plan” is unfair. They are not allowed to plan. Show me a nighttime restaurant worker who has a solid clue about what time they’ll be getting out of work. When I was bartending, I usually banked on a 3-hour window on when I’d be getting out of work.

    A shuttle makes no sense. It’s not like office workers, who generally get done within a range of each other. How on earth is a shuttle going to take people to all ends of the city at all times?

    And I will say this for sure: That, as a female, I NEVER parked in a covered lot when I knew that I wouldn’t be getting to my car at 2:30 in the morning. No way.

  23. December 21, 2009 at 11:44 am | permalink

    If I recall correctly, the 2005 agreement for the DDA to pay into the general fund was for some form of rent on the on-street metered spaces, which the city formerly managed separately but had turned over to the DDA for management. If that’s true (I could be mistaken–could you provide a link to it, Dave? I couldn’t find one) it would seem somewhat incongruous to increase collections on those metered spaces and not tie the payment to that action rather than to revenues from a surface lot. I could see how revenues from city-owned land might be a logical choice, but the old Y site isn’t the only one of those.

    It seems that the development of sound policy has been replaced with “political jostling” (as Dave puts it) and “mutually beneficial” agreements. Or is that all we’ve ever had?

  24. By jcp2
    December 21, 2009 at 11:47 am | permalink

    Would you park in a covered lot that had controlled access in the form of solid entrance and exit doors for both cars and pedestrians, good lighting, security cameras, and security guards?

  25. By Dr Data
    December 21, 2009 at 11:55 am | permalink

    I would like to see variable parking rates – not just street meters vs parking structures, but cheaper rates for those who park on the top floor of parking structures. It could be as little as 0.25 an hour, which low paid restaurant employees could probably afford.

    Setting up variable metering would be expensive, e.g., keeping track of where the car ended up parking, but it would be cheaper than the underground lot being built on the library lot.

    I also like some of the fixed parking fees mentioned by others, including the 415 W. Washington lot. That lot is within a 10 minute walk of most anywhere downtown as long as one does not have mobility issues.

    I do not see Ann Arbor as having a parking shortage, but the perception is there, even among folks who live in Ann Arbor but never go downtown because parking is impossible.

  26. December 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm | permalink

    #22: What I heard at a meeting I attended was that the permits were little used. I suspect that they have not been well publicized among restaurant workers, which should be done.

    #23: One of the confusions here is that the residential meters proposal from the administrator was to have the revenue from those meters to go to the General Fund, not to the DDA. It was outside the DDA-city arrangement, which muddles the whole picture. I guess turning the income from the Y lot (not covered under DDA agreement) over to the General Fund and giving the DDA any additional income from the evening hours for the parking meters must have been intended as a trade-off.

  27. By Parking Guy
    December 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm | permalink

    Though I am not involved with Ann Arbor, I am familiar with the situation as I am involved in a situation similiar to this.

    Local Business owners can not have it both ways. They cant complain about thier customers not having conveinant parking adn then complain when the agency raises prices or increases enforcement. If any of you can free up parking up by not doing either of these two, please let me know…becasue you could solve a world full of problems that manay smart people have tried.

    If $3 is too much to add on to dinner then there are bigger problems you must deal with. Also the $3 for window shopping or “just having dessert” is very reasonable.

    In order to have a succesfull CBD( Central Business District) you MUST price on street parking at a premium and you must enforce it. I am not familiar with Ann Arbor, but I have worked in Philadelphia, DC and NYC and I am sure the garages in Ann Arbor are safer then that. Workers can walk togeter, your by an college which I am sure has an escort service. Parking close to work is not a right and maybe if you all moved your cars you would get more customers. And I am not a mathmatician but I think more customers means more money is spent which results in greater tips.

    But the attitude must change and realize that no parking is EVER FREE. Someone is paying and I can garuntee you it will ultimetly be the customer, whether directly, as in paying the meter, or indirectly by increased product prices.

    Everyone is an expert in parking, more then any other function, and most people outside of the indusrty do not know anything about it. Spend 1 hour reading DR Shoup, an expert in urban planning and then get back to me.

  28. By Dave Askins
    December 21, 2009 at 1:22 pm | permalink

    Re: Steve Bean’s request for link to 2005 parking agreement in [23]


    Here’s the minutes from the March, 2005 board meeting when it was approved by the DDA. I think it’s in there: [link]

  29. December 21, 2009 at 2:19 pm | permalink

    Thanks much, Dave. The resolution is on page 4. It’s an interesting read, the amendments not least of all. I wonder if Leah Gunn would accept them as friendly in retrospect.

  30. December 21, 2009 at 3:17 pm | permalink

    @Parking Guy:

    “Philadelphia, DC and NYC”

    No reason to compare Ann Arbor, MI some of the biggest cities in the world, let alone cities with mass transit that makes car travel to the area inconvenient.

    A suburban, college town like Ann Arbor can do fine without parking fees. Especially if they are trying to attract people. You don’t make yourself attractive by charging more for little things like parking. Instead, it’s viewed as a hassle. Even if it’s “only $3.”

  31. By Parking Guy
    December 21, 2009 at 3:36 pm | permalink

    My point about the 3 big cities had nothing to do with transportation but to simply state that the justification to park on the street because the garages are “unsafe” is not valid.

    Did you ever consider what would happen if no fees or no enforcement took place? Do you thnk the college students would park there cars there for weeks on end and not move them instead of paying $100′s a year, then you wouldnt have a place to park and you would being crying foul again. Who pays for the upkeep of the garage? How do you plow the streets if cars just sit there. The type of person( customer, student, employee) is a small fraction of the problem. The real problem is turnover. Without turnover you have traffic becasue people are cruising for a spot.

    I can ensure you that if everyone follwed this rule, parking problems would be fixed. 30 minutes or less, park on the street…and longer then go DIRECTLY to a garage. If i was involved there I would have put this into place. If the issue is people not paying then fine, just enforce, and strictly enforce the time limits. Make them all 1 hour after 6pm, and issue citations at 1 minute after 1 hr. The goal is to get long term parkers in the garages. If they are not well light, then change it.

    Again, stop “shooting from the hip” and THINK about what you are proposing. Opinions are great, and I am not saying you cant have one, but to often in small local government everybody tries to play an expert. Heres a thought, why dont you leave it to the experts, or atleast read about parking in a urban envoirment.

  32. December 21, 2009 at 3:57 pm | permalink

    @Parking guy: I agree with you that going without fees all together is silly. But, because you aren’t familiar with Ann Arbor, several of your points don’t ring valid.

    1. We don’t have a problem with students parking their cars for too long. The neighborhoods that would have those problems have permit enforcement.
    2. I have never heard of city residents being able to use any U-M “escort” service.
    3. The fact that Ann Arbor is not as busy as the cities you mentioned is exactly why the parking structures are (or at least seem) unsafe. There is not the same nighttime bustle. I am pretty darned spunky, and there’s no way I’m going into some of those structures by myself at 3 a.m. There isn’t anyone there, lighting or not.

    I would encourage you to take less of an admonishing tone in reference to an issue about which you do not have all of the facts/background.

  33. By Parking Guy
    December 21, 2009 at 4:03 pm | permalink

    #1- You Get it
    #2- By making employer pay, then every customer ultimately absorbs the cost, is that fair if I walk?
    #3. Either go to a gargae or pay the meter enough to cover your time and risk a ticket becasue you didnt hade 50 cents more. Your choice.
    #4. See my #1
    #5 Hope you plan on getting there at 5:30 to get a spot at 6. Dont be greedy and stay all night for free, or say lets go for a walk after dinner becasue parking is free, what about the next guy.

    #6 See my #4

    #7 You dont want to city to have revenue or build things..interesting..dont complain about potholes in April.

    #8. What if you could pay a premium to park close to the nightlife?

    #9Will you factor in your time to look for a spot on the street, the gas, your carbon footprint with the pollution. If your going to ADD then ADD it all up and see what you come up with.
    #10 See # 2

    #11 Your #1 so see my #6.

    If any of you really want to discuss this. Post your email and I will answer any questions you have.

  34. By Parking Guy
    December 21, 2009 at 4:06 pm | permalink

    #32- My tone may be little strong, but that is becasue the endless discussions of parking issues by people who do not understand the problem creates bigger problems. Let us in the indusrty do what we do best. Manage the parking. There is more to then just spaces and cars.

  35. December 21, 2009 at 4:23 pm | permalink

    Give it a 3 – 4 hour time limit if you want. And no fees does not mean no enforcement.

    People will save money when they can. Again, by offering free parking, you can promote Ann Arbor and bring more people in. They will spend money. Yay.

    Or, we can have them come and spend money on parking. And then think about that when posed to decide where to go next time.

    Encouraging people to come and spend money on businesses is a nice thing. Nothing silly about making the town more attractive for commerce.

    And if my tone is strong, it’s because I do understand, I am informed, and I am up to date.

    Republic Parking has a monopoly and my direct experience does not show them to be the best at managing parking. By a long shot.

  36. By Parking Guy
    December 21, 2009 at 4:40 pm | permalink


    The big disconnect I feel is in regards to you saying that having a fee for parking discourages people to come downtown. If the couple dollars it costs to park is a go or no go in thier minds, how much money will they actually spend. Its like getting a room at the Ritz for $400 a night and then complaining about the $20 valet charge.

    I want people to see the true casue and effect of free parking. Though some paid parking is stricly demand( think football games) other paid parking serves as a deterrant to congestion. Let the market decide the value of that parking space.

    Please read any of the following articles posted on the below link.


  37. December 21, 2009 at 5:25 pm | permalink

    Fred – I think Republic Parking does a great job at managing parking. I remember the bad old days before they came on board. And yes, they have a monopoly because they are the city contractor and the city has a monopoly.

  38. December 21, 2009 at 8:17 pm | permalink

    The free parking lecturer does not like Free Parking because people will stay in an area longer than if they had paid for parking. That’s great. Have dinner, then get dessert, they grab a coffee… or walk around and find someplace new and interesting to come back to. There’s an equally other important idea of inviting people to come and spend money. So, what do we want? Do we want people to come and leave quickly? Or do we want people to come and stay as long as they would like?

    Vivienne, I simply disagree with you 100%. I do not think that the DDA and Republic Parking do a great job at managing parking. If you think they do, then we simply do not agree. I think there are many other cities that do a much better job at handling parking. Some of them even choose local companies or even have several companies managing different garages.

    The city is not a monopoly. The city is government and is not a business whatsoever. If the city thinks of itself as a business, extending monopolistic control, then the city should be broken up like any other monopoly.

  39. December 21, 2009 at 8:19 pm | permalink

    Parking Guy,

    it’s like what Tom said very eloquently. Perception… it’s about perception. Paying to park is just not a great perception. The perception of a savings or benefit, often encourages spending. It’s why stores have sales, giveaways, and promotions.

  40. By jcp2
    December 21, 2009 at 8:33 pm | permalink

    At Target, the employees park far away from the good spots in front of the store. At Whole Foods (Cranbrook), they park behind the building. But then, this is private property. What mechanism would there be to ensure that there would be good spots left for customers if public parking were free?

  41. By Parking Guy
    December 21, 2009 at 9:49 pm | permalink

    Ok couple different points here.

    Fred- The city controls the monopoly so that it can control the price. Without knowing the specifics I can in almost say with certainty that Republic operates these under a management agreement, where they gte paid a flat amount a month to operate. Republic does not control the price. In this situation it looks like there is a decent demand and prices could go higher if there was free enterprise. Trust me, you want the city controlling this.

    Secondly, i have no problem with you staying for a long period of time, but simply park off-street. On and off street parkign should be used by very distinct groups. To visualize lets take airport parking. The “extended stay” is cheaper then the short term. There is usually a huge difference in these two prices and thus it forces you to park your car at the extended stay when you go on a trip because the savings are great. It is less conveinant but the price outweighs that. Now imagine if they were the same price, what do you think would happen? I would bet that the closer lot( the old short term rate) would have cars circling forever to find a spot because its convenient, employees would park there and so on.

    same theory applies to on-street meters. They must be priced to a point where its worth going to a garage for extended periods of time. As a business owner you want those spots free for short term turnover. Maybe the pizza shop would sell more take out pizza if a customer had a quick space to run in and get a pie.

    I am not sure if they have this in Michigan but where I come from even in free parking areas employees must park in the back. There is a blue line painted in mall parking lots that marks the spot where employee parking begins. Go to any mall and you will see the same cars in the front of the lot every day. If the business owners chooses to giveaway parking to attract customers then he should validate your parking, but its their choice.

    Free parking or non enforced parking would be extremely detrimental to your CBD. I would price the on street high enough to get more cars into the garages since it sounds like you have capacity at night. Your peak capacity is tight probably during the late morning and early afternoon.

    Maybe the DDA should look into an escort service. Many cities large and small have that.

    The initial perception of free parking would be great, I agree. But after a few weeks, yes weeks, you would see the serious problems it would create. Extend enforcement to 10pm not as a revenue stream but as a control, so that the people who want to pay a premium to park on the street can and the ones who are willing to walk a few feet can have a discount in the garage.

    The true perception of you having a parking problem is invalid. What you have, like many other small cities, is a refusal to accept garage parking as the answer to your problems. Additionally, the assumption that every one deserves to park in-front of where you want to go is what drives this perception.


    Parking Guy

  42. December 21, 2009 at 10:51 pm | permalink

    Fred, if parking structures cost nothing to build I might agree that offering free parking would be a good policy. Since revenues are necessary for construction, maintenance, signage, enforcement, etc., I think that the approach that Parking Guy describes (and which the DDA has largely adopted) makes sense.

    The reality is that when the street spaces and surface lots fill up and the structures are mostly full on a Friday night, there simply isn’t more room to attract more visitors with free parking. At such times downtown is simply ‘full’. When capacity is added, as with the underground structure next to the library, it comes at a cost, and that cost it appropriately paid by the users of the system.

    I agree that perception is important. Maybe you can consider it in the context of what Parking Guy has described for demand-based pricing.

  43. December 21, 2009 at 11:10 pm | permalink

    In a free market place, should the garages be privatized for example, cost will be whatever the market demands. That’s the beauty of the free market. What we have now is a tax. If the only reason the city is running a “monopoly” is to save the public money, then they should sell the garages and have free market run it. You may end up with a higher priced garage. You may end up with a free parking system where the price is factored into the products of the surrounding area (like the mall). The public monopoly isn’t saving us money at all. And Republic Parking is extremely profitable (revenues greater than 100 million). There’s a simple factor of money being made off of parking. Nothing more, nothing less. If it were private, I’d say ok. But public property… I have a problem with taxing people for it.

  44. By ChuckL
    December 21, 2009 at 11:48 pm | permalink

    Parking Guy said, “#2- By making employer pay, then every customer ultimately absorbs the cost, is that fair if I walk?” You’re making a specious argument! Whose to say the employers can pass on the cost of the employee parking to the consumer? Or conversely, whose to say the cost of parking the employees pay will not be passed on to the consumer as well? Why do you assume that employees have no pricing power but employers do? If employees have to pay for parking in some jobs but not others, they are less likely to work in the job where they have to pay for parking; this reduces the supply of workers for the “pay to park” jobs requiring the employer to pay more to those employees. You also overlook the fact that most employers pay for their employees parking in this country; that’s the standard. How do you feel about paying for employee parking with just about every other thing you buy in this economy? Like I said, a highly specious argument by a self proclaimed so-called “expert” no less.

  45. By Parking Guy
    December 22, 2009 at 12:01 am | permalink

    Fred…You are correct with your statement the cost would be what the market demands. Somebody above stated that the an industry standard of 85% capacity is considered full was also correct. It seems like that capacity is already there. By dropping the price to free demand would skyrocket. Republic’s $100M in revenue is, i believe, company wide and a majority of that is in large cities like Chicago. Parking structures are extremely expensive to build an operate. Figure about $30k per space for an underground structure just to build.

    By privatizing you would lose control of the rate cap you currently have, assuming Council must approve any rate hike. Football weekends would be doubled or tripled.

    yes parking does make money, but wouldnt you rather have that the the city coffers then Republics bank account? Look what happened in Chicago when the privatized there meters. Yes they got $1Billion, but they lost a solid revenue stream at a price that most in the industry now consider a bargain.

    I used to work in the private world and now I am in the public side, small towns need to keep the rate control in house.

    The public monopoly is not only saving you money by the rate, the money that is made stays there.

  46. By Parking Guy
    December 22, 2009 at 12:18 am | permalink

    chuck- is there any cost of doing business that is not ultimately passed on to the consumer? I know, we all have expenses, and the “cost of doing business” is well, a cost of doing business. But each owner will decide what the profit margin is that is acceptable to them.

    It is not a common practice for employers to pay for parking for employees, in an urban environment. If it was, wouldn’t all your employees ALREADY have their parking paid for? If they do and all of your CBD employees who get parking paid for and then pay to park on the street have another issue. Its usually management that receives free parking.

    Yes, mall employees parking is indirectly paid for by the owner in the form of rent to the landlord. But most people do not look at it that way.

    All I am saying, with regards to your statement, is that the consumer must take on the cost of parking for it to be a fair to people who take other modes of transportation.

    Finally, I never refereed to myself as an expert..I said Dr Shoup was…and he is ….

  47. December 22, 2009 at 8:08 am | permalink

    Parking Guy,

    Re money going to the coffers… If it were truly privatized, the city would make money from the success of the business, as well as the county making money off the property tax. For example, how much money did the county lose when Pfizer was sold to UM?

    The city doesn’t need to own parking garages. They can sell them, or lease to own, etc… make their investment back and yet allow free market to move forward. Perhaps businesses downtown will get together and validate the parking; absorbing the cost in their pricing. Who knows. But Republic Parking currently makes a very good amount of money off the city, and that money goes to TN, not local. Chicago, again is one of the biggest cities in the country, let alone the world. It also has been labeled one of the most corrupt cities in the US. Not really interested what happened when they privatized their meters. Especially since when I go there, I generally park for free.

    We disagree on money going to coffers and small towns needing to provide rate control. Instead, competition and free market can dictate rates and then the city/town will earn their revenue based on existing taxes from the business/property tax.

  48. By Alan Goldsmith
    December 22, 2009 at 8:12 am | permalink

    Good for Newcombe Clark:

    “Clark was concerned that what was proposed was not transparent – the deal was a mechanism to transfer money from the DDA to the city, which was more appropriately an issue for the two “mutually beneficial” committees to explore. “It creeps into the ‘mutually beneficial’ committee’s responsibility,” he said. “If the city needs money, do it transparently.””

    This is what ALL of the parking issues are about–a transfer of money from the DDA to the City with a lack of transparency. It’s why the increase in meter hours and the likely push of more people into structures. It’s about MONEY. Money the Mayor and City Council have been managed poorly.

  49. By David
    December 22, 2009 at 8:25 am | permalink

    Fred and Parking Guy, don’t forget what happened and will continue to happen to the Chicago parking rates since parking was privatized. If I remember correctly they have gone up by $s/hr and meters have been put up in areas that previously had free parking. The city of Chicago has little control over these increases. Privitization also gave the city a convenient means to pass off the blame for rate increases while maximizing their one-time payment by granting essentally a lack of government control.

    You might recall the public uproar when the DDA/city council wanted to increase hourly rates by a small fraction of a dollar. The public response had some effect on restraining the increases and the timing of implementation. If you give Republic or another entity control over rates without having to work through a controlling government body, you will certaintly end up with a similar result as in Chicago.

  50. By Parking Guy
    December 22, 2009 at 8:45 am | permalink

    David-I 1000% agree with you. Thats why I have been preaching that the monopoly is there to control the rate. You do not want private companies with the control becasue their #1 priority is profit. No matter what it looks like to the public, the government controlled garages are not making nearly as much money as they could becasue profit is not their # 1 priority.

    Also, a 50% increase in the on-street parking rate would not amount to a 50% increase in total revenue, as volume would diminish. It would not dissapear, the hope is that it would end up in the garages. You want to maximixe the capacity of the garages first and foremost. This cuts down on traffic, pollution and leaves the on-street parking to whom its meant for, short term parkers.

  51. December 22, 2009 at 11:07 am | permalink

    Parking Guy,

    Profit is their motive, and it’s hard to believe otherwise. They, as previously stated, need parking monies to pay for projects. Money is their motive.

    That being said… why? Why do we want the city in control of garages? Have they demonstrated a great ability to take care of existing transportation infrastructure? My thoughts, based on the road conditions, bridge deterioration, and so forth is no, they have not.

    The city does not need to maintain more infrastructure.

    Privatization of parking using Chicago as a guideline is ridiculous. But I’ll humor you… if we were to compare us to Chicago and NYC…

    Daily parking in the loop or west loop (8am – 8pm) is about $19 – 22 daily (without monthly permits. Daily parking at 4th & Washington for 8am – 8pm is $15. That’s not crazy out of control pricing in my mind. Of course, if you chose the south loop, you’d pay $8 – 19 for 8am to 8pm (depending on which garage you chose). So, to me it looks like Chicago can be just slightly more than half of the cost of 4th & Washington.

    Chicago is also one of the most congested cities in the country. Another congested city? New York. Again, I don’t see any reason to compare the two to Ann Arbor, but now I’m fascinated that I can park for less in Chicago than here. Although when I go, I generally choose free on street parking. For $5.75 I can then use all the public transit I want.

    NYC also has private parking garages. In the financial district of Manhattan, rated the most expensive parking in the country… you can find daily specials for parking at a whopping $12.00. TriBeCa has daily specials for $10.00.

    So, I’m truly at a loss over how privatized parking will be bad for Ann Arbor.

  52. By David Lewis
    December 22, 2009 at 11:17 am | permalink

    Last time I was in Chicago it was $7 for the first hour.

    I agree with posters above, this is about both turnover and revenue.

    What is not transparent? There has been an ongoing, sometimes messy public debate about the $2 million that comes from parking revenues to the city general fund. The city owns the garages and spaces. The DDA is there to run them. Why should the city not receive $$ for money made on their property?

  53. December 22, 2009 at 1:28 pm | permalink


    That’s the beauty of the free market. If you choose one of the garages that can charge very high rates, you get to pay them. If you look around, you’ll do better. And if you’re willing to take a bus / train, you’ll do even better. Chicago is a huge city… you can lookup garage pricing online and make the informed decision by the time you get there.

    Same thing in NYC, and most other cities. And of course, those are the two of the most expensive cities for parking in the US. If you shop around, you can still park in a garage for less than Ann Arbor.

  54. By Parking Guy
    December 22, 2009 at 1:53 pm | permalink

    Fred. You are correct that you can find sheap parking in big cities, at certian times. For the sake of this topic we should discuss why you can find cheap parking in a large city.

    In a large city deman, which shapes the rate structure, shifts all over the city depending on the time, day of the week, proximity to certain areas.

    In Philadelphia for instance the CDB of MArket Street and Broad street is priced that during the week and day it is exteremely expensive- $30. The you could park at the smae gargae at night for $5, the reason? There is no night life. On the flip side you can park in Old City during the day for $5 and then at night it is $30. So in large cities demand floats around and the prices reflect that. So you can park for cheap but you wont be neer the demand for that time off day. And the cost of time walking or a cab will quickly make up the difference.

    Now a city like Ann Arbor is not large enough to have this occur. The finicial district, nightlife, and shopping ditrict is all one place. Therefore the demand may ebb and flow during the day but it never leaves one part of town and completely shifts to another. You probably see a peak demand at 10am, 2pm, 6pm and 10pm. Therefore the pricing does not really change. The argument that parking can be found cheaper in Chicago and NYC looks like a solid case, but I think the rationale that I just discussed explains why the we are not looking at apples to apples.

    I do disagree with the pricing structure currenty in place becasue it is not condicive to acheieving proper space utilization. Without looking at proximity to demand generators I would question why the surface lots are more expensive for an hourly customer then the garages, but for a monthly customer the lots are cheaper then the garage. Where is the logic in that? If the lot is in a prime location that deserves a premium hourly rate then the same premium should be applied to the mobnthly customers.

    The 30 cents an hour difference between the garages and the on street meters is two low. I would look for $2 an hour for onstreet and 90 cents for the garage to start moving cars off the street and into the garages.

    Happy Holidays

    Parking Guy

  55. December 22, 2009 at 4:20 pm | permalink

    Parking Guy,

    To clarify…

    My pricing was based on an 8am -> 8pm hourly rate average in Chicago (loop section) and Ann Arbor. The daily specials are even cheaper.

    I also disagree with Ann Arbor’s pricing. Nothing says we don’t want you here like increasing the hourly fee of parking 18% after 3 hours.

  56. By John Rinne
    December 26, 2009 at 11:01 am | permalink

    The city’s spending habits is another issue, but in terms of parking revenue, why would the city “give away” $100 million in revenue to Republic Parking?
    This money should be going into city coiffers.

    In terms of collection methods, I’d ask which method is more consumer-friendly in these two senarios:
    1). $3 added on to the price of a meal via a small local sales tax?
    Credit processors already charge 2-8% on point-of-sale purchases, but nobody bats an eye about that or sales taxes.

    2) $3 charged at the meter or structure?
    The customers have just had a nice meal and want to go home, but now have to wait in line, get out the wallet or dig for quarters. What a pain. “Parking is free over at briarwood, let’s go there next time” or “$50 for ten minutes over, no way I’m coming back here”.

    Never mind the actual cost or time, what is more important is the experience.
    Michigan is going through a recession, and Ann Arbor is not a huge metropolis where the only alternatives are hours away. To stay competative, we need to keep this town a “fun” to visit.

  57. By Rod Johnson
    December 26, 2009 at 11:28 am | permalink

    The frustrating thing here is that both sides are right (or wrong). Parking downtown is a scarce good and, rationally, should be priced accordingly to ensure it’s used efficiently, AND high fines/rates are a disincentive for shoppers to come downtown (and it’s politically unpopular). Creating more supply is expensive and the results (decks) are also an unattractive option. It’s a vicious problem. I don’t know of any cities that have really solved it, unless they’ve somehow changed the prevailing culture of car use.

  58. December 26, 2009 at 12:13 pm | permalink

    Re #56, the money is going into city coffers. Republic Parking is the contractor and carries out the service for a contracted payment. (They also get a yearly reward for good service, which has been controversial but is part of the contract.) The actual income goes into the DDA Parking Fund, from which the council has been withdrawing a $million a year. Current negotiations about how that is to continue are ongoing. (I believe that the Chronicle has covered the “mutually beneficial committee” in the past.) My estimation (without a spreadsheet to back me up) is that the DDA will soon have depleted all reserves in that fund, which has to bear the maintenance expense as well as for building new structures. Just to be really confusing, the parking revenues from the whole system are now being redirected into paying the bonds for the parking under the Library Lot. (I have quoted the relevant memo from Tom Crawford elsewhere; he acknowledges that revenue from that structure alone will not be enough to pay for it.)

  59. December 28, 2009 at 1:54 am | permalink

    #58: “…the parking revenues from the whole system are now being redirected into paying the bonds for the parking under the Library Lot.”

    That’s the intended (and proven) policy, not a flaw or failing. The parking system is managed in a way that it pays for itself as a whole. Individual lots and structures aren’t managed to pay for only themselves. If they were, the rates in the older structures would be considerably lower than those in the newer ones.

    #57: “It’s a vicious problem.”

    It’s been said before: full parking spaces downtown is not a problem.

    Of course, that statement and this entire discussion only consider (with very minor exceptions) the economic aspects of this issue. If we look at it more broadly in terms of sustainability, we might find that our thinking on it shifts. When environmental quality and social equity are factored in along with economic vitality, what alternative perspectives arise? How do the current proposals look in that new light? What other policy options seem feasible that didn’t previously?

  60. By John Rinne
    December 30, 2009 at 1:27 am | permalink

    #59:”When environmental quality and social equity are factored in along with economic vitality, what alternative perspectives arise?”

    In a perfect fantasy world 400 years into the future with(of course) unlimited funding and support, one solution which would allow expansion of maximum density would be to create parking structures and rental lots at the S.Main and State/I-94 exits. Inexpensive high speed light rail would shuttle visitors to downtown at all hours every ten minutes, and students would have reliable access to rental cars.
    This would turn a portion of automotive congestion into pedestrian.
    Some other alternatives might be to build elevated traffic routes, make vehicles signifigantly smaller/narrower, or just keep building structures higher with commuters adjusting to spending a portion of their day sitting in traffic(ala LA).

    For now, Michigan is losing population.

  61. December 31, 2009 at 11:15 am | permalink

    “For now, Michigan is losing population.”

    I’d love for the Chronicle to do an article on this issue. It seems that many people have strong feelings about it, and it’s not clear (to me, at least) what’s behind the feelings. I think the subsequent discussion would be valuable.

  62. December 31, 2009 at 2:19 pm | permalink


    Detroit News had an article back in April. [link]

    I would also love one from Ann Arbor Chronicle… call me old fashioned… but I like my news presented by unbiased qualified journalists. Which is probably why I love this site.