Stories indexed with the term ‘parking system’

Column: Parking Oversight, Please

On-street metered parking in and near downtown Ann Arbor costs $1.50 an hour. Rates have not been increased since September 2012. By the terms of the contract under which the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA) operates the parking system on behalf of the city, the DDA – not the city council – has the authority to raise rates.

(City of Ann Arbor public parking system data from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, charts by The Chronicle)

Comparing the periods October 2012 through June 2012 to October 2013 through June 2014 – when rates have been constant – revenue has increased 1.20% to $14,647,274, while the number of hourly patrons has decreased by 1.65% to 1,661,256. (City of Ann Arbor public parking system data from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, charts by The Chronicle.)

What if on-street metered rates were raised a dime, and rates across other parts of the parking system were also raised by an equivalent percentage?

Although the DDA operates the parking system, that kind of 6.7% rate increase would directly benefit the city’s general fund. By how much?

First, any increase to the city’s general fund revenue is a function of the contract with the city of Ann Arbor, under which the DDA operates the roughly 8,000-space public parking system. The contract stipulates that the city receives 17% of gross parking system revenues.

Total parking system revenues are budgeted by the DDA for the 2015 fiscal year at about $19.3 million. So in ballpark numbers, the 17% equates to a roughly $3.2 million transfer to the city. Of that $3.2 million, about $2.3 million will go to the general fund, while the remaining amount will go to the fund the city uses to maintain downtown streets. That division of the transfer payment by the city has its historical roots in an arrangement between the city and the DDA that predated the existing contract.

So a 6.7% increase in rates across the parking system – assuming no decrease in the use of the system – works out to something like $150,000 more for the city of Ann Arbor’s general fund.

The city council’s role in setting parking rates is one of oversight, not decision-making. But even that oversight role is structurally somewhat weak – because decisions made by the DDA (to raise parking rates) can make the city council’s annual budget decisions somewhat easier.

The next scheduled opportunity for the Ann Arbor city council to exercise oversight of the DDA will be during a fall joint work session – which is stipulated to occur under terms of the city-DDA parking contract. That session is currently planned for Sept. 8.

The contractually stipulated work session would be a good opportunity for councilmembers to ask for metrics on Ann Arbor’s public parking system. Requested information should include stats that indicate how well Ann Arbor’s public parking system supports three different key user groups: (1) downtown employees; (2) retail/transactional customers and visitors; and (3) downtown residents.

Some data is collected routinely by the DDA from Republic Parking – its contractor for day-to-day operations – and shared publicly. That data is limited to revenue figures and numbers of hourly patrons. The routine data does not include hours parked by different categories of users – monthly permit holders and hourly patrons – which makes it difficult to evaluate the system’s support of different user groups.

Still, it’s possible to discern some patterns and to draw some conclusions about Ann Arbor’s parking system, based on the data the DDA does provide. Charts with commentary are presented below. [Full Story]

DDA Acts on Elevator Design, Parking Term

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Jan. 8, 2014): In a meeting that lasted just 40 minutes, the DDA board handled two substantive items of business: funding for design work of a new parking structure elevator; and extension options for monthly parking permits associated with a planned new residential development.

Floor 7 at the southwest elevator of the Fourth & William parking structure in downtown Ann Arbor.

Floor 7 at the southwest elevator of the Fourth & William parking structure in downtown Ann Arbor. (Photos by the writer.)

The elevator in question is located at the southwest corner of the Fourth & William parking structure. The 994-space capacity makes it the largest structure in Ann Arbor’s public parking system, which offers around 8,000 parking spaces in lots, structures and on-street, metered parking.

The elevator is at least 30 years old, and was characterized at the meeting by DDA executive director Susan Pollay as one of the slowest in the Ann Arbor area, and the frequent subject of parking patron complaints. A trip from street level to floor 7 was timed by The Chronicle at about 45 seconds. That compares to 17 seconds for a similar trip on the elevator at Fourth & Washington, which is the DDA’s second-newest structure.

The board’s Jan. 8 resolution authorized $40,000 for Carl Walker Inc. to develop architectural renderings for the work at the Fourth & William parking structure. Carl Walker is the consulting firm used by the DDA for its routine maintenance inspection program for the parking structures. The design is supposed to allow for phased construction so that the parking structure could remain open during the construction period, which would not begin before next winter. The estimated construction cost for the project is $2.25 million.

In its other main business item, the board voted to allow the developer of the future 624 Church St. project in downtown Ann Arbor to extend for up to 15 years – for a total of 30 years – the contracts for 48 already-approved parking permits under the city’s contribution-in-lieu (CIL) program. At its meeting on Nov. 6, 2013, the DDA board had already approved the purchase of 48 parking permits through that CIL program for a new version of the proposed residential development at 624 Church St. in downtown Ann Arbor.

The spaces were approved to be provided in the Forest Avenue parking structure. The DDA board’s Jan. 8 resolution indicated that for the extension periods, the DDA might choose to allocate the spaces in some other structure than the Forest facility.

In an update at the meeting also related to parking, city administrator Steve Powers said that the surface parking lot at the former Y site would need to be closed no later than March, due to the sale of the city-owned property to Dennis Dahlmann. The property is located on the north side of William Street, between Fourth and Fifth avenues near the Blake Transit Center and downtown library.

The board also received an update on its initiative to pay for downtown ambassadors. And board members were alerted to the upcoming Jan. 13 city council work session about economic development. [Full Story]

DDA Kicks Off Fall with $300K Grant

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Sept. 4, 2013): The board’s first meeting since early July was attended by the minimum seven members needed for a quorum on the 12-member group. In its one main business item, the group voted to approve a $300,000 grant to Washtenaw County, to support renovations to the county-owned building at 110 N. Fourth in Ann Arbor, which is known as the Annex.

Ward 3 councilmember Stephen Kunselman attended the Sept. 4, 2013, meeting of the DDA board.

Ward 3 councilmember Stephen Kunselman (left) attended the Sept. 4, 2013, meeting of the DDA board. He chatted with mayor John Hieftje before the meeting start. Hieftje is a member of the DDA board. (Photos by the writer.)

The renovation is part of the county’s overall space plan, approved by the board of commissioners at its July 10, 2013 meeting. The space plan calls for modifications to the Annex so that it can house the county’s Community Support & Treatment Services (CSTS) department. The cost of the renovations at the Annex, which would include a new lobby and “client interaction” space, would be about $1 million, according to the DDA board resolution. [.pdf of DDA resolution on the Annex] The Annex has housed the county’s office of community and economic development, office of infrastructure management, and the public defender’s office. Those offices are being moved to other leased and county-owned space.

Not described at the DDA’s board meeting was the backdrop of the grant award to the county, which evolved from a conversation between county administration and the DDA about ways the DDA could help the county address its budget deficit. A pitch from the county had been to re-open the agreement under which the county purchases monthly parking permits in the city’s public parking system, which the DDA manages. The alternative proposed by the DDA was to make a one-time $300,000 grant  – to help fund a project for which the county had already identified funding.

Also not mentioned among the several updates given during the Sept. 4 DDA board meeting was an Aug. 26 meeting of a joint DDA-council committee. That committee had been established by the Ann Arbor city council at its July 1, 2013 meeting to work out a recommendation on possible legislation to address an ongoing controversy about DDA tax increment finance revenue. Not much forward progress was made at that committee meeting.

The city council has already given initial approval of changes to the ordinance language that would clarify the amount of tax increment finance capture (TIF) revenue received by the DDA . The clarification currently under consideration does not work out in the DDA’s favor. A final vote of approval appeared on the council’s Sept. 3, 2013 agenda – the day before the DDA board met – but the council decided again to postpone a final vote.

At their Sept. 4 meeting, DDA board members also got a look at a draft five-year plan of projects that has now been generated, partly in response to pressure from the city council – dating back to April of this year – asking the DDA to explain what projects would not be undertaken if the DDA didn’t continue to receive TIF revenue based on its preferred interpretation of the city’s ordinance.

Highlights of other updates that were given at the Sept. 4 DDA board meeting included a review of the preliminary end-of-year figures for the public parking system and the rest of the DDA’s funds. Overall, the DDA’s financial picture was better than budgeted. That difference is due to the timing of various capital costs.

For the parking system, the year-end picture was consistent with the trend throughout the year. Revenue generated by the parking system was up by 11.9% ($19.09 million) compared to the previous fiscal year, while the number of hourly patrons was down by 1.96% (2,232,736).

Low attendance at the board’s meeting was partly a function of the fact that two of the seats are currently vacant. One of the seats could potentially have been filled by the city council through confirmation of Al McWilliams’ nomination at its Sept. 3, 2013 meeting. However, as the nine councilmembers present debated his confirmation, mayor John Hieftje withdrew it, at least for the time being.

McWilliams’ confirmation would have needed six votes on the 11-member council – and the outcome was dubious based on conversation among the nine attendees at the council table. Some councilmembers questioned whether McWilliams’ might have a recurring conflict of interest based on the work his advertising firm, Quack!Media, does for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority and the allocations that the DDA makes to the AAATA’s go!pass program. That allocation amounted to $479,000 this year, and was approved at the DDA board’s March 6, 2013 meeting.

The Sept. 4 DDA board meeting was somewhat unusual in that no one from the public chose to address the board during the session at either of the two points on the agenda for public commentary. [Full Story]

Parking Deal Talks Open Between City, DDA

Almost a year ago, the city council appointed members to a committee that was to talk with a corresponding committee of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board about amending the contract under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system.

The two groups are known as the “mutually beneficial” committees, reflecting the language of a January 2009 city council resolution that called upon the DDA to begin a conversation about revising the parking contract in a “mutually beneficial” way.

On Monday morning, for the first time in public view, members of the DDA board and the city council met to discuss the contract.


The two mutually beneficial committees (starting at the far right of the frame, proceeding clockwise around the table): Carsten Hohnke, Margie Teall – both city councilmembers; Sandi Smith, city councilmember, but representing the DDA; Christopher Taylor, city councilmember; Roger Hewitt and Russ Collins, both on the DDA board. (Photo by the writer.)

The basis of these further discussions was a term sheet that had been produced in late April by some members of the city council and the DDA working outside of either body’s committee structure.

That term sheet had been the good faith basis on which the DDA board, on a 7-4 vote in May, voted to amend the parking contract. That unilateral amendment amounted to a payment from the DDA to the city of an additional $2 million that had not been required under the existing contract.

The specific outcomes of Monday’s meeting between the two committees were: (i) staff for the DDA and the city would be asked to develop a list of policy points that would need to be addressed in order for the DDA to assume responsibility of enforcing parking rules, but not other codes; and (ii) the DDA would be asked to develop a detailed plan by Sept. 13, 2010 describing the role of the DDA in the development of city-owned surface parking lots within the DDA district.

The planned schedule for meetings between the two committees will be the second Monday morning of each month at 8:30 a.m. at the DDA offices on Fifth Avenue. Members of the council’s committee are Margie Teall (Ward 4), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5). Representing the DDA are Sandi Smith, Russ Collins, Roger Hewitt and Gary Boren. [Full Story]