TRAVERSE CITY — Parking rates and fines could increase if the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority and city commissioners approve several changes to the city parking system.
Commissioners on Monday will hear a proposal from Traverse City Parking Services that aims to balance demand between popular and underutilized parking spaces, documents show.
They’ll also keep the parking system self-sustaining and better incorporate different modes of transit, according to a memo from Transportation Mobility Director Nicole VanNess.
The plans stem from a 2017 Transportation Demand Management study, for which follow-through requires making several changes at once.
“Currently I feel like the approach has been to implement a change, wait, implement another change and wait,” she said. “This is really going to allow us to have more flexibility with implementing changes for interdependent items, and it’ll cover the effects of the different changes.”
She’ll present a draft of several proposals to city commissioners at their meeting Monday, where they’ll give feedback ahead of the DDA meeting Friday, documents show.
City commissioners could vote on the final plan in October, to take effect between then and January.
Changes include higher parking meter prices for high-demand areas — the busiest two blocks of Front Street, say — and higher garage prices during peak usage times of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., VanNess said.
Garage rates would stay at $1 an hour and bump up to $1.50 during peak times, ratcheting up again from May to October, from $1.50 to $2, documents show. Daily maximums would increase during those months, too.
Meters within the DDA district would cost $1 to $1.25 per hour depending on location, or up to $1.50 from May to October, documents show.
That should shift parking demand by encouraging people to “shop around,” VanNess said. Those who are willing to walk more would pay less.
Another change would disallow garage permit holders from parking in surface lots using the same permit, documents show.
Drivers with disabilities would still park for free, but they’d have to get a free parking sticker from the Secretary of State, according to another proposal.
An unofficial city policy currently allows anyone with a disabled placard to park for free, VanNess said. But each space has a cost to operate, and each user should contribute.
“We’re not at any point trying to make this difficult for individuals with disabilities, we’re keeping our designated handicap spots on the streets, but anyone can park in any one of the spaces outside of the handicap spots too, it’s just that going forward there will be a fee,” she said.
Another change would end a discount on parking ticket fines for those who pay on the same day — VanNess said that made it cheaper for some to pay the fine than pay for parking.
Fines would become costlier as well.
No longer would drivers of all-electric vehicles get free parking, VanNess said.
That policy dates back to 2007 when such vehicles were uncommon, and any vehicle taking up a space puts demand — and expense — on a system that’s losing spaces as downtown lots are redeveloped.
Each change would bring challenges, from dissatisfied drivers no longer getting discounted fines to unhappy retailers, to possibly pushing more downtown employees to park in neighborhoods to avoid paying, documents show.
VanNess said a residential parking permit program adopted in October should handle the latter.
It allows residents of a street with posted parking time limits to register their vehicle for free so they can disregard the time limit, as previously reported.
Residents on blocks without posted limits can petition for them.
Commissioner Brian McGillivary said nobody has yet, and petitioning neighbors takes enough time that it’s not a quick solution. Plus, people could keep parking further and further out as parking limits show up on new streets.
He’s mainly concerned about what looks like a loss of city commission oversight over parking — one change would set a maximum $2.50 per hour rate to head off repeated asks to change parking prices, documents show. It’s city commissioners who take the heat when there are parking problems, McGillivary said.
“This seems to be taking it more out of the city commissions’ control and putting it more with the DDA, and I’m not sure ... that’s the best step in the system to take away city commission oversight,” he said.
McGillivary said he’s certain rates need to increase but thinks increasing them too quickly will cause problems. He wants to hear more about the proposal, and the justifications for each change.
Mayor Jim Carruthers said he agrees with the concept of charging more for “rock star” parking right in front of stores. Parking at meters in the city is already cheap enough that trying it doesn’t seem like a big deal.
“I’m just glad that we’re moving forward with some of these issues, we’ve been talking about parking for quite some time,” he said.