City’s five-year plan improves parking downtown
Kalamazoo, Mich., has begun a five-year plan to increase the use of parking spaces in the downtown area and to improve parking facilities. By 2003, the city expects to have strengthened the parking system and to have boosted resident satisfaction.
In 1999, the downtown Kalamazoo parking system was facing hard times. Residents were not effectively using the city’s parking facilities; the system was struggling financially; and the city needed to respond to research findings that said consumers did not want to pay to park downtown. Downtown Kalamazoo Inc. (DKI), a private non-profit group charged with downtown’s economic development, began working with the city commission to address those problems.
The resulting plan established five goals: expand free parking, create a capital improvement program, consolidate facilities, review rates annually and build a cash reserve. In May 2000, DKI began to meet the first goal by adding 144 free, 90-minute parking spaces to the existing 50 in downtown’s retail core. Another 20 spaces were added later in the year. DKI removed parking meters from the spaces and promoted the expanded free parking zones with signs for visitors (“Feel Free To Park It Here”) and signs for downtown workers (“Park It Anywhere But Here; Keep Spaces Clear For Customers”).
DKI predicted the expanded free parking would result in a $75,000 revenue loss for the parking system. The organization planned for the loss at the start of the fiscal year and looked for ways to increase turnover among the paid meters.
DKI found that downtown workers paid less to park hourly or daily than they did to park monthly in the garages. To create an incentive to park in the garages, DKI raised hourly rates 25 cents and raised daily rates $2. DKI will continue to evaluate rates annually, and it expects the increased rates to create a cash reserve for the parking system by 2002.
To make capital improvements to the parking facilities, the city has agreed to contribute $300,000 out of its general fund to the parking system every year for five years. In 2000, DKI used the money to make immediate safety repairs, including improving structural beams, stair-wells and concrete surfaces and joints, to the four downtown parking ramps.
Later this year, DKI will move monthly parkers from a surface lot to an under-used parking garage just one block west. The move will generate additional revenue for the system and is expected to have a minimal effect on parkers. DKI will convert the surface parking lot/part-time festival site into a permanent festival place featuring green space and trees.
This article was written by Kenneth Nacci, president of Downtown Kalamazoo Inc., Kalamazoo, Mich.