Concerns that could cause a drop in usage may be proving true, according to Parking Commission statistics released this month.
A year-to-year comparison of usage from July-December shows that total usage dropped in almost every major parking facility in the west end from 2010 to 2011–a total of 15,159 less transactions. The exception was the West Parking Deck, where the number of transactions rose 12 percent. But in Lot A–one of the city's busiest lots–the drop was especially noticeable, with usage falling 20 percent.
On-street meter usage fell 18.5 percent during the same time period.
As a result, the city has fallen short of its expected revenue so far on the paid parking system for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
"Revenues aren't where we were expecting them to be," said Elizabeth Wilkinson of the city's Finance Department.
It was predicted that the city would improve upon 2010-11 revenue, based on the fact that parking rates were raised across the board in July 2011. The plan was to eventually make the parking program self-sufficient, requiring no general fund contributions.
However, a decrease in usage has meant that while parking income hasn't dropped, it's not hitting 2011-12 goals.
The budget through 2015 predicts about $1.4 million in annual revenue from the parking system, including parking and enforcement. As of Dec. 31, the system had collected $735,000–or 42 percent of the goal. And while expenses are also down for 2012, Wilkinson warned that if revenues stay consistent, the need for general fund subsidizing of the system could be significantly more than what was budgeted.
Scot Mooney of Republic Parking admitted at the Parking Commission's Jan. 19 meeting that the rate changes might be having a negative affect on parking habits.
"We decided on this particular scenario … based on estimates," he explained. "There was no way of knowing how customers would react. The facts are … the numbers are down."
"Our rate change did make some impact," he added. "People are noticing the changes and they’re changing their behavior."
Mooney suggested that the commission look into making minor tweaks to the system, including lowering the time limit on meters with the highest usage to encourage turnover, or restructuring the rates in Lot A.
Parking commissioner and owner John Lossia said he sees it as a much simpler problem.
“What it boils down to is that people just do not like paid parking," he said. "When they had a half hour free, it was different.”
manager and commissioner Steven Guibord agreed: "We just need more people in the district."