Dearborn’s Parking Advisory Commission met Thursday afternoon at , and much of the discussion centered on the effects of the for west downtown.
The rates–a relatively substantial increase from previous amounts– after being approved by Dearborn City Council as a means to make the city’s parking system on the west end cost-neutral. But while the fiscal year 2011-12 budget shows a drastic reduction in the city’s general fund subsidy to parking, some are worried that the savings will be offset by less usage.
And less parking usage means fewer people coming to local stores and businesses.
“We’re still short of being self-sufficient, even with the increases … and I’m afraid we’re going to see less activity,” said John Lossia, commission member and owner of . “We’re still having our customers shocked because they don’t know about (the rate changes).”
Lossia also expressed concern that if the city loses money because of the rate increases, the only response will be to raise them more–an option he thinks will drive away customers.
“If we continue to have shortfall, what is the response going to be–more increases?” he asked. “I’ll be honest with you–my customers are not going to put up with another increase at all. And I don’t think I’m alone in saying that.”
Scot Mooney of Republic Parking said that it’s too soon to examine the numbers since the increase. He said he needs more time before he can provide figures to the commission that will give an accurate representation of the effect the rate change is having, but added that in his opinion, the outcome will likely be positive for the city.
“It’s a little too early to turn the gun on rate change data,” Mooney said. “Preliminarily, we have definitely seen an increase in revenue.”
Economic Development Director Barry Murray suggested that the city partner with the and local businesses to find innovative ways to drive traffic to the downtown area.
But ultimately, the effects of the rate changes are all speculative until at least one or two months’ worth of figures are seen and interpreted as a comparison to revenue from 2010 and earlier.
The commission isn’t set to meet again until October, at which point it would be too late to change the system before the holiday season shopping rush–a boon for local shops. Several commission members agreed that it is crucial to see some concrete revenue numbers as soon as possible.
“A drop-off in traffic is my main concern,” Lossia added. “That’s the worst thing that can possibly happen, is that the parking usage goes down for all of us.”