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Posted on Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 9:29 a.m.

Ann Arbor DDA: 700,000 more trips per year made to downtown compared to 5 years ago

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority officials say they aren't worried a planned increase in parking rates will discourage people from visiting downtown.

Not after witnessing steady increases in downtown parking demand year after year — even as the DDA has continued to raise rates.

"Regardless of what the economy is or what people may say, there are a lot more people coming downtown," said DDA board member Roger Hewitt.

There were nearly 450,000 more visits to downtown parking lots and structures this past year compared to five years ago, Hewitt said.

The getDowntown program also has seen go!pass ridership increase by 82 percent in the last five years, with 421,771 rides counted in 2010-11, Hewitt said.

There now are more than 500 businesses that participate in the program, which provides bus passes to downtown employees, according to the DDA.


DDA board member Roger Hewitt addresses the Ann Arbor City Council during a special work session Monday night. Seated is DDA board member Leah Gunn.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Between the go!pass increases and the parking increases, there were about 700,000 more visits to downtown Ann Arbor this past year compared to five years ago, said DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay.

Pollay and Hewitt gave a status report on the downtown parking system Monday night during a special work session of the Ann Arbor City Council.

The DDA is proposing parking rate increases expected to take effect in 2012 — starting with increases at lots and structures in February, and another increase in on-street meter rates taking effect in September.

The on-street meter rate is proposed to increase to $1.50 an hour, after already jumping from $1.20 to $1.40 an hour recently.

Additionally, the DDA plans to start charging by the hour instead of by the half-hour in hourly parking structures starting in February.

What's not being proposed for now is an extension of meter enforcement hours past 6 p.m., though DDA officials sound confident that'll come eventually.

According to data provided at Monday's meeting, parking in downtown Ann Arbor is competitive when compared to Lansing, East Lansing, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

Hourly structures:
Ann Arbor — $1.20/hour (in 2012)

Lansing — $2-$2.50/hour current

Grand Rapids — $2-$4/hour current

Kalamazoo — $1.25-$2/hour current

Hourly lots:
Ann Arbor — $1.40-$1.60/hour (in 2012)

East Lansing — $1.30-$1.60/hour current

Kalamazoo — $1.25-$1.50/hour current

Hourly meters:
Ann Arbor — $1.50/hour (in 2012)

Grand Rapids — $1.50/hour current

The DDA's comparisons don't show data for communities like Ferndale, Birmingham and Royal Oak that charge between 50 cents and $1 an hour for hourly meters. At least Birmingham and Royal Oak also provide free parking incentives to lure visitors downtown.

Monday's meeting was purely for informational purposes, though multiple council members, including Mayor John Hieftje, appeared impressed with the DDA's presentation. The DDA does not need council approval to implement the changes. Hieftje also sits on the DDA board.

The DDA manages the city's 7,200-space parking system, which includes six structures with about 4,300 spaces, 18 lots with about 1,200 spaces and about 1,700 on-street metered spaces. Annual revenue from those sources is more than $16 million.

"Operations take about 46 percent of that money," Hewitt said. "Our debt service is 17 percent, transfers to the city under the new parking agreement is 17 percent, long-term maintenance is 17 percent also, and 3 percent to alternative transportation."


Newly elected City Council Member Jane Lumm offered praises to the DDA Monday night for its management of the downtown parking system.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Hewitt said the DDA planned several years of parking meter rate increases to help finance the new underground parking structure being built along Fifth Avenue downtown. He said he hopes the next increase in September will be the last one that's above inflation.

As for the possibility of future evening enforcement of parking meters, Hewitt said DDA officials have learned from the business community that the concern is more about tickets.

"I certainly understand and sympathize with the concern of nighttime businesses, of which I'm one, not wanting their patrons to get parking tickets in the evening," he said. "I mean, that's probably the biggest negative people have coming down here."

Pollay said the DDA continues to explore ways to use technology to improve customer service. In the coming year, she said, there will be 22 new electric car charging stations set up in various parking structures thanks to a U.S. Department of Energy grant.

Another of the DDA's goals, Pollay said, is to improve communication with businesses and educate downtown employees about various parking and transportation options.

Hewitt said the new underground parking structure on Fifth Avenue will be open before the end of 2012. Meanwhile, the First and Washington parking lot is expected to close so the Village Green apartment project — officially known as Ann Arbor City Apartments — can get under way. It includes a 244-space parking structure that will be owned by the city.

The Fifth and William lot — the site of the old YMCA — also is expected to be closed temporarily in 2012 for the construction of the new Blake Transit Center, Hewitt said.

(This story has been revised to correct a factual error in a photo caption.)

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


Dithering Ninny

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

I think the concern is there appears to MANY inconsistencies, not just one. Hut Hut (inadvertently) pointed out another one when he writes he has "never had a problem finding a parking place". This is an indication of a proper balance of supply and demand, yet the building of another structure ($50M) and the rate increase (under the guise of supply and demand) are "necessary" according to the DDA. Ghost brings up DDA budget inconsistencies that contradict the DDA statements. Betty brings up several inconsistencies and 'loftier' goals like issues of "friendliness" vs. "hostility" which seem to be never addressed by the DDA. Several inconsistencies, non-responsiveness to the public are indications of poor management at the DDA. I believe Mr. Hewitt needs to be replaced.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 10:07 p.m.

i can always find parking. for the ones that can't find parking... i think... 1. you're going on a game day. locals know to stay away from downtown on a game day. or... 2. you're impatient and your inflated ego demands a parking spot beside the restaurant of your choosing.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 4:16 a.m.

Watched it on TV tonight. much funner to watch than CSPAN. anyways... i thought the raise in parking fees are reasonable... and i thought it was a good presentation. but, they have a surplus. why raise rates if that surplus exists? (or does that $$ go to pay new parking lots? who would this raise benefit the most? i don't mean the DDA as a whole... but who stands to get a huge raise for this? who does the extra $$$$ go to? i'm happy that we have commentators that raise the counter-argument to DDAs points. the 700,000 number is impressive. it's amazing and it's nice to know that ann arbor is vibrant and alive. Ghost raises a good point -- "Result: an annual $12.4 million piggy bank of taxpayer dollars for this unelected and unaccountable body to spend without any voter input whatsoever."


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

Random thoughts: I parked at a meter the other night just after 6:00. I wanted to double check that the city had not yet started charging at meters after 6:00, however, there was no notice on this meter regarding enforcement hours. It made me wonder 1) if I would be getting a ticket, and 2) if enforcement was still only until 6:00, how many people were feeding this meter past 6:00 I am much more likely to go downtown in the evening when I don't have to worry about feeding the meter. I was in Lansing the other day and saw an art supply store that I wanted to stop at. I thought if I stop there I might as well stop and get some lunch also. Then I saw that there were parking meters. I had no cash. Instead I ate in Brighton on the way home. Of course, I would love to always be able to park for free, but if that is not possible, I way appreciate being able to use my credit card. I just never have cash or change on me. I hated the new machines at first (and see a lot of room for easy improvements) but they have actually been the greatest convenience for me. If you learn how to use your phone to add payments, you don't even have to walk back to the machine if you decide to extend your stay. Really, they are fantastic.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

Want govt to run like a business? You got it.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

700,000 more trips? Who is the DDA trying to fool? This comment proves they are completely out of touch with reality.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

I've never agreed with Council's decision to hand over revenues from parking, and control of the parking system, to the DDA. However, raising on-street rates with the purpose of encouraging turnover is completely legitimate. That's a free-market response to very high demand and limited supply. For that matter, there's nothing wrong with managing the limited supply of parking to maintain a certain available parking rate. They ought to vary the rates by congestion at the time - so during high demand times charge the highest prices, and lower demand times charge lower prices.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

How about a poll &quot;Do you feel the DDA is well managed or not?&quot; There were 450,000 more visits annually to our parking structures and lots and that sounds impressive, however if I told you that it is a 4.86% increase you'd be less impressed. See: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> With the local economy being up, it's no surprise that people are going put to eat and shopping more downtown. What was the trend over the past 10 years? Lastly, I note that there appears to be no shortage of parking in the area of the Library despite the fact that that very large lot is unavailable during the construction, so explain to me again why did we spend $50 million on the Big Dig?

David Frye

Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 2:58 a.m.

The contrast between the DDA figures and your &quot;poll&quot; suggest that your readers do not comprise a representative sampling of Ann Arbor residents. Surprising, isn't it.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

I really wish I could vote your comment up more than once.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 1:37 a.m.

why don't we hire a consulting firm from say Germany or New Jersey to come in and evaluate and revamp our entire parking structure? Our elected officials can't do it, they have turned it over to the DDA and now they don't report the facts of the budget completely to the tax payers and who are they held accountable to?


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

I am sure they are counting on having all those U of M staffers to flock to the AATA ride because they won't find any parking once the new Motts Children Hospital opens. And besides, the $600 U of M blue sticker only gives them a change to hunt for a space. Now we can hunt for a spot on the bus when the 3:30 whistle blows.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 9:07 p.m.

Hey How about doing some reporting and finding out what the DDA's 2011/12 budget projects parking revenue and costs to be, since the DDA hasn't seen fit to post its budget yet? Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 9:05 p.m.

Baloney. Pure Baloney. Per the 2010/11 DDA budget available at: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Total Parking operations revenue: $15 million Total Parking operations costs: $7.4 million Total Parking Operation surplus: $8.6 million Add to this surplus from parking ops another $3.8 million it receives in &quot;tax capture&quot; (love that euphemism--better understood as stealing tax dollars from AAPS, WCC, AADL, AAPS, and others). Result: an annual $12.4 million piggy bank of taxpayer dollars for this unelected and unaccountable body to spend without any voter input whatsoever. And they want to RAISE parking fees? Really? Are they out of their minds?????? And its also worth noting that the DDA is yet to post its 2011/12 budget to its website. Can't imagine why they are stalling on that one. Time to disband the DDA. Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

When unelected officials refuse to list to the poplulation, perhaps it is time to for the public to speak LOUDER. Perhaps protesting/boycott of Redhawk is in order. Mr Hewitt might find a willingness to listen if people made there concerns heard closer to where his wallet is.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

Oh, yes. Anyone been to downtown Lansing? The sidewalks are rolled up at 5.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 6:17 p.m.

The bottom line: The DDA has too much power &amp; no accountability. Throw out the Mayor. Change back the parking authority to City Council, whom we vote for (though most of council is out of touch; it can be changed &amp; petitioned). The local government should be asking the people, via millage, whether WE want to take on the debt of a new city hall, parking garage, etc. The local government has been robbing Peter to pay Paul leaving us with a pile of debt and unwanted, unnecessary items that we never approved. They have moved money around to pay for these items &amp; others, as if it was Monopoly money, while laying off cops &amp; firefighters. Throw out the Mayor. We need to find a populist who has the CITIZENS best interest at heart, not the wooing corporatist we have now. 1000 jobs from Google? They haven't even hired half that, yet they got a cherry deal, while long time locals get the shaft when DDA's projects effect them.

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

But, for real, many of us actually walk downtown, so these numbers are already inaccurate, unless of course, you're only counting cars in which case this is very sad.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

What does the go!pass increase have to do with parking? Many more UM employees and students are taking the AATA to avoid paying for UM parking stickers. There has been a large increase in the past couple years. These folks are simply going to and from work. They are not visitors coming to spend money or visit businesses in the downtown area. This is what they mean when they &quot;there are lies, damm lies, and statistics&quot;. I suspect when the when the new parking garage opens they will be hard pressed to fill it. They are going to have a hard time paying the bills and they are trying to fill their coffers asap. Without Borders there is not the draw to the downtown area. Sadly, time is going to reveal that.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:57 p.m.

PS, no one wanted the underground structure, I don't know a single woman who has said she will use it, those I talk to all say no way will they park underground.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 4:11 a.m.

@ lolly, not all european towns hide their parking underground. I've been several places that haven't. In places where surface space is limited I have seen automatic parking garages. You drive in, get out, an attendant checks the car to make sure no persons or animals are left inside (they check the trunk too) then you watch as a giant elevator door opens and your car is taken inside on tracks. There are monitors to watch your car being moved about on a platform to an empty spot. That way many spaces can fit onto a smaller lot, either below ground or several stories above. A parking lot that would normally park 40 cars now can park several hundred. It's actully quite neat. These garages usually have a minimum charge to park. (the one we used was about $8) But only require two attendants on duty. Cars enter through one elevator and exit out another. A man who owned a surface lot in NY city got a federal grant a decade or so ago to build one in NYC. He went from packing 80 cars in like sardines (commuters) to being able to park 400 cars in 6 stories, four above,two underground, but the customer never is inside the parking bay areas. Dublin, London, Paris, Rome (Venice!), Athens, Berlin, Moscow, Prague all have above parking structures, which I have used.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 3:56 a.m.

@ peter, it's come up with both men and women, women agree they will not park in the structure for safety reasons, the men so far have just rolled thier eyes at the big dig in general. That I have conversed with.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 8:58 p.m.

Sorry, but this female will happily use it and I am delighted that we don't have to have another above ground structure. Part of the beauty of European towns is that they hide their parking underground.

Peter Jameson

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 6:07 p.m.

you only converse with women on this issue?


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:51 p.m.

The comparative rates that the DDA presents are disingenuous at best. Many communities have parking garages which they charge for parking, but they have surface lots and street parking which is FREE. Additionally how many of these cities have their DDA in charge of parking? Usually in other towns the city gives the DDA a budget for operation, it's basically meant to advertise and promote a town. The DDA in A2 should not be in charge of parking altogether. People should know, and I am sure they do, that any numbers or statistics the DDA puts out are heavily cherry picked to slant to thier cause, which is to maintain control of the pocket books. The machines should not accept money on holidays period. The machines should rollover left over time amounts for the next person parking. (no double dipping) The first 15 mins in parking garages and surface lots should be free as a curtesy to people making quick runs. Parking machines should be placed next to the handicap spots. Machines should always be able to accept coins and or bills.


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 3:54 a.m.

@sunk. I have definatly paid to be in the structure all of 12 mins. I know someone specifically who entered, got up three floors got an emergency call and had to leave, charged on the way out. So it does happen.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 6:54 p.m.

I agree with 98 percent of what you are saying, but just to be fair, I would like to point out I have never been charged for 10-15 mins of parking at any of the parking structures around town. Now, i haven't been to all of them, but I have lived here many years and have used more than a few. I could just be lucky on this, and it may have been the attendants being nice, but it is something I have always noticed. On a side note, the parking has gotten much worse in the area, and some of the DDA ideas for the future of parking seem even worse.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

&quot;like Ferndale, Birmingham and Royal Oak that charge between 50 cents and $1 an hour for hourly meters&quot; I don't really care if rates go up. I think charging someone an hour for parking for 10 minutes in a lot is ridiculous, but either way, the quote above illustrates the shortcomings of the DDA. They refuse to present all data. They only cited the places with higher rates. what a joke. There are some aspects of ann arbor parking that are comparable to east lansing in student area's but all the other cities cited are on the west side of the state. It appears as if there was a conscious effort to not look at regional neighbors. I am not sure what the rate is, but how about a comparison to Ypsilanti? You know the city that is right next door?


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

Whenever I suggest to friends we meet in downtown Ann Arbor for dinner or drinks or whatever, more often than not they decide to go somewhere else because of the parking. It's not a welcoming place to out of towners and they'd rather not deal with it.

Ben Griffith

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

Really? Is Ann Arbor going to buy this? Communities at least make an effort to be friendly. The arrogance is astonishing.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

The DDA in general and Mr. Hewitt in specific, is misleading AA. Hard to reconcile the current story with the one from August that concluded &quot;Lowest Parking Revenues in a Decade at Art Fair&quot; <a href=""></a> Also please note the picking and choosing of Parking Rates in the comparison. There are many examples of lower rates. Hewitt selectively picks his comparison points to justify the parking fee increase. He is 2 faced. I also note that when it's inconvenient for Mr. Hewitt's business (enforcement in the evening) he is far more interested in lower fees....the DDA has previously stated that lower fees don't encourage people to come downtown. They just can't keep their story straight. More people downtown/lowest parking in a decade, AA fess are higher/AA fees are lower, the DDA believes higher fees are the principle tool to 'manage' parking/but we want lower fees &amp; enforcement when it impacts my business. Parking in Ann Arbor is hostile and unwelcoming. It is purposely designed to shake down unsavvy visitors with higher fees and aggressive enforcement. We deserve better parking management. I don't treat people poorly, and I don't have time for people and institutions like Mr. Hewitt, Governments, or City's that treat me poorly. AA Do you really feel these parking policies reflect your values?

Dithering Ninny

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

I think the concern is there appears to MANY inconsistencies, not just one. Hut Hut (inadvertently) pointed out another one when he writes he has &quot;never had a problem finding a parking place&quot;. This is an indication of a proper balance of supply and demand, yet the building of another structure ($50M) and the rate increase (under the guise of supply and demand) are &quot;necessary&quot; according to the DDA. Ghost brings up DDA budget inconsistencies that contradict the DDA statements. Betty brings up several inconsistencies and 'loftier' goals like issues of &quot;friendliness&quot; vs. &quot;hostility&quot; which seem to be never addressed by the DDA. Several inconsistencies, non-responsiveness to the public are indications of poor management at the DDA. I believe Mr. Hewitt needs to be replaced.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

Really? Why is it so hard to reconcile lower numbers for one week (with poor weather) with higher number for an entire year? These really aren't measuring the same thing at all.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

Hut hut, if it's true that you've been going downtown and parking for decades, day and night, and have never had a problem finding a spot, then this also suggests numbers falsifying on the part of the DDA; they use the need to turn over parking and difficulty finding parking as one of their justifications for rate hikes/etc.


Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 6:36 p.m.

I resent you implying I want to break the law, I do not. I also understand the supply and demand factors for parking, I resent your implication I am ignorant to the basic economics, I am not. I do not believe that people "value the service" they are left without a realistic option and at the mercy of the DDA and the parking revenue officers. From my travels, there are no cities where enforcement is more aggressive than AA and I am ashamed of our city government &amp; DDA for it. AA CLEARLY has a reputation of greed and hostility. Simply ask our neighboring communities. This is how we treat visitors poorly. I too have lived here for several decades and travel to downtown as infrequently as possible to avoid the poor treatment you defend as resonable. As I said before, I don't treat people poorly. Perhaps you have a different philosophy? I too do not have trouble finding a place to park and you will note I said nothing of the cost. I don't find the DDA to be honest as I detailed. I'm embarrassed by the DDA's mistreatment of its citizens. You need only read the idea's espoused within the comments of to find ways to make the city friendlier. Regretfully, the DDA is not interested in anything that doesn't bring them more revenue.

hut hut

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

PLease explain how people are treated &quot;poorly&quot;. Rules are rules. Parking policy is parking policy. It's the law. Everyone wants a break from the law, but it's equally enforced for everyone and those who come prepared will not have a problem. It's hardly any different anywhere else, including the cities mentioned by M. Hewitt. Where ever people want to go in their cars, there is demand for parking. Sometimes it's free, sometimes you pay. The more popular a place or location is, the more demand for parking and the market determines what people will pay. There are alternatives for those who think that parking is onerous and difficult in downtown Ann Arbor. Take the bus, a cab, ride with a friend or carpool, park a few blocks away for free or at lower cost, then walk to your destination. Aggressive enforcement? Make sure to feed the meters or park in a structure. You're paying for the convenience to park your car close to where you want to go. Pay structures might be a few blocks away, but you won't get a ticket or towed. If you value the service, the cost is one factor in its value. It appears to me that many people value the service and will pay market price. From my travels, enforcement can be and is often far worse in other cities than here in Ann Arbor. I've been ticketed and towed before, but not in Ann Arbor. The cab ride to get my car was about 20 miles, about $35, plus the fine and tow charge. I was not happy, but knew it was my fault and not some overzealous public servant or thought that government was out to get me. I've lived here for several decades and downtown at least once a week, day and night and have never had a problem finding a parking place or objected to the rates. It's the cost of doing business in a city.