New study recommends extending downtown Ann Arbor parking meter enforcement to 9 p.m.
The debate over extending parking meter enforcement hours past 6 p.m. in downtown Ann Arbor has reemerged.
The Downtown Development Authority's governing board voted 11-0 today to endorse the new Public Parking & Transportation Demand Management Strategies Plan, which recommends shifting enforcement of on-street parking meters so they extend three hours later to 9 p.m.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The new schedule for enforcement would run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. instead of the current 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. configuration.
DDA officials say the hours of highest demand for on-street parking appear to begin in the middle of the morning and extend until at least 9 p.m. They say shifting the start time sends a positive message to visitors about the "free parking" offered downtown from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
The Ann Arbor City Council tabled the idea of extending enforcement hours in December, instead asking the DDA to come back in April with a more comprehensive plan for managing the overall downtown parking system.
DDA board member Roger Hewitt said after one final edit, the plan will go to the City Council for review on April 19.
The report cites Birmingham, Dearborn, Ferndale and Royal Oak as examples of other cities with evening enforcement of parking meters.
"I want to compliment staff on an enormous amount of work they have done in an extremely short period of time," Hewitt said today. "It is an impressive plan. It is not just a parking plan. It is a parking and transportation management plan — very comprehensive."
Hewitt acknowledged there will be controversy over recommendations made in the plan. He said the enforcement hour changes are being proposed due to dramatic growth in Ann Arbor's nighttime economy over the years.
"There are a lot of recommendations in here. One of them is for extended meter enforcement," he said. "Another aspect is geographically setting meter prices. We have some recommendations — and I emphasize these are recommendations — where we are looking at adding three meter rates based on geography, so the highest demand meters are most expensive and the lowest demand meters are very inexpensive."
The report also gives consideration to providing low-cost employee parking on the top floors of the Fourth and William parking garage and the Ann and Ashley parking garage to aid low-wage workers.
In the interest of reducing the number of over-limit tickets, the plan also recommends exploring the use of automatic text messaging when meters are about to expire.
Tony Lupo, a board member from the Main Street Area Association and manager of a downtown business, told DDA officials today there is overwhelming opposition to increasing the hours of parking enforcement among the downtown business community.
"We feel that a change to enforcement in these difficult economic times will cause great damage to downtown Ann Arbor," he said. "However, we do understand that this issue is under consideration because of city financial concerns and parking supply and demand considerations."
Lupo said his association's membership would be more receptive to enforcement change if coupled with parking system enhancements such as a free parking component and increased meter time allowances.
Association members also are concerned about how the changes will affect downtown employees. Lupo said members are in support of discounted structure parking, extended bus availability during evening hours, and discounted evening parking passes for employees.
"We maintain that a free hour after 6 p.m. in structures must be part of the plan as a crucial aspect and will headline as a benefit that will possibly bring even more people downtown," Lupo said.
Rick Warner, CEO of ParkingCarma Inc., gave a report today detailing his firm's work on a new software platform that could help visitors to downtown Ann Arbor find and reserve parking spots via the Web or via mobile applications.
ParkingCarma has been working on the technology for the last few years and has rolled it out in San Francisco. Warner said the firm recently finished digitizing all of Ann Arbor's off-street parking, and the program could be launched here in time for the Ann Arbor Art Fairs.
"Fundamentally, ParkingCarma is a software application built on the concept of network effect, so we aggregate all sorts of parking information to marry parking assets with somebody trying to park, so we improve the parking experience for people," he said.
"The system allows people to actually go on the Web or a mobile device to actually pick their preferred parking," he said. "We give people information about parking so they can make a choice. If there are certain times where things are impacted or you're looking for a less expensive spot to park, we make it easier for you to get it."
ParkingCarma's servers are located in Flint, and its data center is in Port Huron. The company is backed by the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Automation Alley and Ann Arbor SPARK.
Warner said the company actually started its work in Berkeley, Calif., and received MEDC and SPARK incubation money to come back to Michigan. He said the hope is to take the product worldwide.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529.