GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—Attracting visitors to downtown Grand Rapids has been a necessity for businesses and restaurants, and according to a recent “Pure Michigan Campaign” study, it’s working. There was a 25% increase in tourists from 2013-2014.
With the increased traffic in downtown Grand Rapids, there comes a cost. These recommendations to the city if eventually passed would impact those driving to make their visit.
The Grand Rapids parking commission is set to review a consultant firm’s assessment of how to price some 7500 off-street spaces, and 1800 on-street meters along with ramp fees too. Fox 17’s Cassandra Arsenault took a closer look at the recommendations and what it means for downtown.
Everyone wants to find a space close to where they need to be, and for less, but unfortunately, that’s impossible for a growing city. We hear rate increases and we automatically think negative, but looking at the fine print of the recommendations, some parking lots will be lowering their prices. This is because the are re-evaluating all the parking spaces in downtown. Some parking lots in prime location cost less than the ones in a more convenient location, but metered on street parking could increase.
Right now people pay for metered street parking from 8 AM to 6 PM, Monday through Friday. The recommendations want to extend that time to 8 PM and Saturdays.
There’s 1800 of these metered spots in downtown Grand Rapids in the area bounded by Michigan Street, to Wealthy Street, Lafayette Avenue, and Monroe Avenue. The meter rates range from $0.25 $2.25 per hour. These rates could change as early as January.
“Well growth is the key word there. it’s about a lot more than parking rates going up. Honestly when it’s priced too low people will camp out at a meter. Studies have shown that about 30% of congestion in downtown is people circling around looking for a meter, so if there’s more open spots with a small price increase then I think that’s a good thing,” said Bill Kirk of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
The recommendations say there was a study in which they observed parking when the meters were charging the driver from the regular hours Monday through Friday. They noticed there was 85% capacity, and a lot of turnover with customers coming in and out of parking spaces. When they observed the hours and weekends where the meters were not charging the driver, cars stayed there for days at a time with no movement. This did not allow other people who wanted to get downtown to park, and caused congestion.
Kirk says this will force more people to take public transportation downtown, and that’s what Grand Rapids is looking towards in the long run: for more people to use public transportation.
“I think it’s really about providing options and choice. We know we are going to grow more. We know that is coming. If we do the same thing we have always done it’s going to end up as a congested downtown. If all the new people who are coming down are in a car, that’s not good. If some of them are in a bus if some of them are on a bike that’s one more parking spot for the person in the car and one less person on the road,” said Kirk.
Some of the bars that drive the most traffic to Ionia like Grand Rapids Brewing Company, McFadden’s, Stella’s and Hopcat say they aren’t opposed to change, but want their customers to always feel welcome.
“We would obviously prefer that Saturday and the night hours are not metered, because our customers are not used to it and you know any kind of change like that can be disheartening for some people who come down, and I think there is going to be a lot of surprises with that,” said Chris Knape of Barfly Ventures that represents the four popular bars.
Knape says for their customer’s sake parking being free after 6 PM and on Saturdays is beneficial for their business.
“The less disruptive the changes are the better. We want this place to be as welcoming as possible for as many people as possible, because those people are coming down and they are spending a lot of money. They are generating revenue and they are generating tax revenue for the city that continues the growth in Grand Rapids” said Knape.
The study says increasing the price of meter parking is good for business. 40 % of people are using park mobile, so they can babysit a cheap spot on street at their finger tips. The recommendations say that if they raise the price, it’ll encourage turnover and discourage long term parking.
Downtown Grand Rapids Inc says nothing is final, and there’s always room for adjustment.
“This is a part of a growing downtown and we have to look forward to the future and the respond to the demand that we see,” said Kirk.
Downtown Grand Rapids Inc, says none of this will be happening overnight. It would be January before we start to see these changes gradually being implemented. They say they will make adjustments if they see capacities and demand change.