Letter: New Parking Rates Don't Represent Ferndale, Says Resident and Business Owner
This letter to the editor was submitted by Chris Johnston.
Ferndale Patch welcomes letters to the editor.
I love Ferndale and want the best for it. Period. I don't believe that $1 per hour parking during weekend hours represents the Ferndale I envision.
For 16 years we have operated Woodward Avenue Brewers. Like many other Ferndale businesses, we choose to set our pricing as close to "what we HAVE to charge" vs. "what WE CAN GET AWAY WITH charging". To me, that is the Ferndale way. We've also tried to incorporate that into The Emory, The Loving Touch and DIY Street Fair, with the latter not charging for admission, giving away free water, and keeping pricing in line with what we feel is fair.
$1 per hour for weekend parking feels to me like it was "what can we get away with". Unfortunately, that will now be at the expense of businesses, but also at the expense of the reputation that many Ferndale businesses have tried to build, and what Ferndale residents often tell us they appreciate.
I went to the city council meeting last night and spoke up about it. I was told that "this is what Royal Oak charges." I downloaded the official Royal Oak parking map. City lots charge 75 cents an hour. Those are surface lots, not ramps, just like ours. There was also a surface lot that charged 50 cents per hour. So this is not what Royal Oak charges, it is more.
And Birmingham? Well you can park on a street at the meter for 50 cents an hour, and the meters are only enforced until 9 pm. Ferndale's new policy is to enforce until 11 pm. They also have a surface lot in Birmingham that is the same price as the ramp: 50 cents and hour, with meters enforced until 9 pm. If you park in a ramp, which obviously we don't have in Ferndale, the first two hours are free, and after that it is $1 per hour.
Ferndale wants to have a thriving downtown like those two cities, but our parking rates tell customers the exact opposite.
And about the ramp. I was told that these higher rates are needed in order to get a down payment for a ramp within a couple years. I'm pretty good at math. I have a hard time understanding how reducing the rate collected by 25% (and that's not even half the time the meters are in effect, but for sake of argument let's say it was the entire time) would increase the amount of time needed to reach that magic dollar amount by 25%. So instead of 24 months it would take 30 months, instead of 48 months it would take 60. Is that so much longer to wait to not have "the most expensive parking around?"
And then I was told that the rates are cheaper during the week, when people might shop. That's cool, but if someone comes into town to have dinner and pays $1 per hour, what do you think they're going to assume parking rates would be should they come back to shop? All the signage in the world isn't going to get the message through that it's cheaper. Probably the message that sticks in their heads will be "that was the most I've paid for city parking." Or worse.
I want Ferndale to have a stronger retail presence. The focus of efforts should be on getting new retail customers instead of disenfranchising the majority of Ferndale's visitors. That's backwards to me.
Speaking of backwards, and not that I think anyone should EVER pay a dollar an hour to park, but it almost makes more sense to have the shopping hours be the more expensive time. If someone shops for 40 minutes (is that a realistic average to use?) the difference to that person between 75 cents an hour and a dollar is 19 cents for their visit to Ferndale. If someone comes to spend an evening visiting various establishments and spends 4 hours with friends, the difference to that person is 75 cents for their visit to Ferndale.
Any Ferndale business that relies on public parking is competing against either businesses in neighboring cities, where it is cheaper, or businesses in malls, which, unless you valet (hahahaha), have free parking.
I was told last night that nobody has complained against the new prices of parking in Ferndale. Perhaps because the frustration of the new system is currently overshadowing it. But maybe nobody cares. I was the first person to mention it. And I was the only one who came to the city council meeting to say that the rates don't represent the Ferndale spirit that I love. When I spoke about the rates I got the distinct impression, that while my opinion was appreciated and to a certain degree valued, no action would be taken to correct the unfortunate path we are on, as I'm the only one who is objecting.
But I wonder if the way people express their displeasure by silently not returning, instead pointing their shiny cars to cities that aren't trying to take as much money from them.
I would like to see parking rates be 50 cents per hour. That's still more expensive than Birmingham and less than Royal Oak. We are better than this.
Chris Johnston is a 16-year Ferndale resident and a partner at Woodward Avenue Brewers, The Emory, The Loving Touch and one of the organizers of DIY Street Fair and Pig & Whiskey. He and his wife were recipients of the Ferndale Good Neighbor Award as well as Ferndale Business Persons of the Year by the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce.