Ferndale city officials are responding to a growing wave of negative feedback after new parking rates and pay stations were implemented beginning late last month.
City officials say feedback is being received at City Hall, the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority and on the Ferndale Park Plus web site.
Residents have also been sharing their views on Patch, and a "Lower Ferndale's Parking Rates" Facebook group started last week that now has more than 450 "likes."
"We knew that there was going to be some roll-out issues but frankly it's been more than we anticipated," Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter said on Thursday. "Our staff is working very hard to address everybody's concerns." The mayor also submitted this letter to the editor on Sunday.
Rates worth revisiting, mayor says
Coulter said the new parking rates were a recommendation from the parking committee of the DDA, which spent a significant amount of time researching the issue.
"A lot of thought went into those rates not only by the DDA parking committee but with the assistance of a parking engineer," he said. "I think it's worth sitting down with those groups again just to revisit how we arrived at the rates and see if any tweaking needs to be done."
That doesn't mean rates will necessarily change, Coulter said.
"I'm not saying that rates are changing or that they're changing tomorrow but as part of our overall evaluation of how everything went, I think rates will be included in our evaluation," he said. "I think some of the questions [from residents] have been legitimate questions."
Part of the negative feedback might also be due to inadequate communication, he said, pointing out common misunderstandings - such as that you have to pay $1 even for quick trips.
"You can still pay a quarter for 15 minutes. I think there's a lot of just misunderstanding about some of the rates," he said.
Coulter wants residents to know that "we hear people's concerns and certainly respect the fact that this has been frustrating."
"I really appreciate people's patience," he said.
New system was needed, officials say
Ferndale DDA communications manager Chris Hughes said Ferndale had some of the oldest parking meters available.
"Those meters were approaching non-serviceability," she said.
The DDA would often hear complaints about the machines only taking quarters, and there was also a security and manpower issue with workers maintaining and collecting money from 1,300 parking meters.
The new pay stations offer more payment options, which should improve the user experience, Hughes said.
"More options means hopefully you are not getting a ticket, which is a lot more expensive than actually paying for parking," she said.
Coulter said that parking in Ferndale is "maxed out" and the new system should help free up parking in prime areas by encouraging downtown employees, for example, to park further away for a cheaper rate.
"This system allows for a lot of conveniences like multiple ways to pay but it also allows us to try to incentivize people to use other lots," he said. "The system still makes sense, we just have to get folks used to it."
Lines, safety concerns
Concerns about the pay stations include long lines, machines jamming or refusing to accept bills, and concerns over safety while waiting in line at night.
Lines should be addressed by the two additional pay stations being placed in the most popular lots, said DDA executive director Cristina Sheppard-Decius. ParkMobile is also now fully integrated in all lots.
Users shouldn't need to walk any further than usual in most cases, as pay stations were placed at the front of the lots.
"These pay stations were placed in specific locations based on traffic flow. It's where people are gravitating and going to," Sheppard-Decius said.
As for safety concerns, Hughes said the pay stations actually cause people to congregate in one area and give police a focal point as they patrol the lots.
"I certainly do understand that and don't dismiss it, but if you look at the reality it's actually better this way," Hughes said, pointing out "safety in numbers."
Ferndale City Manager April Lynch said increased lighting around some of the pay stations, which is currently being implemented, should help with the safety concern.
Lynch said the transition to the new system has been "not as smooth as we would've liked" and said the city is listening to all public feedback.
"We're really apologetic that people are so frustrated with the system," she said. "We're working as quickly as we can to make those fixes to make it more user-friendly."
Goal to increase parking
Ultimately, the new parking system should help increase parking capacity - whether it's with a parking deck or adding spaces in other areas - since all revenue from parking goes into the parking system.
Lynch said a parking deck would cost about $8 million and the city would likely need to go out for a bond to cover the cost.
"We need to find out what the system can generate cash-wise to see what kind of monthly payments we can afford," Lynch said.
The pay stations allow city officials to see the number of transactions, when they're occurring and what lots are being used most - which will determine where the city's most critical parking needs are.
Even if a parking deck isn't the answer, she said, "expanding any parking takes money. Increasing parking spaces costs money."
Read more on Patch:
- Downtown Ferndale Shop Offers Parking Promotion for Customers
- Ferndale Parking Problems Addressed at Council Meeting
- Ferndale Patch Readers React to New Parking System
- Ferndale's New Parking Pay Stations Almost Fully Installed