(C. Proxmire, Feb. 26, 2013)
The great parking debate of 2013 continues and residents and business owners continue to complain about the parking system and prices while city leadership continues to tweak the system of multi-space meters that it installed a couple of weeks ago.
At the Feb. 25 City Council meeting, members of the public took the entire 30 minute commenting period to express concerns. Problems include long lines, poor signage, confusion at how the multi-space meters work, safety issues at the stations, and the new higher rates. Others complained about the Park Mobile system now charging more fees.
In order to quell some of the uproar, Ferndale City Council has extended a parking holiday until the next City Council meeting, March 11. Parking is free in Ferndale during that time, and the rates will be discussed at that meeting. Council has also approved the purchase of 14 more multi-space meters to help with the congestion. The machines have been rush ordered so they will come within the next two weeks.
Some members of the public preferred the old system, where meters were at each space. However, the old meters have been sold and are no longer available. “We’re not putting old meters in, we’re committed to this system,” said Mayor Dave Coulter.
The days when the meters were functioning, City Manager April Lynch was able to review data about the transactions. The new system is designed to handle 15-20 transactions per hour. However during peak hours, the new meters were processing 60-80 transactions per hour. Not only did this create lines, it also meant that meters were running low on the solar power needed to keep the screens bright and readable.
Prior to the new system, the only way to track parking usage was by counting the quarters collected. This did not allow for very specific tracking of parking trends, and the accuracy was further compromised by theft. Lynch explained that parking meter keys are fairly standard, and that missing quarters was a problem. The new system has more security features, including custom locks and an alarm system that will go off if there is suspected tampering. (To read about the most recent parking meter break ins, go to http://oaklandcounty115.com/2012/12/04/police-report-potential-parking-meter-break-ins/)
At a cost of over $11,000 each, the City has ordered 14 additional multi-space meters which will be added to the lots. Several will be placed near each other to help people feel safe and so that multiple transactions can occur at once.
Over the next couple of weeks the City will work on installing the new meters, working with DTE to improve lighting, and programming the machines so that there is a shorter wait time for credit card time-outs (the length of time a machine will process a card before timing out).
Despite the City’s efforts, residents and business owners still had complaints. Karen Tardiff of Blue Moon Vintage was adamant. “I hate that system. All my neighbors hate it,” she said. “I’m losing customers…You’re killing this town.” She shared one example that has been common in among retailers, stating that three women came in and wanted to know how to pay for parking. One went back to feed the meter while the other two browsed. The third woman returned and called upon her friend to leave because of the lines at the meters.
Oak Park resident Laura Winocki said that she moved to Oak Park to be close to Ferndale. “It is glaringly obvious tonight and all the social media that it was poorly implanted,” she said. “Most of the response I’ve seen is that these rates are comparable to cities like Royal Oak and Birmingham. The reason I chose Ferndale is that we’re not Royal Oak and Birmingham. Ferndale is unique.”
Ann St. Peters from Pinwheel Bakery and Red Hook spoke about being in business six years, and said that having parking enforcement begin at 9am is “hurting” her business because people can no longer run in to get coffee or baked goods. She pointed out that other cities have later start times, and said she hopes the City will set rates that encourage people to come shop in the daytime rather than deterring them. Other businesses with complaints included Modern Natural Baby, Detroit GT, The Emory, Step-on Tours, and Assaggi Bistro.
Most seemed appreciative of the City’s efforts to make improvements and to listen to their needs.
In a later press release, City Manager April Lynch stated ““To date, our system is incomplete. We are committed to providing a quality and complete product that meets the service expectations of Ferndale and its’ guests; while also improving operating efficiencies, reducing the system’s susceptibility for theft, and improving the sustainability of our long term parking system”.
The DDA has a website to keep up with parking issues – http://www.ferndaleparkplus.com/.
Residents and business owners with concerns have organized through the Lower Ferndale’s Parking Rates Facebook page, started by Detroit GT owner Christopher Gorski. https://www.facebook.com/LowerFerndalesParkingRates?ref=ts&fref=ts
City Councilperson Mike Lennon hopes that the extended parking holiday will help the City sort out some of the kinks in the system. “Plus it gives people a chance to come to shop, dine in our restaurants for a while,” he said.