(Crystal A. Proxmire, Feb. 13, 2013)
As long lines and confusion continue to plague the new parking system, residents and business owners explore ways to reach the elected officials behind the changes.
The rates and the central payment stations were approved by City Council on Jan. 14, with no public comment or objection. Problems arose at the stations, including long lines, bill jams, poor lighting, machines not accepting change nor giving change, and other general confusion. At the Council meeting on Monday, Jan. 18, one person came out to complain. But outside the public meetings, there has been online buzz and multiple complaints by people at the stations themselves or when they go into the Downtown businesses.
One online effort is the new Facebook Page called Lower Ferndale’s Parking Rates – https://www.facebook.com/LowerFerndalesParkingRates. Christopher Gorski of Detroit GT started the page, as he said, “because as a vendor in the Rust Belt, parking rates effect my business. As a resident who enjoys our downtown, parking rates effect my wallet. Being made aware that our rates are higher than Royal Oak or Birmingham in Chris Johnston’s letter to the editor, I felt like I had to speak out and help inform fellow residents and visitors.
“A Facebook page is a great tool to bring like-minded people to gather, discuss and hopefully make a change for the better. We all saw what was possible with the Arab Spring! Revolution and change in power. Now I am not advocating revolution in Ferndale, but with the knowledge and organization, we can go into a city council meeting a unified group to request change – that change being, common sense rate that still welcomes people to our downtown.” He has posted that getting a group to come to council may be the next step.
Chris Johnston, owner of The Emory, Woodward Avenue Brewery and The Loving Touch, was the only one who spoke at council. “I don’t understand why all the lots were done at one time,” he said. “I don’t know why it was done in the middle of winter…I don’t know why some of the parking meters weren’t left in the lot so people could adjust to the parking situation…As a resident and as a business person I’m one of many people who tries to make Ferndale a great place. It doesn’t seem like this parking system represents Ferndale…they don’t give change back and the time goes away when you leave the spot so the next person can’t use them… I don’t understand why its $1 an hour by the bars and restaurants…That seems really high and I don’t think Ferndale should be at the higher end… I’m kind of disappointed in how much this is costing the taxpayers and the business owners who pay into the DDA.” Johnston said he hopes the City will reconsider the rates. The recent change raised rates to $1.00 per hour in the most expensive lots, and lots further from 9 and Woodward have a lower rate of 50 cents.
In a follow-up interview, Councilperson Scott Galloway said he was not surprised by the lack of turnout at the council meeting, but that concerns online, in phone calls and emails are still being heard. “95% of the complaints came in to me on Facebook and the majority of them live in the city. I’ve heard from 10-20 people, plus another ten that were all in one email. Most complain about the lines, not liking standing in the dark in the cold weather.
“A friend collected a bunch of parent complaints that forwarded them into one email. The biggest complaint was the lines. If we can get to a situation where people didn’t have to wait, I think we will be okay. I heard the right things on Monday night from the DDA Director. They’re working on lighting and they’re reassigning machines. It sounds like those things should take care of it. What I’ve seen in the system works great in the middle of the day, the technology is easy. Everybody these days knows how to use an ATM. And a lot of people have smart phones and they can use the Park Mobile system. That would take a lot of demand off the system. Ultimately it will be a better system once we get the kinks.”
As far as complaints, Galloway said they are being heard. “Dan [Martin], Melanie [Piana], Dave [Coulter] and I are all active on Facebook. We were very concerned on Monday. We made our concerns known to April and Cristina so they could investigate the concerns and be ready before the meeting.”
When asked about concern for the rates, Galloway said “We’re in line with our competitors, which is like Royal Oak and Birmingham… Just because a parking meter goes up to market doesn’t mean it will destroy businesses. We want business to succeed. To do that we need to have long-range plans for how to address parking issues so that shoppers and visitors can come here and have a place to park.”
Cristiana Sheppard-Decius pf the DDA spoke about the system and some of the problems at the Council meeting, which can be viewed at http://www.ferndale-mi.com/Services/Cable/CityCouncilVideo.htm. She also outlined problems and the DDA’s response in our previous interview, which you can read at http://oaklandcounty115.com/2013/02/09/dda-addresses-parking-problems/. Prior to the City Council vote, we detailed the new system, including rates at http://oaklandcounty115.com/2013/01/11/downtown-parking-system-plans-proceed/. The City also has a website for the Park Plus System at http://www.ferndaleparkplus.com/
The City is continuing to look at lighting options, and they are moving some meters to the busier lots. Parkers can pay at any station, and Park Mobile will be back online soon. Park Mobile allows visitors to pay for parking via telephone, thus avoiding the lines.
Those who want to express concerns can contact their elected officials or city leaders by finding their information at http://www.ferndale-mi.com/Government/CityCouncil.htm.