Bradenton considers parking garage rate hikes

myoung@bradenton.comJune 19, 2014 

BRADENTON -- In late 2005, Bradenton's city parking garage was completed with the latest in parking meter technology.

Almost a decade later, however, the technology is not as convenient as it once was and the existing pay machines are failing. Of the original four machines, there are now two, "because we had to cannibalize the other two to keep these working," says City Clerk Carl Callahan.

The city will spend $29,000 to have two "next generation" paid parking collection sites installed at the city garage, Eighth Avenue West and 12th Street West, by the end of this fiscal year (Oct. 31).

The new machines will be capable of collecting cash or coin, but users also can use debit and credit cards. Callahan said garage users can also opt to have the new machines text them a warning when their parking time is about to expire and can automatically renew their parking fee via their telephone.

But new technology means more costs to the city. By allowing credit card use, the city will be charged 30 cents per transaction on a parking rate of 25 cents per half-hour, according to Callahan.

Before the new machines are installed, he said, the city needs to discuss new rates. During initial discussion, he suggested $1 per hour and $3 for an all-day parking pass as a starting point.

"It's relatively inexpensive compared to other cities, and there are still plenty of other less expensive options in other metered parking lots in the city," said Callahan.

Vice Mayor Bemis Smith didn't like setting a minimum per hour rate.

"I hate to have a minimum fee that you can't get around," said Smith. "We want people to use the garages for short-term parking. I can see a dollar, maybe. But we need to look at that. Others may see parking as a revenue source, but I look at it as providing a service."

Callahan said the subject was open for discussion, "but we shouldn't put the city in a situation where it's losing money. The recommendation for rates I received were much higher and I said 'No' to those. But remember we have associated costs with maintaining parking areas."

After Wednesday's workshop, Callahan said the council will work through it. "When it's all said and done, we want it to be fair."

The city typically generates between $20,000-$30,000 annually from the garage and about $100,000 from all of the city's metered areas, which includes the Manatee County garage, where the city collects the parking revenue through 2017 as part of an interlocal agreement established when the county assumed ownership of the land. Callahan said all parking revenue goes back into maintaining the parking garage and city parking lots.

"It's not a money-making venture," he said.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.

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