Paterson Parking Authority's Revenues on the Decline
Tuesday, September 18, 2012 • 5:08pm
PATERSON, NJ – For the first time in more than 15 years, the Paterson Parking Authority is in danger of falling short of its revenue projections, officials said.
During the first six months of 2012, the agency’s lots and garages handled 15,000 fewer daily parkers - or an average of about 85 per day - than they had over the same time period, according to executive director Tony Perez. As a result, the $3,478,840 in revenue that the parking authority collected in the first half of the year is about $156,000 less than what the agency had expected, said Perez.
“We feeling the effects of the economy,’’ said Perez in an interview on Tuesday. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to regroup in the second half of the year.’’
The closing of a downturn child care center and the relocation of the Board of education offices from Church Street were some of the factors Perez cited in the reduced numbers.
Perez asserted that the parking authority is not in danger of failing to meet its financial obligations, including its $2 million in debt payments and about $400,000 that it provides to city government under a shared services agreement. Perez said the agency has about $200,000 in a surplus account.
The agency is not considering making any changes in its rate structure in response to the revenue shortfall, at least not yet, Perez said. “We’re going to wait until the end of the year to see where we are,’’ he said. One option that may be considered would be shutting down low-volume garages on weekends.
Jamie Dykes, executive director of the Greater Paterson Chamber of Commerce, said the parking authority should look into a “variable pricing” plan that would offer discounts during off-peak periods. Dykes said he believed the cost of parking in Paterson’s downtown may be one of the reasons folks are going elsewhere.
Perez said he’s not sure how many of the 15,000 daily parkers that the agency lost are still coming to the city’s downtown, but leaving their vehicles elsewhere. He pointed out that revenue from city parking meters had increased by $62,000 during the same six-month period.
Perez said people may be driving around in search of open meter spots instead of simply paying the higher fees at garages or lots. For example, an hour at a meter costs $1, while the first hour at the agency’s garages and lots costs between $2 and $4.
“That kind of bolsters my point that if there were some variable pricing structure in place, we might pick up some shoppers we’re not getting,’’ said Dykes.
Councilman Kenneth Morris said financial problems at the parking authority could have a “ripple effect” on city finances. Morris said the parking authority may need to make some changes, such as longer hours of operation at its garages, to attract new customers. Morris said the city’s business community and representatives of the parking authority needed to work on a plan together.
Dykes said there have been clear signs that fewer people are using downtown parking facilities. For example, he said, a few years ago there routinely were lines of vehicles waiting to get into the lot along Hamilton Street, behind the McDonald’s on Market Street. Now there are open spaces in that lot all day long, Dykes said.
Councilman Andre Sayegh said city officials should review the situation. “Anytime we see financial projections not being, we’re going to have to focus some attention on it,’’ said Sayegh.