WALNUT CREEK -- It may only be 60 days, but higher parking meter rates and longer enforcement hours are paying off so far.
In fact, the city collected $200,000 more -- $1.5 million, instead of the anticipated $1.3 million -- in revenue from parking citations and meter fees than originally estimated by city officials in the first 60 days after the changes went into effect in April.
Those changes, all part of a parking management plan, include meter rates rising to $2 an hour, meter-enforcement hours switching from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., and charging for parking on Sundays.
If the trend of the last 60 days continues, gross parking revenue would be around $8.6 million for the year, nearly $1 million more than projected.
"It's important to note, these totals provided only reflect a 60-day snapshot," said Matt Huffaker, assistant to the city manager. "We will review fund performance as part of the six-month budget update."
He believes the rate and enforcement changes are doing what was intended -- changing people's parking behavior. The demand for parking in the city's garages has increased because street rates are higher priced and enforced longer. The garage at Broadway and Cypress went from a Friday maximum of 66 percent occupancy June 2013 to 94 percent in June, according to a parking report to the Transportation Commission in July. South Locust, which had a rate increase from 50 cents to $1 an hour, continues to be at 100 percent occupancy during peak hours.
Part of the higher garage usage may also be because, along with the other parking changes, Walnut Creek made the first hour garages free, to encourage their use. And garage usage is up over 20 percent from last year, he said.
"More people are using the city's garages than ever before," Huffaker said. "This positive trend confirms that the meter changes and garage incentives ... are working. If this trend continues, there would be no need to increase the garage rates. The more people that are using the city garages, the better."
The city's parking revenue is used for downtown enhancements and downtown public safety and saved for future capital parking needs and equipment. It also is expected to contribute more than $1 million over two years to help fill Walnut Creek's budget gap. If there is more money than anticipated at the end of the year, the City Council will decide how to allocate it based on what's allowed in the parking ordinance, Huffaker said.
All along, city leaders have said the goal of the parking changes was not to make money.
"The City Council established an on-street parking goal of 85 percent occupancy," he said. "Parking hours and rates are the most effective tool in influencing parking behavior and creating more on-street turnover. More turnover means less time circling the block and more time enjoying the downtown. While adjusting the rates and hours does result in additional revenues, those revenues are reinvested back into the downtown."
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