JACKSON, Mich. — The Jackson Downtown Development Authority wrapped up its third and final public meeting Monday on what if anything needs to change with the parking system downtown.
Parking is now meterless but has a two hour time limit enforced Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with charges for certain lots downtown.
The city employs one parking enforcement officer who monitors and tickets automobiles manually. Parking fines are $7 if paid within the first two hours of being issued and $15 an hour after that.
The city issued 674 tickets in 2021.
Two proposals have been presented to the community. One is to assess businesses at a higher rate, keep parking free with time caps and increase the budget for repairs and maintenance to parking lots.
Another plan would switch downtown to a metered system where people would pay to park. Meters would be installed serving multiple parking spaces, assessments would go away. There would be no time limits and additional enforcement. This would, in theory, encourage parking on the outskirts of downtown Jackson reducing demand in the downtown core, according to the DDA.
Current funding shows the city had a $3,000 deficit in 2020-21 paid from their working capital and fund balance. The projected meter system would give the city a $74,000 surplus.
“Right now, we have a lot of people that want to park right near where they’re going if it’s the post office, if it’s a restaurant, if it’s an apartment building. I totally understand,” DDA Executive Director Cory Mays said.
“I would want to do the same if I lived downtown, but recognizing that we have some amazing surface lots and garages that are maybe a block or two on the edge that are either free or more affordable and those options are very underutilized, how do we incentivize people in a new system to say, ‘Hey, if you paid to park downtown and it was $1.50 an hour and you parked on the edge and it was $1 or 75 cents or 50 cents an hour?,” Mays continued.
Hours of enforcement would still be Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The first 30 minutes would be free with a pay station check-in required either by going to the pay station or through a smart phone app, but there are concerns with switching systems.
“I’m just very cautious,” Jackson resident Jo Hooper said.
“We weren’t thinking about meters. When we go downtown we go, ‘wow, we don’t have to pay,’" she said. “It’s a draw. To have meters, they’re kind of complicated and it just seems like the learning curve is hard.”
Which Mays hears loud and clear.
“We’ve heard those concerns from long standing businesses in particular, who have said, ‘well, I’ve been here so long, it’s been free parking, you start charging now and people are not going to come to my store.’ That’s a huge concern,” Mays said. “For us being very business minded we would never want to do anything that even took five cents away from a business’s bottom line. Small businesses run on a tight margin anyway. So, what we’re really trying to get at is that is it a concern that will materialize over time, or is that just a concern right now?’”
The next step is for the DDA to prepare a report for the city on whether to keep the current system or change it based on feedback from residents and business owners.
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