EAST LANSING, Mich. — The city of East Lansing will look at potential changes to its downtown parking system Tuesday after a significant loss in revenue.
City officials started offering free two-hour parking to help bring more customers to the area during the pandemic.
"It's a very small gesture, but any good gesture is great," said Ahmaad Hood, a barber at Sparties Barbershop.
The financial picture from the COVID-19 pandemic has not panned out so well for the city, which is estimating a loss of $800,000 because of it.
"I would say all of the revenue lost is related to the effects of COVID-19 on our downtown business district," said Thomas Fehrenbach, East Lansing Director of Planning, Building, and Development."It's very significant and we're not out of the woods yet. Obviously, we are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic and the Governor's orders to try to keep people safe and there's a lot of uncertainty in terms of what's ahead."
The city now faces the task of trying to balance helping local businesses thrive while not tanking the city's parking budget.
"Typically we have structural costs in terms of debt, capital improvements, technology, and staffing. Those are probably the areas that the main revenues go to support," said Fehrenbach. "I think we're going to need to do as much as we can to cut costs and I think ultimately we have some very challenging decisions ahead of us in terms of how best to continue operating our parking system."
The city council will consider whether to continue providing free parking past June, adding additional free options like parking vouchers, or to return the system back to normal.
"It's going to be difficult especially with customers and stuff to be able to find parking once it's not free anymore. We do have other locations, but this is the one that's struggling the most because of rent and stuff. So if our customers decide to go to other locations because it's not convenient enough to park here, then it could bad for this store," said Elijah Whitman, Assistant Manager at Blue Owl Coffee.
At this time, Fehrenbach says they are not considering raising the cost of parking downtown. There were some scheduled rate increases for parking permits and hourly rates but they decided to hold off on the plan.
The city has already taken measures to reduce staff and will consider whether some parking facilities will need to close.
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