Traverse City News and Events

Downtown Traverse City Parking, By The Numbers

By Karl Klockars | July 24, 2022

As perhaps the busiest Traverse City summer in history continues, downtown parking meters keep ticking away minutes and hours and collecting revenues. So how much do the those meters really bring in? Where’s the most popular parking spot in town? And what are parking fees paying for?

Nicole VanNess, transportation mobility director for the Downtown Development Authority cracks open the database to share some insights, by the numbers:

3,038: total number of parking spots managed by Downtown TC, with 883 of those on downtown City streets, 25 at NMC’s campus, 131 on the streets in and around Munson’s main medical campus and a whopping 2155 at downtown parking lots.

1,683: number of those spots that are metered, with 297 additional spots available by permit. The 1,058 garage spots constitute the rest.

2,769: number of spots the city owns, with the remaining 269 spots leased out.

$15,000: amount of money gathered in a single day by the Hardy and Old Town Garages on Saturday, July 2nd. Per VanNess, even though most figures are tracked by month, they were able to determine that date as (no surprised) their biggest parking revenue day of the year.

Zero: how many times Brickyard Towing has been called to tow a vehicle in the last two and a half years. Per VanNess, not a single tow was made by Brickyard since 2020. Prior to that, cars were towed less than five times a year.

100 E. Front St.: If you guessed that the block with the highest demand and utilization for parking meters is the block of 100 E. Front, you’d be correct. Looks like Cherry Republic, Pangaea’s, Mama Lu’s and the City Opera House keep those meters clocking fees nearly nonstop.

100 E. State St.: Similarly, the busiest lot in town is Lot G in the 100 E. Block of State Street. Those 55 spaces bordered by Cousin Jenny’s, Charles & Reid and Mode’s Bum Steer stay packed more than any other. (Day drinkers at Union Street Station and the Doublewide probably help pad that stat as well.)

600 W. Front: The lowest demand for street parking is along 600 W. Front, which comes as good news for anyone wanting to check out the new Modern Bird. The least busy lot in town are the 18 leased spaces in Lot Q, which is a bit of a cheat as that lot is tucked behind Lay Park north of the Hagerty building.

(We inquired what the busiest meter in town is, but that calculation is a bit too granular for existing data.)

116: most recent number of “peak offenders” receiving the highest-priced infraction tickets.

For most of us, if we get caught at a meter after our time has expired, it’s a $10 ticket. For most other violations it’s $15 per infraction, which range from obstructing traffic and improper angle parking to blocking a fire escape or “for a prohibited purpose” like washing — or selling! — a car.

The price for a parking infraction jumps to $75 if you’re a habitual parking offender, however.
A few years ago, the city increased the number of “Parking beyond time allowed on meter” infractions per calendar year from 7 to 12.

Prior to that change in 2017-‘18, there were 441 of those citations issued; in the most recent calendar year that has dropped to 116, meaning if each of those parking pirates gets a ticket in a single day, that’s an additional $8,700 into city coffers.

4232: number of citation letters (2nd notice and 3rd notice) going out to late citation payers in the last year.

According to city rules, the cost of your $10 violation will double if you don’t pay it within 15 days. Following that, the fee goes up again if you let it get past 30 days without paying (then it goes to collections after 60 days).

Even in spite of those progressively stronger reasons to pay on time, VanNess reports that 2,761 2nd notice letters went out in the last year, and 1,471 3rd notice letters. With violations adding another $10 each time, that’s at least an extra $42,000 heading to the city thanks to belated payments.

300 feet: approximate distance from the closest parking spot to the sands of Clinch Park beachfront. We were thinking there was a chance that it was Lot C or D on the south side of Grandview, but no: Lot M at the Marina get you just steps from the sand. (Lots C&D are about 350-400 feet away.)

35 percent: how many meter transactions are still done by cash or coin. It’s nearly an even split among all three payment types, though: 35 percent of transactions are made via the Parkmobile app, with the remaining 30 percent by credit card.

(It’s worth noting that Parkmobile offers perks for its use—we just got offered a free Starbucks card for paying via a specific brand of credit card.)

What projects or expenses are funded by parking meter payments?

VanNess explains that the parking fund is an enterprise fund, meaning parking revenues pay for all its own expenses, including routine maintenance and repairs.

Beyond that, parking fees have paid for three bike parking structures, five bus shelters (split 50/50 with BATA), free bus passes for downtown businesses through the Destination Downtown program, snow removal for lots and streets, a new camera system and multi-space pay stations, maintenance of the public restrooms on Park Street, plus the ongoing rollout of the city’s single-space smart parking meters.

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