Champaign — They got there, but its confused…


Champaign — They got there, but its confused…

The City of Champaign, IL, has raised its downtown on street parking rates to 75 cents an hour, up from 25. They are doing this because they have built a new parking garage and need the revenue to pay off the bonds. They have reported that they expect an increase in revenue of over half a million bucks a year.

A couple of the councilpersons have stated that they think the new rates are a good idea because it will free up some parking for folks who want to run in to the shops for a short time. The mayor is against the hike, and has already tasked the parking folks to monitor the situation and see if the downtown merchant income goes into the tank.

Read the article here.

This is a case of particularly bad PR on the part of the council. What they should have reported to the press, and said in the meetings, was that the increase was due to a need to increase parking availability downtown. The increase would entice employees of local merchants to use the parking garage and make the more convenient parking available to shoppers.  However, by stressing the "need" to raise revenue for the new garage, they are telling their constituents that parking charges are another tax.

The garage couldn’t make it on its own, so we have to raise on street rates to pay for it. In fact what will happen is that by raising on street rates, which they should have done in the beginning, they will move a lot of parkers into the garage and most likely it will begin to pay for itself, as it should. If you read the article carefully, you will find that the city built the garage at the behest of a local developer who built an office building nearby.

OK, the council do mention in passing the reallocation of parking space, but I think that the support of the parking resource should be the primary reason for making these changes.  We do things for the wrong reasons. That’s not to complain, in the end, Champaign did the right thing. However if we are going to change the mind set of the city, and the parkers, we need to use the proper PR. This is not a "spin," its a complete change in approach. Parkers need to understand that parking is neither cheap nor free. And the reason it isn’t, is that its a limited resource, and its use and cost must be market driven.


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John Van Horn

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