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Downtown parking solutions not easy to come by

October 12, 2011 | 07:36 AM
It seems as though I have rattled many raw and exposed nerves when it comes to this parking issue in the city of Lake Geneva.

Last week, I sang the praises of the council's decision to purchase 60 parking pay station kiosks and suggested many of the people complaining about them will soon realize how wrong they were to moan and whine about them.

Time will tell if I am right or if I end up completely full of it. For now, I stand by every statement I made and the way I made it.

But, some people who may not necessarily be against the new technology have said other parking issues, such as lack of spaces, should have been dealt with before the purchase of the parking kiosks was approved.

Well, how about getting this discussion going. What a perfect time to talk parking, right at the end of the season, days after seemingly every parking place in the city was taken during this past weekend's summer-like and splendid Oktoberfest.

Lake Geneva Alderwoman Ellyn Kehoe wants local people to share their ideas, and the city's giving you the opportunity to toss out some of your best parking solutions at the next Parking Commission meeting set for Oct. 27 at 6 p.m.

My guess is nobody will show up to the meeting, but that doesn't mean there aren't some good ideas out there. Problem is, I haven't heard any yet. Here's a little analysis of the ideas that have already come up:

n We need a parking garage for the downtown.

A parking structure is a fiscal nightmare that will never bring in the revenues to pay for itself, let alone sustain itself. A quick look at the numbers reveal that fact quite quickly. Just for fun, let's take a look at those numbers.

According to the International Parking Institute, in 1996, the cost per space to build a parking structure was $4,500 to $15,000 depending on the quality, construction and features. That cost estimate is 15 years old, so I would guess that amount is more like $10,000 to $20,000 per space.

Here is the quick, simple math. Let's use the $10,000 number, but I doubt that's even possible. In the end, it's not going to matter. How about we build a 300-space parking structure. That's not quite one-third the number of paid parking spaces the city now has. That's $3 million, a likely low estimate. I would guess the garage would require people to pay from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. as it is now at the old meter heads.

Let's say that parking garage is completely full for 10 hours a day, every single day, from May through August. That means it's full during the weekdays, too. That is a total of about 120 days. At 50 cents an hour in the garage, that would create revenue of $180,000 for the year. It would take nearly 17 years to pay for the initial building of the garage. That doesn't include regular maintenance of the garage. It also doesn't take into account the possible reduction of revenue in on-street paid parking.

If you raised the price to $1 per hour in the parking garage, it would still take eight years to pay off the original building of the garage. That doesn't include maintenance or any interest on the borrowing, if that is how the structure is paid for. This isn't even close to a fiscal break-even. It is a huge loss in all ways. The numbers just don't add up.

n We need more surface parking lots.

So, how many days per year is parking a problem in the city of Lake Geneva? We have four months of summer basically. Only on weekends is parking at an absolute premium. That is a total of about 40 days per year. Let's toss in some others like Oktoberfest and Winterfest weekends and you have four more days.

Being in the generous mood I'm in, let's throw in six more various days per year in which parking may be at a premium and spots are very difficult to find.

In a perfectly sunny and wonderful world, that is a total of 50 days per year. The other 315 days per year, there is no parking problem in the city.

So, the city would spend money on property and possibly knock down buildings to create ugly surface lots just to be used for a maximum of 50 days per year. That's crazy and makes no sense whatsoever.

n Free parking everywhere.

Not going to happen. That would mean the city loses more than $750,000 in parking revenue, which helps pay for work on the roads, additional police and public works that are necessary because of the tourists who visit our city and park everywhere.

There are no studies that show free parking brings more people to your city and will not solve the problem some say there is regarding the number of parking spaces in the city.

I wish I had some solutions, rather than being the bearer of bad news, but like the Parking Commission and the City Council already know, the concepts cited above are not likely nor feasible.

Seiser is the editor of the Regional News.


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