East Lansing Parking Department staff are considering asking City Council to start charging moped users for parking downtown.
The idea floated at yesterday’s Parking Task Force meeting calls for charging moped users $15/month or $180/year for permits that would allow them to park a moped in the downtown area. Such permits would be required to park.
The goal is two-fold: to draw some revenue from moped users to help the parking system, which is deep in the red; and to stop moped users from using bicycle racks as parking locations.
Right now, moped users sometimes lock-up at bicycle racks. This is a cause of frustration for bicyclists, because there have historically been too few bike racks in the downtown area.
In 2014, the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), the East Lansing Arts Commission, and the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority came together to pay $20,000 for “artistic bike racks” for 20 bikes downtown. Since then, more ordinary loops have been added.
One condition of Council’s 2017 approval for the Center City District project, a $125 million public-private redevelopment endeavor, was that “Bike racks shall be installed sufficient to accommodate at least 288 bicycles.” Staff said at Planning Commission and City Council meetings that these new bike parking spots would be located inside the new parking garage on Albert Ave.
Those were constructed, but, as it turns out, those 300-some new spots are in a special ground-floor locked area controlled by the developers and made available only to their tenants in Newman Lofts and The Landmark.
The City recently added some new public bike parking in the alleyway between Target and the parking garage. Still, local bicycle advocates regularly tell ELi that they still find bicycle parking inadequate downtown, particularly when MSU is in normal session.
Having mopeds parking at bike racks also causes frustration because it means they are ridden up onto sidewalks, creating challenges for pedestrians. So, requiring them to park in downtown garages and lots could be a way to keep them off the sidewalks.
At the Parking Task Force meeting, questions were raised about how a permitting system would work in practice.
Moped drivers can easily go around the parking gates, so a permit card system as is used for cars that permit-park would not be an effective way to regulate the mopeds.
Additionally, it is not clear what would happen if someone drove a moped over from campus or a nearby neighborhood for occasional visits to downtown. Would they have to buy yearly permits to venture into the downtown and park?
Parking Administrator Caleb Sharrow said that an infrequent user could just use a gated garage and pay the same fee as a car, parking in a space for a car, separate from the permitted moped parking area. But again, it would be easy for such a parker to (illegally) exit without paying.
Sharrow said that one reason to charge mopeds for parking is to use the revenues gained to paint lines for special areas of moped parking in the garages. Right now, the areas for moped parking are poorly indicated.
Sharrow also said a permit-required moped parking program could generate revenue for the strapped parking system, although he estimated that there are only about 100 mopeds regularly parking downtown. That means that the idea would generate about $18,000 gross for a system currently losing about a half-million dollars per year.
The Parking Task Force took no formal action on the matter, but two members of City Council, Jessy Gregg and Dana Watson, were at the meeting and participated in the discussion.