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City balks at plan to allow motorists to use credit cards for new downtown parking garage

August 13, 2013


A plan to allow downtown motorists to use credit cards to pay fees at the city’s newest parking garage is in doubt.

Lawrence city commissioners balked at the idea Tuesday night after commissioners were presented with new information about how much credit card companies would charge for the service at the new Vermont Street garage that is expected to open next month.

“When the city collects $1 for parking, we’re only going to net 48 cents, “ City Commissioner Bob Schumm said after reviewing credit card transaction fees. “That’s not very good.”

City Manager David Corliss said he had only recently received the information about the credit card fees. When asked by the Journal-World on Friday about the credit card transaction fees, he said he didn’t expect them to be an issue.

“I wish we could have had this information a little earlier,” Corliss said. “We may want to look at a less expensive system.”

Corliss had recommended the city spend about $170,000 to install a gate system on the new garage that also would give motorists the option of paying their parking fees via credit card, which would have been a first for the downtown parking system.

Corliss was recommending that the city charge 20 cents per hour for parking. But he found out only recently that typical credit card transaction fees will eat into a significant portion of the city’s parking revenue. The city actually would lose money on any credit card transaction of less than 25 cents, and would net only small sums on other transactions. For example, the city would net only 10 cents when a motorists would pay 40 cents for a two-hour parking fee.

Corliss said he wasn’t yet comfortable recommending a higher rate for the parking garage.

“The challenge is, if you charge too much, people will say they don’t want to park there,” Corliss said. “They’ll park on the street.”

Instead, Corliss asked commissioners to defer any action on the parking gate system until his office could do further research on alternatives.

Commissioners also asked Corliss to consider other changes to his recommendation. Schumm said he wanted to consider a rate system that would allow motorists to park for free for the first hour but would charger higher rates to people who parked for multiple hours. He said that may make the garage more convenient to users of the expanded library, which will be adjacent to the garage. Commissioners said they also may want to consider longer hours for the garage. Corliss had recommended charging fees from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the remaining time open for free parking.

In other business, commissioners:

• Unanimously agreed to file the necessary paperwork at Douglas County District Court to start the eminent domain process for a dilapidated, vacant house at 1106 Rhode Island St.

• Unanimously rejected a text amendment that would have allowed homeowners in Old West Lawrence and other RS-5 single-family zoned neighborhoods to build accessory dwelling units on their property. Several residents of single family neighborhoods expressed concern the amendment would make it easier to develop rental properties in single family neighborhoods.


Paul Silkiner 4 years, 10 months ago

This is why SMART MONEY(Conservative)......gets ahead.........we do not quit working even though it is 1;27am..............the float on money is 24/7........WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steve Jacob 4 years, 10 months ago

The City Manager did not know how credit card companies make there money?

peartree 4 years, 10 months ago

I doubt they thought it would be so high. KU's parking system next to the Union isn't gated and works very well. Everyone uses a machine to get a time card for their space. There is no reason such a machine couldn't accept cash and credit cards. Has anyone thought to ask KU how they do it? Blasphemy, I know, but I know their parking garages turn a profit.

Melissa Isaacs 4 years, 10 months ago

The KU parking garage IS gated. The machine at the exit accepts only credit/debit cards; if you want to use cash, you have to prepay through a machine in the stairwell of the garage before you leave. KU makes a profit by charging 1.25/hr to park in the garage, and by not pro-rating partial hours--if you park there for 10 minutes, you are charged for a whole hour.

peartree 4 years, 10 months ago

Like I said, I'm talking about the garage next to the Union. It is not gated, unless they installed one recently. I assume you are thinking of the garage next to the Allen Fieldhouse.

kuguardgrl13 4 years, 10 months ago

There has been a gate on the Union garage since last summer. I haven't used it yet, so I don't know exactly how it works.

The Fieldhouse garage allows free exits if you're there for less than 30 minutes or so.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

Consider Text Amendment, TA-13-00106, to the City of Lawrence Land Development Code, Chapter 20, Articles 4 and 5, to permit the Accessory Dwelling Unit use as an accessory use in the RS5 (Single-Dwelling Residential) District. (PC Item 6; denied 6-0 on 7/22/13)

Unanimously rejected a text amendment that would have allowed homeowners in Old West Lawrence and other RS-5 single-family zoned neighborhoods to build accessory dwelling units on their property. Several residents of single family neighborhoods expressed concern the amendment would make it easier to develop rental properties in single family neighborhoods.

Thank you city commission.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

Put parking meters in the new parking garage. Those credit card gates can create hassles when they decide not to work. City staff will need to be available almost immediately meanwhile patrons are busy deciding how to get out which is no fun. Voice of experience.

Think about if credit cards are rejected for whatever reason with cars lined up waiting to enter.

Meters in the previous lot did not prevent use. In fact it most always was full.

Why not meter all of the lots at 25 cents per hour. 50 cents for two hours of shopping is not a bad deal.

irvan moore 4 years, 10 months ago

interesting that mr. Corliss recommends an idea without getting the facts first

Keith 4 years, 10 months ago

How much would it cost us to get a smart city manager?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

"“When the city collects $1 for parking, we’re only going to net 48 cents, “ City Commissioner Bob Schumm said after reviewing credit card transaction fees. “That’s not very good.”

Well what's the ROI on the 30 million tax $$$$$ rec center going to be? Perhaps no ROI? City Hall has admitted there is no expected ROI.

Sometimes if the gate is malfunctioning the card issued at the gate will not open the barricade. Again voice of experience. It's difficult to back out with 3 cars behind wondering what the hell is going on.

At KU the other day I noticed a driver having problems getting the device to honor her credit card meanwhile I believe there were 4 cars waiting for the transaction to be approved. Imagine wanting to back out IF the gate refused to cooperate.

workinghard 4 years, 10 months ago

I find it funny that they considered credit cards for parking at all when you cannot pay your water bill with a credit card without paying a third party fee. City says it is not willing to pay the credit card fee for water but considered it for parking.

PhilChiles 4 years, 10 months ago

It sounds like they should be looking for a company that charges a percentage of transaction costs, as opposed to one that charges a flat fee (in this case, I'm guessing a quarter) plus a percentage. When it comes to credit card processing, you really have to shop around and look at the fine print. And our parking fees (and tickets) are some of the lowest I've seen in the country, so that makes it hard to put anything extra towards a transaction fee.

nick_s 4 years, 10 months ago

Backwards. Putting the cart before the horse City Commission? Not surprised. These people make even more serious decisions than this, which is scary.

thewayitis 4 years, 10 months ago

They obviously have not done their research on credit card fees. There are many companies now charging 2.75% flat fee no minimum or monthly fees. I bet the phone is ringing off the hook today by some of these companies. This bid was probably from an "inside" contact.

fan4kufootball 4 years, 10 months ago

It beats me why taxpayers have to pay to park in public owned garages or in the street parking when we already have either paid or will pay taxes to construct and maintain them.

ejg91780 4 years, 10 months ago

Welcome to the real world commissioners. While governments are always trying to raise taxes on businesses its nice for them to get a dose of how expensive it is to legitimatly make money these days.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

If the meters were removed look for another tax or fee increase. There are a variety of ways local government increases taxes and/or fees without saying. Such as issuing bonds of sorts....

Definition of 'General Obligation Bond - GO' A municipal bond backed by the credit and "taxing power" of the issuing jurisdiction rather than the revenue from a given project.

Investopedia explains 'General Obligation Bond - GO' General obligation bonds are issued with the belief that a municipality will be able to repay its debt obligation through taxation or revenue from projects. No assets are used as collateral.

absolutelyridiculous 4 years, 10 months ago

I just avoid downtown as much as possible. I hate paying for parking in the garages and on the streets my taxes already pay for. You've got enough of my money. I'll go shop south iowa and eat out on west 6th street.

Keith 4 years, 10 months ago

No, he's supremely competent at doing developers' bidding, just not so good at looking out for the rest of us.

Lincs 4 years, 10 months ago

The library bond issue was approved 2nd November, 2010. So for almost three years the city has known that the parking garage was going to be built. Why has a major decision such as this been left until a few days before it opens?

What purpose do the charges serve? Are they really there to raise revenue for operations or are they there to disincentivize long term parking? I find it hard to believe that the meters downtown actually make much money for the city once the enforcement, meter emptying and cash processing costs have been included. But their utility is that they keep parking spaces rotating and thus I rarely have trouble parking on Mass during business hours.

If parking space rotation is the goal rather than revenue raising, a ticket and gate solution could work. A ticket is issued upon entering the garage allowing two hours free parking. Before leaving the ticket must be validated at a remote validation station at the pedestrian entrances to the garage. If you validate within two hours, you may leave the garage within the next ten minutes without charge. If you attempt to validate after two hours a payment of $5 (or whatever charge/fine is deemed appropriate) applies before you can validate your ticket. The credit card company can charge its 25 cent + 3% fee, and the city takes the rest.

Kerry Altenbernd 4 years, 10 months ago

It is very important for the city to assure that there is free parking in the garage for patrons of the library. This is not uncommon, evidenced by the fact that the parking garage next to the Main Branch of the Kansas City, Missouri, Public Library provides for free parking for library patrons. Library staff are allowed to validate patrons' parking tickets so they can exit the garage without paying a fee. In addition, there are spaces near the entrance of the garage that are specifically marked for use by Library patrons.

Apparently, Corliss was arguing that library patrons had to pay in the old lot, so they should have to pay in the new one. That is not completely accurate, as there were several free, non-handicap, short-term parking stalls near the south entrance of the Library. That was before the taxpayers voted to spend tens of millions of dollars to upgrade the Library and build the parking garage, so free parking for library patrons is even more important now.

patkindle 4 years, 10 months ago

it is hard for me to understand how someone can go to the FREE library, take advantage of all their FREE services, and still complain about parking fees?? who pays you to crawl out of bed each morning?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

I say forget the meters,credit card use and gates etc etc.

Get a ticket upon entering then pay an attendant when leaving. This provides employment which is good use of city tax dollars.

No Charge for using the library with validated ticket. Local shops could validate tickets as well.

And two hours no charge for shopping then 75 cents per hour for each hour thereafter.

patkindle 4 years, 10 months ago

what about the taxpayers that pay for the library but never us its FREE services? I bet you feel for them like the folks with no kids that pay for your kids schooling or pay for the parks but never use them so you and your kids can. I guess that is their fault?

hedshrinker 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm glad to pay for great schools and parks even tho I don't have kids in school as well as to support a wide variety of community services that I may make minimal or no use of; it means that the locals who staff the stores of which I'm a patron and the voters who vote along side me might be literate and be able to make informed decisions about the health of our community, unlike SOME people who are only interested in their own self-interest and not even very good at that. It means that our community offers a good quality of life and therefor attracts people who look at ALL the many things that contribute to that quality other than simply what the tax rate is....This is why so many Kansans are resisting the simplistic tax "plans" by our current State government. Also some people who post on here shouldn't be so ready to admit they don't utilize the services of our Library which I find incredibly sad....we have a great library that offers all kinds of services...educational programs for all kinds of people....reserve books online at home at midnite and pick them up fr the reserve shelf and use the self-check takes about a minute in the Library. Read my favorite magazines thru the Library Zinio service free, as well as download books to my Kindle. Obtain volumes we don't own thru inter-library loan. Attend an author presentation, join a book discussion gp, Rent a film or music CD, look at the current art exhibit .Use the Library copy of Consumer Reports when I need to buy some expensive appliance....on and on. Why is somebody upset b/c we value literacy enough to support a good library?

gatekeeper 4 years, 10 months ago

People will just illegally use the DCB parking lot, just like they do when going to the pool. It's always nice to go there to do business with the bank and struggle to find a place to park while watching stay at home mom's get their kids and gear out of the car so they can enjoy the pool.

Ralph Gage 4 years, 10 months ago

The parking garage next to KU's Memorial Union is gated, uses a credit-card payment system, and this morning I was surprised that I was charged $1.75 for a shopping excursion that lasted less than 30 minutes.

Romans832 4 years, 10 months ago

The rate is $1.75 for the first hour, to compensate for the extra cost of the credit card fees. After the first hour, the fee is $1.50 per hour, and as abcd123 noted above, you are charged the hourly rate for one minute or 60.

New2KU 4 years, 10 months ago

I find this utterly amusing. Go ahead and charge what you want to park in this new garage. It will be empty all the time anyway. I've been downtown numerous times and have never paid to park. If you use side streets and long term lots there is always somewhere to park. Do a little walking, but that beats giving the city my money.

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