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.