Group emphasizes it’s not proposing meter expansion
(May 31, 2019) After meeting four times with a parking consultant over the last three months, Ocean City’s Parking Task Force appears to be on track to chime in with potential parking revenue increases for the mayor and City Council to consider at the end of summer.
City Engineer Terry McGean, while stressing that the task force has not proposed expanding paid parking, provided an update on a series of meetings launched in March with Dan Kupferman from Walker Parking Consultants.
“We’re not bringing any recommendations to the council at this time,” he said.
After vetting a handful of recommendations from Kupferman, including expanding paid parking to all ocean blocks, McGean said the dozen-plus member Task Force failed to reach a firm consensus earlier this month.
“We have a very diverse group with a diverse set of ideas and opinions,” he said.
The Task Force initially met on March 6 to examine methods to boost parking revenue, with Kupferman providing details on various parking systems, particularly in other beach resort communities, during a second meeting on March 13.
After providing the Task Force an initial set of potential paid parking changes on March 27, Kupferman took feedback from that meeting and returned with refined options during the group’s May 1 meeting.
“These were his recommendations, not generic, but if he were running Ocean City what he would recommend,” McGean said.
For starters, Kupferman proposed making the West Ocean City Park and Ride shuttle free, which he argued would be revenue neutral if other parking fee changes net increased sums.
Tweaking existing parking rates to be more demand-based was also pitched, with Kupferman suggesting reducing or eliminating paid parking on weekdays in April and October, while simultaneously increasing weekend rates during summer.
“There does seem to be some [task force] consensus that the city should move more toward what the consultant has called, ‘demand pricing,’ when it comes to parking,” he said.
Despite paid parking netting Ocean City more than $4 million, Kupferman noted the lack of dedicated oversight.
“He recommended that we create a parking authority or other entity to manage paid parking in the town,” he said.
Historically unpopular with residents, and perhaps visitors, expanding paid parking on ocean blocks from 11th Street to the resort’s northern edge on 146th Street was also proposed by Kupferman.
Although reserving half the spaces for residential permit holders, the consultant suggested charging $2 per hour between 11th Street and 33rd Street, with the rate half that for ocean side blocks above that point.
Kupferman estimated the $2 per hour blocks would bring in about $600,000 annually, with the $1 per hour streets netting about $1.2 million for a combined tally of roughly $1.8 million.
“There was considerable discussion and questions from the Task Force,” he said. “The consensus was more information was needed to make any specific recommendations.”
Councilman Tony DeLuca expressed disappointment with the continued call for data collection.
“We talk about issues for three years with no action,” he said. “It seems like analysis paralysis a little bit.”
The council asked Mayor Rick Meehan to form the task force at a 2018 Strategic Plan meeting on parking issues.
“We often miss key dates because of that, as you think of the strategic planning, and this … feels like that to me,” he said.
Councilwoman Mary Knight said the consultant’s data was eye opening, particularly in terms of per space revenue estimates.
“Most of us would think the inlet lot would be the most revenue per space, it’s at $1,836,” she said. “What I found really amazing was the on street ocean side was $3,278 per space.”
Councilman Dennis Dare, who sits on the Parking Task Force with Knight and Meehan, said his opinions, and perhaps other members, were altered over the course of meetings.
“It’s a process and if it had been easy we would have been done with it already,” he said. “I’m pretty encouraged the way it’s unfolding.”
If the Task Force wraps up the decision-making process by September, any changes could be incorporated into the fiscal 2020 budget, Dare said.
While concurring with Dare’s sentiments, DeLuca championed nailing down precise time frames.
“I respect what you’re saying [but] we need a very specific date at the end of the summer that we have recommendations and action,” he said.
McGean said next steps include working with Ocean City Municipal Airport Manager Jaime Giandomenico to fly over the entire ocean front during a peak week this summer to gain a stronger understanding of parking demand on weekdays and weekends.
“At least something more than what our gut feeling is,” he said.
In closing, McGean said the Task Force would revive paid parking discussions at the end of summer and reiterated no decision has been reached to increase paid parking spaces.
“I want to end this with stressing that the Task Force has not made any formal recommendations at this time concerning expansion of paid parking in the town of Ocean City,” he said.