The Downtown Development Authority determined that 43% of visitors broke Royal Oak’s street parking laws last year, so the city quadrupled the free parking grace period and made other improvements.
The city commission amended the Municipal Parking Services agreement in April. On April 20, the free grace period for on-street parking was extended from five to 15 minutes, and the maximum time restriction from two to three hours.
Some local business employees and guests claim three hours is still not enough time to enjoy downtown and that a severe parking limit is unwelcoming. Since the new parking meter system recognizes Michigan license plates, Washington Avenue requires back-in angled parking.
Royal Oak City Manager Paul Brake said the new parking system was delivered last summer after Municipal Parking Services (MPS), a Minnesota-based business, was contracted in 2021.
AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have ceased supporting 3G wireless systems, which Royal Oak’s parking meters utilised. The city’s five-year MPS contract expires in 2027.
According to the company’s website, MPS meters’ cameras identify license plates when a car parks. Parkers can pay at any MPS station with their space number. Brake said users may pay for parking with money, credit cards, or the SentryMobile app and pay when they leave.
“Yes, your car will glow red when you return. “That indicates a violation,” Brake added. “‘Oh my gosh, am I getting a ticket?'” You enter your parking space and pay.”
The Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority commissioned a parking evaluation in 2022 after receiving plenty of MPS input. The five-minute grace period was broken by 43% of downtown visitors who used street parking. The authority reports a “very high” violation rate.
Grace period and parking limit extensions approved April revisions.
“Five minutes seems like a long amount of time, but you know, in reality, it can go by pretty quick,” Brake remarked. “Many downtown visitors come for the downtown experience. When going out for amusement, two hours isn’t long.”
Since MPS paid for the parking meters and infrastructure, Brake said Royal Oak and MPS initially divided parking and parking ticket money 50-50. He stated that the city is losing income since the contract was signed based on financial forecasts of a five-minute grace period and a two-hour limit.
The city loses income and pays MPS what they would have earned under the initial parking restrictions. Brake added that raising the grace period to 15 minutes and the time restriction to three hours cost them $45,000 and $10,000, respectively.
“The revenue dynamics will change,” Brake added. This may increase parking. “That dollar amount could be higher, but the split or what we’re paying for the… lost revenue is a fixed amount.”
Angled parking difficulties
Liz Morton, manager of Lily’s Seafood on Washington Avenue in downtown Royal Oak, expects three-hour street parking would attract more visitors.
“The city has just extended it (the limit) to three hours, which is very nice,” Morton remarked. “I really don’t want to badmouth it (parking) that bad, because I want to encourage people to come to Royal Oak, because it’s the businesses that are being hurt.”
Royal Oak resident Morton’s spouse owns Lily’s Seafood. Customers find MPS bewildering, she added.
“A lot of them find it frustrating, they don’t know how to, you know, make it work,” Morton added. “We do see a lot more empty spots, so we think it’s an impact.”
On Washington Avenue, Lily’s Seafood’s parking slots are angled. For MPS meters to scan license plates, street parkers must back into angled slots.
Michigan only requires rear plates, unlike other states. “Their license plate reader reads that off the back of the car,” Brake added. “Those parking spots were purposefully broader. It’s more lenient.”
However, several Washington Avenue store workers report more automobile accidents, fewer customers, and broken meters. Julia Manzella, 34, has worked at downtown boutique Rail and Anchor for three years and says business is “way down” in terms of customers.
No one can back in. “I’ve had 10 accidents,” Manzella stated. Since I’ve worked here, foot traffic has plummeted because people can’t figure it out and have given up on Royal Oak. “Even though they’ve changed it to three hours and 15 minutes… people say ‘I give up, I’ve gotten too many tickets, I’ve paid too much money.'”
Brake claimed improper parking had caused Washington Avenue accidents
Manzella also thinks three hours isn’t enough time for many tourists and called the stringent time constraint “very much unwelcoming.” She’s received parking fines without explanation.
“I still have a couple of tickets that I’ve been trying to pay,” Manzella stated. “Nobody answers the phone. I wrote the court, but nobody responded.”
Andrew Nazzaro, a two-year employee at Lost and Found vintage apparel store, said Royal Oak’s downtown’s tiny businesses are its biggest draw. Nazzaro, 28, drives to work daily from Detroit.
“A lot of us on this side rely on foot traffic and in terms of that, people have told us outright that they don’t have any type of interest in coming back to Royal Oak or this location just because they’ve been ticketed too much,” Nazzaro said. “I would never come here if I didn’t love my job.”
Brake said Washington Avenue parking is “under review”. Brake estimates that parallel parking would eliminate 30 places if the city switched the roadway.
Some residents support the new system. Seven-year Royal Oak resident Susie Oliver likes the SentryMobile parking app’s concierge option for downtown meters. She may register a car’s license plate and pay for family and guest parking using it. The city’s website states that concierge parking sessions never expire if parked for three hours or less.
“I don’t know why everyone’s so weird about (the parking) to be honest,” Oliver, 33, remarked. Ferndale’s worse. Birmingham’s worse.
Brake said Royal Oak does not have specific statistics on parking citations issued after the April modifications.
“From anecdotal information, our parking manager, as far as calls relative to the grace period and the time limit, complaints associated with that have decreased dramatically since the implementation,” Brake said.