With new gates, fees, city parking structure cashes in on debut

Nearly three weeks after workers upgraded the automatic gates and installed payment machines at Bakersfield’s downtown parking structure, a Finance Department official said Monday the 28-year-old structure is likely back on track to pay for itself.

In a 10-day period that began Sept. 8, the city-owned garage collected $1,172, following a $136,951 upgrade that included new parking gates and payment machines.

This averages out to nearly $120 a day in revenue, Finance Director Nelson Smith said Friday in a memo to City Manager Alan Tandy, and at that rate, the facility is on pace to earn more than $40,000 in a year’s time.

If the trend sustains itself, Smith wrote, it will “more than cover the current General Fund subsidy.”

This is good news to City Hall because Bakersfield has spent $30,000 from the General Fund during each of the past two fiscal years, since June 1, 2013, to support the parking garage.

Bakersfield sold long-term parking passes to the 509-space garage, at $25 per month, but these generated only around $76,000 per year — not enough to cover its annual operating costs of $85,000 to $90,000.

It raised monthly parking fees to $30 on Sept. 1 and saw the number of monthly parkers actually rise 7 percent to 236. The city now charges short-term parkers $1 per hour after two hours, to a maximum of $10.

During the 2014-2015 fiscal year, which ended June 30, the garage earned $106,000 — $76,000 in long-term parking fees plus $30,000 from the General Fund.

But it actually cost Bakersfield $132,000 in the same period — $87,000 to run plus $45,000 in capital costs for the upgrade.

“It’s supposed to be self-sustaining, it just hasn’t been for quite a while,” Smith said, noting the structure might be able to support additional upgrades once it breaks even.

“If revenue continues to exceed that cost, we would have some options of maybe expanding the security guard services or expanding the automation components,” he added.

Councilman Terry Maxwell, who voted against the renovation over concerns about inadequate signage and raising parking fees, said the increased revenue was good news — but he’s heard from local merchants concerned that charging shoppers to park will hurt their businesses.

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