Stricter off-campus parking enforcement, more parking meters in works as commission looks to partner with CMU

Central Michigan University might soon be expanding its parking enforcement efforts further across Mount Pleasant if city commissioners have their way.

Following Monday's Mount Pleasant City Commission meeting, commissioners met with Phil Baron of Walker Parking Consultants for a work session to discuss the results and recommendations of a parking study.

"When residents know the money they pay is going back into the neighborhood, it's a great tool (for implementing new parking programs)," Baron said.

Baron and Walker Parking, which received a $25,000 contract from Mount Pleasant in 2012 to conduct the study, came back with five recommendations on how to deter CMU students and commuters from parking in residential areas directly north of campus.

Recommendations in the "all-encompassing" plan include launching a pilot residential parking permit plan, potentially free of cost to residents, in neighborhoods north of campus to test their effectiveness.

It will also pilot a "smart meter" program, expanding meters to West Campus Drive, increasing parking enforcement and reinvesting parking revenue into neighborhoods. Smart meters allow drivers to pay for their parking spot using a phone or credit card as opposed to change, ideal for students.

Baron said CMU, which currently partners with the city in enforcing the parking meters on West Bellows Street next to the graduate student housing complex, is interested in expanding its partnership with the city, which is short on enforcement personnel should it adopt any of those measures.

"It's a better product to park on campus," Baron said at Monday's city commission meeting.

The university would have an interest in stricter off-campus parking measures, as Walker Parking found 75 percent of CMU's 11,158 parking spaces are used during peak hours on campus. That means 2,835 spots remain unused.

"They would be willing to do the enforcement, but they're not going to do it for free," Baron said, adding that the university is interested in partnering with the city through its economics or behavioral sciences departments to study city traffic with students.

The entire commission was on board with the idea of increasing parking enforcement throughout the city, as they signaled they were eager in partnering with the university to do so.

Permits and smart meters

Commissioners also agreed unanimously with launching a potentially optional residential parking permit plan in the neighborhoods north of campus, as they were with implementing a pilot "smart meter" program in an area north of campus.

They also signaled approval for installing meters on West Campus Drive as a way to slow traffic on the street.

"In some respects, it's a good thing to have more parking on streets in order to slow down traffic," said Nancy Ridley, director of finance.

However, doubts were raised over the idea of reinvesting revenue from the new parking projects into the community, specifically over whether there would be much money to reinvest from the meters after installation.

The city would first have to pay off the new smart meters, which cost $850 each, in addition to paying for increased enforcement, meaning there might not be much money to spend.

Mayor Sharon Tilmann wanted to ensure students that these new measures, if adopted, are not designed to go after CMU students. Rather, she said they are designed to make sure students have more parking options available to them and to make sure parking rules are followed.

"If it's convenient and free, it's not going to be available," Baron said of off-campus parking.

Ridley said the commission will likely re-examine the plan in several weeks as details regarding costs and implementation are ironed out.


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