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Rolling out the welcome mat


Photos by Jef Nickerson

At the “temporary” parking lots on Broadway near the Dunk (Old Public Safety Complex, and old circular gas station).

FORTY! dollars NCAA parking! Really? I feel like if this is not against the law, it should be. Isn’t this the very definition of price gouging?

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30 Responses to Rolling out the welcome mat

  1. Jim March 18, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    And we all thought $30 for Britney Spears was price gouging!

  2. Wendy March 18, 2010 at 8:42 am #

    Those of us who have kids in a dance competition at the VMA on Saturday may also be screwed. 🙁 I sure hope I don’t have to pay $40 in parking. I was hoping for the PP garage.

  3. Jef Nickerson March 18, 2010 at 8:44 am #

    City of Providence Municipal Code:

    Sec. 14-65. Signs required.
    Every person maintaining or conducting an automobile parking place within the limits of the city shall maintain at each entrance to such automobile place, a permanently affixed sign suitable to apprise persons using such automobile parking place with the information set out in this article.
    (Ch. 23A, § 1, added by Ord. 1946, ch. 1546, § 1)

    Neither of these lots has a permanently affixed sign.

    Sec. 14-66. Owner’s name and rates must be shown.
    The name of the owner of an automobile parking place, the hours of the day or night during which such place is open for storing motor vehicles, the rates charged for parking and the closing hour of such place must be shown.
    (Ch. 23A, § 2, added by Ord. 1946, ch. 1546, § 1)

    Since there are no signs, this information is not posted on a sign.

    Sec. 14-67. Size of figures showing rates, hours.
    Where more than one rate is charged for parking in a parking place regulated herein, the figures for each rate shall be of the same size and dimensions, and such figures shall measure not less than six inches in height, and the letters and figures indicating the closing hours shall be not less than six inches in height.
    (Ch. 23A, § 3, added by Ord. 1946, ch. 1546, § 1)

    The non-permanent (non-conforming) sign only lists one rate.

  4. Tony P March 18, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    Unreal! I used to think $20 to park for the day in Boston was bad until I realized that the cops wouldn’t hassle vehicles with commercial plates.

    But this is just ridiculous. Way to turn people away.

  5. Dan March 18, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    I can always tell what’s going on downtown by the parking lot prices…10-15 bucks a PC or PBruins game…20 – 25 bucks a concert or one off event (like Stars on Ice or the WWE) that usually comes every year…30 and up a once in while event that draws people in from out of state. To be honest the 40 dollar price really blew me away…Hey isn’t that second picture a Paolino property?

    Wendy: park up near the DOT headquarters across from the statehouse. The lot next to the building is usually open.

  6. Jef Nickerson March 18, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    I can’t figure out which department regulates commercial parking lots, but I did send a message to the office of neighborhood services asking them to review the lots, and if the pricing violates code, to have it addressed.

    $40 parking is no way to welcome national attention to the city.

  7. GM March 18, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    While I agree that $40 is expensive, I just want to point out that the train is very near by….

  8. Peter Brassard March 18, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    These sign regulations are very similar to the requirements in New York City to keep parking lot and garage operators honest . What a surprise|an enforcement problem in the City of Providence.

  9. Dan March 18, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    This just got posted up on the Projo blog. Looks like someone made some calls and told them to cut it out. Although this makes me wonder if parking lot owners communicate before hand and decide what rate to charge…collusion?

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Parking lots near the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, site of the first rounds of the NCAA college basketball tournament, were charging $40 early Thursday morning.

    Between 10 and 11 a.m., the price to park dropped to $30.

    Parking lot attendants said they had been called by their owners and told to reduce the price.

  10. Dan March 18, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    Most of the surface lots do have signs that meet the requirements (owner, hourly rates, etc). Since they all seem to use the term \”event parking\”, i wonder if there are some additional regulations or a loophole that governs temporary increases for \”events\”. I tried to find it online but could not, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  11. Jef Nickerson March 18, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    If my email to neighborhood services got that kind of response that quick, then I’m impressed, but I suspect others made calls and created pressure on the owners.

    As for “event parking” being somehow special. I’ve been told, by people in the city, that any sign that can change, is not permitted. So if they have a special event rate, that needs to be permanently posted on the permanent sign outlined in the regulations. They can’t put out whatever sign they want with whatever price they want, depending on what event is taking place in town. Who is responsible for regulating that, and why it is not regulated… I don’t know.

  12. Jim March 18, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    I’m sure they call each other to ask what they’re planning on charging.

    Jef, You should do some investigative journalism and find out who is supposed to regulate it. Is there some sort of parking authority here that maintains the public lots and spaces? I know I got return comments on the comp plan when I suggested they form a municipal parking authority to regulate this stuff and someone from planning said that was not something the city could do.

  13. Aaron Masri March 18, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    Reminds me of a Donald Shoup book I once read: “The High Cost of High Cost Park….”. Umm, wait, that’s not it (lol).

  14. J Bouchard March 18, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    The first picture is the old Public Safety lot which is owned by Procaccianti Group. The second picture is the Gulf station lot, owned by Paolino..

    Having once worked for TPG Hospitality, I can state that both lots are managed by City Parking & Valet (http://www.citypvs.com) which also runs the valet at the Hilton Providence. This was a common sight whenever there was an event (Hannah Montana, PBruins, even Waterfire) the valet crews were out there hanging signs over their sandwich boards changing the prices to something usually much much higher.

    Thankfully, I live off Broadway, so downtown was a mere 20-minute walk versus having to pay out the arse to park.

  15. jencoleslaw March 18, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    I am going to guess that some of the calls to Neighborhood Services were from actually people living in neighborhoods that would be adversely impacted by people parking up the street in order to avoid paying $40 to park. They may have dropped the price to $30 but that doesn’t at all solve the other issues that Jef brought up, ie., signage etc.

    Aren’t there laws against profiteering as well?

  16. Jef Nickerson March 18, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    This from the ProJo is rich:

    Bill Wise, general manager of Intown Parking, which owns a parking lot at 15 La Salle Square that had been charging $40, said the $40 price had been “a miscommunication” with the parking lot attendant.

    Miscommunication my ass. Look at those signs, they were made special for this week. The prices have never been $40 before. By the way, Convention Center is charging $20.

  17. Jess March 19, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    I’ve attended RI Convention Center Authority meetings and parking rates based on different event types are definitely preplanned, discussed, and decided upon by the convention center. The convention center also surveys the other parking lots in its vicinity to estimate its own rates for different types of shows. RICCA tries to be competitively priced , but does change its rates based show type – family shows: cheap (under $10) and headline acts ($20 and up).

  18. JJ March 21, 2010 at 12:55 am #

    Why complain?

    Theres no better way to encourage transit use than pricing parking high

  19. Jim March 21, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    Because in a case like this, the other option is not transit, but rather not staying in Providence.

    If we had a better transit system, we’d see lower prices for parking because fewer people would want to drive.

  20. Jim March 21, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    I should have made it a little more clear. By “a case like this”, I meant a big time event like the NCAA. When they see parking for $40, they aren’t as likely to come back. We want them to come back.

  21. Jef Nickerson March 25, 2010 at 11:37 pm #

    The city responded to my submission to the Office of Neighborhood Services:

    Thank you for contacting me. All of the parking lots located in the city are privately owned so the prices for parking can not be regulated. I hope this answers your question and please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

  22. Jim March 26, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    That is such a cop-out answer. They most certainly can, and should, be regulated.

  23. Peter Brassard March 26, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    The response appears to be a bureaucratic side step. The city does have regulations that address signage, not pricing. Was one of your questions about parking lot compliance with sign regulations? Which city agency imposes fines when lots don’t comply, or is this still a mystery?

  24. Dan March 26, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    I think the response is meant to imply that there is currently no specific city ordinance for regulating pricing in a private lot. Price gouging laws are usually tied to a state of emergency or base a price cap on retail cost vs. wholesale cost. There were big debates like this a while back on heating oil and milk when the wholesale costs were dropping thru the floor but the retail price never budged. There was also an investigation on the cost of sprinkler systems after the new fire codes were implemented . I am not sure if the state passed any laws on these issues.

    Everyone knows the basic rule of thumb for parking is the closer you get to your venue the more you pay. From the journal article I read, there was cheaper parking further away from the Dunk as well as a price difference if you were staying for one game or all of them. I admit, 40 bucks sounds too high, but its interesting to note that it costs 40 bucks to park at Gillette Stadium on game day so you might have to wonder if they were looking at regional comps. Considering how quickly the price dropped once the newspapers got a hold of the story it looks like someone pointed out the “misinformation to the parking lot attendants” and parking lot owners made the correction.

    The City can look into either crafting an ordinance of their own or work with a member of the General Assembly to have something enacted at the state level if they really want to pursue it. I hate to sound like a die hard capitalist but i am not sure if you really have to regulate how much someone charges to temporarily park on their private property since you have the choice to find cheaper parking further away. When it comes to staples (like milk and heating oil) or services required by regulation (like sprinkler services) then i think its ok. But that is just my opinion.

  25. Jef Nickerson March 26, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    I’m fine with the price of parking being high to discourage driving and encourage transit use, and I am fine with the free market. There are a few things that really get me about this though.

    One, is current regulations are not being enforced. They have to have permanent signs listing their prices, the permanent sign can say that during NCAA tournements, parking is $5000.00 an hour for all I care, but it has to say it on a sign permanently, the signs that can change, such as are pictured here, violate regulations and they should be cited for those violations and forced to comply.

    Two, these are “temporary” lots (the two pictured) allowed to operate at the will of the people to help the developers through finacial and other burdens that are preventing them from properly developing the parcels. Perhaps the city has no way to regulate what private enterprises charge for goods and services, but the city certainly had a chance to dictate terms when it allowed these “temporary” lots to be created.

    Three, price gouging and not following the regulations that state that permanent signage must be erected contributes to the impression that there is some sort of parking crisis Downtown. Very few lots have proper signage indicating their hours or their rates. Someone may come into town for a widget convention and get charged $10, next week they are in town for American Idol and get charged $30. There’s no rhyme or reason to it all. And that is if you are in town for an event. Come in to town just for dinner and you get caught up in this parking madness.

    The city has more power than they are willing to weild on this issue. It hurts the city’s reputation to allow these parking lot owners to do whatever the hell they want and have the city just throw up their collective hands and say “there’s nothing we can do.”

  26. Jim March 26, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    The problem is that people need to come into the city for various things and if there isn’t any street parking, there may not be affordable parking elsewhere, especially if there is an event. I know the logical answer is “take RIPTA”, but that is not an option for everyone.

    Parking most certainly should be regulated by the city as it is most definitely in the city’s best interest to make sure it is fair and honest.

    Gillette Stadium holds something like 80,000 people. The Dunk holds like 14k. However, I do consider the parking cost at Gillette to be gouging as well. There are no other options for parking there like there are in the city.

  27. jencoleslaw March 26, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    All high and arbitrary parking prices do it make is unrealistic for those “temporary lots” to ever be developed (why would they when you don’t even need to BUILD anything and can bring in thousands of dollars a night with almost zero overhead?) and is a disgusting incentive for developers to tear down buildings for surface parking. I’m willing to bet actual cash dollars that RIPTA does NOT see higher ridership rates when there are big events downtown, mostly because I suspect RIPTA doesn’t travels back into the city at times when people want to be coming back for events.

    Considering that many of the parking lots we’re talking about here came about because of some kind of sweetheart deal with the city or some sneaky tax break, or a dubious demo permit, there should be no reason whatsoever the city can’t attach binders to the zoning to ensure that the parking is fair and equitable for events. Developers who don’t like that can build a coddamn building instead.

  28. Jim March 28, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    Not only does RIPTA not run at the most convenient times to get back into the city for events, but the bigger issue is whether or not you can get home using RIPTA. When I go to shows at Lupos, I would much prefer to take the bus downtown, but when I get out at 2, I have to find a cab, which can be a pain and costs me $8 to get home.

    So those higher prices are not pushing people to use public transportation, they’re pushing people to drive around in circles looking for free street parking or not come into the city at all because “parking sucks”. If RIPTA ran more frequently to the places people are coming from and ran later, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

  29. Aaron Masri March 28, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    Until RIPTA funding is increased to a per capita level more equivalent to its peers, this type of frequent service will never happen.

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