What downtown parking revenue tells us about the Fort Worth economy and COVID
See full Fort Worth Star-Telegram article by Gordon Dickson here.
If parking revenues are an indication, downtown Fort Worth is coming back to life after a nearly three-month decline caused by the COVID shutdown.
Revenue from city parking meters nose-dived in March and April after state and local officials ordered businesses closed to prevent spread of the coronavirus. But by May, as businesses gradually began to reopen under Gov. Greg Abbott’s direction, all that pocket change was once again flowing into the meters.
Parking downtown costs 50 cents to $1.50 per hour, depending upon which meter a visitor uses. But all those coins — or, these days, credit card swipes at the city’s electronic meters — can really add up.
For the first five months of 2020, Fort Worth received a total of $563,892.50 from its parking meters. That’s about 60% of the $932,909.84 the city received from meters in January-May 2019.
Most of the city’s parking meter revenue is from curbside parking spots downtown, although there are meters in other areas, including the city’s Near Southside and West 7th areas.
“We’re seeing more people on the sidewalks, and more cars on the streets,” said Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc. “I’ve checked in with big property owners to ask how their garages are doing as a proxy for the downtown work force returning, and it’s been going up steadily for the last couple of weeks.”
“There was a time when I could have my pick of any meter downtown,” Taft added. “That’s no longer the case.”
The monthly details provide an interesting glance at how the threat of the virus played out on the streets. In February, for example, the city brought in about $175,500 from parking meters, which was slightly below the $176,400 brought in the same month a year earlier.
But in March, meter revenue — normally $204,400 — dropped around 32% to only $139,700. Local officials issued their initial orders prohibiting people from gathering in large crowds on March 13, and over a period of several weeks those restrictions were expanded to prohibit most businesses from operating normally.
In April, meter revenue dropped to only $28,300, a whopping 86% decline compared to the same month in 2019, when $197,900 was collected.
In May, meter revenue began to bounce back. That month, the city took in $52,200, compared to the normal haul of $180,200 in May 2019. That’s still a 71% decrease, but definitely a sign that visitation in the city center was on the way back.
Not all downtown parking is done at metered spots. Many regulars at downtown workplaces park instead at many of the privately-owned garages.
Taft said the owners of those parking facilities were bolstered somewhat by customers who pay monthly parking fees. Many of those customers continued to pay their parking fees, even during the months in which they weren’t coming downtown for work.
Downtown Fort Worth Inc., a non-profit organization that manages the city’s central business district, operates a website at www.fortworthparking.com. There, visitors can learn about which parking facilities offer free parking downtown on nights and weekends, which many of the attractions at Sundance Square are busiest.
A tax-increment financing district managed by Downtown Fort Worth Inc. provides the city with funding to ensure metered spots are free after 6 p.m. weekdays and all day weekends.
Location Mentioned: Sundance Square Plaza