Troy city officials acknowledged at an event Thursday that the municipality needs to improve the management of its off- and on-street public parking—and introduced the several dozen attendees to a prospective contractor eager to capitalize on the opportunity.
“We have random machines, we have…permit-only parking in parking lots and no visitors parking in those lots—we know all that,” deputy mayor Monica Kurzejeski said. But the company likely to assume the parking management duties previously handled in-house—LAZ Parking, which oversees facilities in hundreds of American cities, including Schenectady—needed to hear concerns directly from stakeholders before launching a plan, the deputy mayor explained.
“We just want to offer our services to help,” said LAZ Parking director of operations Chris Suszko. “To hear what the issues and problems are, to come in here and come up with a plan to make Troy successful.”
The agreement would likely last three to five years. At the outset, LAZ Parking would collect data on usage and tackle what was described as “low-hanging fruit”—technology upgrades, signage improvements, and cleaning and painting the city’s neglected structures. The hope is that increases in efficiency and utilization would more than offset the firm’s management fee, which has yet to be determined.
“We pride ourselves on improving the bottom line of all our clients,” said LAZ Parking vice president for government relations Rob Maroney. “Our goal with the city of Troy is to increase revenue and reduce operating expenses.”
The city owns seven garages and lots totaling nearly 1,100 spaces in the downtown area. With users paying $8 per day or $60 per month, they are expected to generate $500,000 in revenue this year, according to the city budget. Parking meters may bring in another $140,000. (Last year, according to unaudited figures, the city brought in a little less than $600,000 from those combined sources.)
A Downtown Troy BID-backed report from last year found “that expanding…public parking options is a top priority for area business owners.” There may be a disconnect, however, between this perception and reality, at least according to a different, parking-specific study partly funded by a development team that at the time was seeking approvals for a project at One Monument Square.
“The number of parking spaces in downtown is adequate,” the study found. “Supply is available and, in fact, Downtown Troy is over-parked.” The consultant conducted its utilization analysis in the summer—a typical low point for meter revenues—and the developer eventually abandoned its One Monument Square plans after being hounded, in part, by concerns about parking. In other words, an authoritative downtown parking study perhaps has yet to be completed; indeed, a LAZ representative told the audience Thursday that the 2015 study was “a little dated.”
Roughly $3 million of the $3.8 million worth of public grants linked to the planned Bow Tie Cinemas project at One Monument Square, now tabled pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by an adjacent property owner, would go toward the construction of a concealed garage with more than a hundred paid public parking spots.
Under a 2012 state law intended to mitigate administrative costs by allowing government agencies to essentially clone other competitively bid contracts, the city is aiming to “piggyback” on an agreement LAZ Parking has already forged with New Rochelle in Westchester County.
At the Thursday event, the company’s considerable breadth of experience was noted, though a recent scandal was not. This past July, LAZ agreed to “pay $5.6 million to settle allegations that it failed to detect and deter theft of millions of dollars of cash revenue” that belonged to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, according to a press release from the state’s attorney general. The Greater Boston transit agency terminated its agreement with LAZ this past March.
Though it did not respond to an inquiry on the matter, the company previously acknowledged “the alleged theft by three dishonest employees at a limited number of these parking lots” in a statement provided to the Boston Globe.
“LAZ has accepted our share of any responsibility and we have honored all of the commitments we had made and fully reimbursed the MBTA for the losses which were incurred,” the company president reportedly said.
Troy spokesman John Salka did not respond to an email asking if the administration was aware of the recent settlement.
Disclosure: LAZ Parking operates a facility owned by Schenectady County Metroplex Authority that may be used, for a fee, by The Alt’s staff.