Dubuque parking revenues continuing to stall

Though City of Dubuque officials reimplemented charges at parking ramps and spaces months ago, revenues continue to underperform compared to last year.

From July to October, the city earned about $538,000 in parking revenue, compared to the $985,000 in the same time span last year.

While city officials did not charge for parking in the first two months of the fiscal year that started in July, parking revenues in September and October were still lower than last year.

In September, the Locust Street parking ramp brought in $25,665 in revenue. In the same month last year, it garnered $44,590.

Street parking meters brought in $47,782 for the city in October. The city earned $73,250 from parking meters in the same month last year.

Russell Stecklein, interim director of Dubuque Transportation Services, said the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be the primary factor in lower parking revenues for the current fiscal year so far.

While charged parking has been reinstated, many people continue to work from home, and actual traffic downtown remains low, he said. That, in turn, results in fewer people using city parking.

“We are hearing that some companies won’t be bringing their employees back to work downtown until July, so that is going to continue to affect parking,” Stecklein said. “Some people are returning to work, but it’s a slow process.”

In fact, significant portions of parking revenue that the city still receives come from permit fees at ramps that remain unused. Many downtown businesses continue to pay for these permits, despite not using them, largely to ensure they are not taken by someone else, Stecklein said.

“There was a pretty good waiting list of people wanting available spaces, so if anyone ever stopped paying for the spots, we could call up the next person on the list,” Stecklein said. “Some of these companies are going to continue to rent so they don’t lose those spots. But there are also a lot of cancellations.”

Stecklein said he anticipates that the decline in revenue will negatively impact the city’s parking division, which is budgeted as a self-sustaining entity. Revenues are used to pay for city parking employees and enforcement officers and maintenance on the ramps.

He also said he anticipates some spending cuts will be needed to make up for the lost revenue.

“When we start losing revenue, it has an effect,” Stecklein said. “We’ll have to adjust budgets as we go.”

Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol said the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on parking revenues is unfortunate, but he believes it is important for the city to support and maintain its parking infrastructure.

“It’s really important not only to the bigger businesses down there, but to the retail businesses as well,” Buol said. “It’s critical for our historic downtown, so we need to ensure that it remains available.”