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Croton by the numbers: 47 acres of parking
Croton-on-Hudson is both fortunate and unusual in having its own large, publicly owned commuter parking lot at the Croton-Harmon Train Station. We have over 2,000 daily commuters, second only to Grand Central Station in the number of daily commuter trips on Metro North. Few station lots in the Hudson Valley can rival the 2,024-space capacity of our 47-acre lot for size or proximity to major roads.  Still fewer lots are 100% municipally owned and locally controlled, as ours is.
Once the flooding renovations were completed in early January 2010, the Village opened up quarterly permits to the commuters on our waiting list for Non-Resident permits. The Village began reducing the waiting list in 2010, by offering permits to those on the list. The result has been a total of 200 new permit holders over the course of the last 15 months.  We got a great response from those on the waiting list. As of early 2011, we no longer have anyone on a waiting list for a parking permit.
With the help of a consultant, Tim Haahs and Associates, with expertise in parking facilities, we are developing a long range master plan for the 47-acre lot for a simple reason: we would like to know how to keep our parking customers happy, while operating a lot that continues to bring needed non-tax revenues to Village coffers.
Here are some of the basic facts about our Village’s train station parking lot:
1. In its current configuration, our lot offers four types of parking permits, each priced differently:  We have Preferred Permits ($150/month). Non-Resident Permits ($88/month), Resident permits ($51/month), and Daily Meter Permits (a sliding scale up to $8 per day depending on the number of hours desired). Preferred and Non-Resident Permits are only available in quarterly increments.
2. Currently, we have allocated the 2,024 existing parking spaces as follows by category: Resident and Non-Resident Permit spaces (1,218); Daily Meter spaces (520); Resident Only spaces (158); Preferred spaces (69); Handicapped Meter spaces (59).  Whether this allocation is optimal is always under review. With the help of our parking consultants, we are developing ways to determine how many spaces are optimal for each category.
 3. In the winter season, we have slightly fewer total spaces available.  The loss of about 40 spaces, for example the spaces along the guide rail in sections I and J, during the winter is due to snow storage, and the turning radius that our plows need to operate safely and efficiently.   
4. On the revenue side, we project gross revenue to the Village for fiscal year 2010-2011, based on actual revenue for the first 7 months, of $2,600,000, an increase over 2009-2010.  This revenue will be derived as follows from the four categories of sales: Non-resident permits $1,170,000 (45% of total); Daily parking sales $1,014,000 (39% of total); Resident permits $312,000 (12% of total); Preferred parking permits $104,000 (4% of total).  Daily parking customers represent a significant percentage (39%) of revenue, although the daily spaces comprise only 26% of the lot.  The daily parking rate structure and turn-over of spaces in the daily section are factors that contribute to the enhanced revenue generated from this section of the lot.
5. The 2010-2011 fiscal year expense side breaks out as follows: Original purchase debt service payment, $253,000; debt service on capital improvements since purchase of the lot, $233,000; Full time administrative staff allocations (pro-rated by role), $173,000; Part-time staff allocations, $95,000; DPW staff allocations, $25,000; Annual contractual expenses (cleaning service, pay station software, etc), $34,000; Other contractual, maintenance, repairs, and supplies, $20,000.  These annual operating and borrowing costs total $838,000.
6. The net revenue from the lot to the Village will be a staggering $1.76 million for 2010-2011.  In other words, 68 cents of every dollar paid by parkers goes right to the village’s general fund revenue. The parking lot’s net revenue is large enough, that if it did not exist, our $10 million property tax levy would shoot up by 17% and so would our property tax rate.
7. Going forward, we need to understand how to best operate the lot in a fiscally prudent way that continues to anticipate the long-range demographic and economic patterns of our region.  Our rail-bus-automobile-pedestrian-bicycle commuter hub at Croton Harmon station draws several thousand daily users from a three county region.
8. The lot now has new convenient digital meter pay stations for daily parking customers that take credit cards and allow one-day-at-a-time parkers to choose how many hours they want to buy. We reduced labor costs and boosted revenue with this system by allowing the same space to be resold to a new parking customer if it became empty during the day.
We are constantly monitoring and reassessing the station parking. Here are some of the questions we are looking into:

  • If we had more parking spaces, would we have more customers?
  • Based on growth patterns, when would we need more spaces?
  • What price points make sense for Croton-Harmon compared to other stations or other modes of transport?
  • How can we untangle the daily snarl of buses, cars, taxis, bikes, and pedestrians at the station’s stairway entrances?
  • How can we improve traffic flow within the lot?
  • How can we make walking across the lot easier?
  • How can we administer the lot more cost-effectively? Should we offer more remote parking that is less expensive than the daily lot?
In short, we have a great asset in our station parking lot. But like any asset, our parking lot requires constant attention and fine-tuning to remain convenient and cost-worthy to commuters and cost-effective to the Village.

PS: The parking counts in Table 2 and Table 3 of the Tim Haahs report were taken in April 2010, a few months after the Village had reopened the lot. The Village's actual experience with the lot indicates it is more heavily used now than in April 2010, probably for two reasons. Daily parking customers are now well-accustomed to the new digital credit card accepting meters. For example, the daily lot parking transactions for the first 3 weekdays of March 2011 are 533, 543, 511, reflecting capacity use of 102%, 104%, and 98%, respectively, compared with a peak capacity use of 78% in April 2010.  In addition, the Village offered quarterly permits to commuters on the waiting list that had built up during the lot's renovation, resulting in more parking customers purchasing quarterly permits by the fall 2010. The Village will conduct parking capacity counts in the future, particularly after the MTA completes the expansion of the Cortlandt Station parking lot, as one of several monitoring methods we now use.