Hoping to bring in more revenue for the city and increase traffic for downtown businesses, the Hartford Parking Authority has floated three ideas designed to give its customers a break and attract new patrons.
The authority has proposed a loyalty program that would give customers a free parking day for every three paid parking days; a "refer-a-friend" program in which monthly parkers would get a free month of parking for referring a friend who signs up for a three-month pass; and five free parking days for everyone who visits the city.
Under the loyalty program, customers would display a reward card each time they pay to park. On the fourth visit, parking is free. The reward cards will be distributed at downtown stores and restaurants. Since the program runs through the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year, free visits would have to be redeemed by June 30, 2011.
While the loyalty program rewards daily and hourly patrons, the refer-a-friend program would benefit those with monthly parking passes. Monthly patrons who refer a friend to sign up for three months of parking at the Morgan Street garage would receive a month of free parking at any of the company's three garages. The Hartford Parking Authority operates the Morgan Street garage and two additional garages on Church Street.
The authority has also proposed five free parking days for everyone, though organizers have not yet determined when those days will be. Organizers are looking into the possibility of offering free parking on or close to holidays, such as the day after Thanksgiving.
"What we're trying to do here is create an opportunity to bring people to downtown Hartford," said Mark McGovern, chief executive officer of the Hartford Parking Authority.
The company hatched the idea for the reward programs in September 2009, after reviewing a survey conducted that year.
One idea — to establish incentive rates for monthly patrons at the Morgan Street garage — went into effect on Aug. 1 and so far has attracted more than 60 new parkers, McGovern said. The company hopes the other programs will have a similar effect, he said.
The city council must approve the new programs before they can be implemented. Mayor Pedro Segarra said the incentives are designed to stem a loss of revenue. The city has received less money from the parking authority because of the flagging economy.
The parking authority's operating income from the 2009-10 fiscal year was nearly $4 million. The company is projecting the operating income for this year to be $3.4 million.
"My hope is that we can stay on target for what we projected this year," Segarra said. "Vacancies don't bring in revenue. We hope to have more parkers."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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