Pandemic trims parking revenue, but not for all

Posted October 19, 2021

For many cities and businesses, income from parking fees has been on a decline over the past two years and has resulted in a significant financial loss.

A recent story by the online news service Axios noted that Minneapolis and St. Paul have lost millions of dollars in parking revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a result of shelter-in-place orders as well as online work and schooling becoming much more prevalent — in many cases negating the need to leave the house.

The effect of the pandemic on parking revenue has been felt in western Wisconsin as well, but not everyone is complaining.

In spring 2020, the UW-River Falls sent its students home and began teaching fully online, with classes really not getting back to normal until this fall semester. According to UWRF financial data, yearly parking revenue from 2018, 2019 and 2020 was averaging $908,333. But in fiscal year 2021 parking revenue fell by almost one-third to $618,598.

Much of the loss came from pay-by-space parking, which fell by more than 90%. Most of the money made through pay-by-space is from commuters. Because UWRF was operating mostly online during that time, many students didn’t have to come to campus.

UWRF may have to wait until 2022 before parking revenue returns to normal. Brenda Irvin, a budget and policy analyst at UWRF, said “I think with the number of students we have, I would have expected this to be higher. We are hoping that with more students next year we will have more things across the board, not just parking.”

The pandemic did help at least one community exceed its parking revenue expectations.

“Our parking revenues have been very strong through COVID,” said Aaron Reeves, the city administrator in Hudson. This is due to the fact that Hudson became a place for many Minnesotans to enjoy during that state’s extended lockdown.

In 2019, Hudson made $182,899 from parking fees. Revenue dropped in 2020 to $166,442. But in 2021, Hudson made $204,647 from parking, exceeding even normal years such as 2018 in revenue.