OPINION: On-Site Versus Off-Site Parking for Cruise Passengers
By Malcolm McLouth // July 20, 2012
opinion & commentary
At the June Commission meeting of the Canaveral Port Authority, Consultant Michele Karkowski, recommended that the Port revoke all current off-site Park-and-Ride permits.
The consultant, described by some as a hired gun, gave a detailed report, pointing out that Port parking revenues have been seriously eroded by the recent expansion of off-site discount parking lots.
In the ensuing discussions, it was pointed out, that to attract home ported cruise operations at Canaveral, the Port has been obligated to invest millions in terminals, dredging, wharf and parking garage construction commencing several years ago.
CRUISE BUSINESS BIG FOR PORT
The initial decision to pursue the cruise market in earnest was made over 30 years ago and it has paid off big time.
Subsequently in 1986, the Port was able to eliminate local taxation and the cruise industry now accounts for ¾ of the Port’s operational income.
The Commission rejected the revoking of existing permits but stated that the Port has to bond against future revenues to fund new cruise facilities, ($113 million outstanding end 2011).
The Port staff recommended, and Commissioners adopted, the consultant’s secondary recommendations to raise the Park-and-Ride terminal entry fee from $15 to $50 – and reject all new applicants.
Also the Commission voted to invest an additional $800,000 in facilities to correct a serious traffic jam that occurs when the off-site auto cruise passengers are transferred to and from the terminals.
The consultant accurately noted that the Port would be blamed by the cruise passengers for terminal traffic delays.
COMMISSIONERS NEED TO BE BRIEFED
Reflecting on the Port meeting, I suggest that the outcome might have been slightly different if all Commissioner’s had been individually briefed by the staff of the consultant’s report.
I learned in my 32 years as a Commissioner, and 8 years on the Port staff, that better decisions result when no one feels blind-sided.
Stakeholders involved in this controversy are the Port, tourist industry, taxpayers, cruise industry and the cruise passengers.
The latter has already spoken by opting to park at the cheaper off site lots, ($5.95 vs. $15.00), in increasing numbers, reducing Port parking space occupancy to now below 50 percent.
Also, if the Commission had not opted to correct the traffic jam, passenger feedback to the cruise lines would have been a black eye for the Port.
For the cruise industry it is simple: either the local market demand allows them to fill their ships, or they reposition to better locations.
Port Canaveral as a major “drive-to market” attracts a large mid-income family cliental. Their budget constraints add to the sensitivity of the auto parking cost issue as a potentially negative factor.
LET THE FREE MARKET FIND IT’S LEVEL
The tourist industry includes central Florida attractions, hotels, plus Park-and-Ride operations. Human nature dictates that the latter are now screaming that the Port is being anti small business, even as they profit as a result of the Ports success.
Although this charge is off base, I question if the new $50 rate will do much to cover the Ports loss of parking revenue.
In retrospect, I also question the wisdom of stopping issuing permits for new operators.
In our open society, it is often best to let the free market take care of inequities.
It is also true that bargain parking rates is a positive item that can be used marketing Canaveral as a prime cruise port.
As a Special District created by the State Legislature, Port Canaveral is a public transportation hub that accommodates cruise, cargo and U.S. government maritime users.
All revenues and liabilities are public funds, so it is in the taxpayer’s interest that the Port remains self-sufficient.
‘ALL SHIPS RISE AND FALL WITH THE TIDE’
The Ports success is also of great importance to the well being of many employees and businesses including hotels, tour operators, support services and Park-and-Ride vendors.
To quote a maritime saying that applies “all ships rise and fall with the tide.”
Port Canaveral’s success and future as a major cruise port is based on wise infrastructure investments that meet the physical docking and passenger handling needs of our customers.
For example the new cruse terminal 6, now under construction, cost in excess of $50 million dollars.
A second $50 million Port investment is needed to widen our entrance channel to accommodate future larger cruise vessels.
To meet changing infrastructure needs, the port has had to in borrow, (bond), against future earnings so the Port’s sensitivity to erosion of anticipated income is understandable.
However, it is also true that without a positive cruise passenger demand at the Port we risks retrenchment or at minimum, a loss of future cruising business.
Thus the $800,000 expenditure to solve the traffic problem made at the meeting was a wise move.
CONCLUSION – LOWER FEES
My concluding suggestion would be to lower the $50 fee to only cover the Ports direct traffic handling cost, reduce Port terminal parking to $10.95 per auto and continue to accept new Park-and-Ride applications.
This action would make available to cruise passengers a large block of now vacant more affordable and desirable parking slots.
This would also help solve some of the traffic congestion. I suggest it would at least be revenue neutral to the Port.
Rather than depressing competition, it makes more sense to let the free market in the form of the cruise passenger select the level of parking convenience desired.
This action would add to the attractiveness of Canaveral as a desirable cruise port. All parties will be winners in the long run if the Port cruse market continues to expand.
About Malcolm “Mac” McLouth
Mac McLouth has been a resident of Brevard County since 1962. He and his wife, Judy, are active in numerous civic and religious activities, have 8 children and 17 grand-children.
MacLouth received advanced Engineering, Business and Masters of Science degrees from the University of Minnesota, holds Professional Engineering Licenses and is a Nationally Certified Environmental Engineer.
McLouth was elected as a Port Commissioner and served 32 years from 1967-1996. During his 32 years as a devoted public servant, McLouth was instrumental in building the port to become the second largest cruise port in the United States and was an architect of the Port becoming economically self-sufficient by being taken off the tax rolls in Brevard County in 1986.
McLouth resigned as a Port Commissioner in 1996 to accept the position as Director of Business Development for Port Canaveral and was subsequently promoted to become the Port’s Executive Director, retiring at the end of 2004.
Maintaining is passion and love for the Port, McLouth was re-elected to the Port Commission in 2009 to fill an unexpired term.
McLouth is Past President of the Cape Canaveral Council of the U.S Navy League and is past President of the Port Canaveral Propeller Club. McLouth has served on the Brevard Transportation Planning Organization and is the recipient of numerous awards from Civic, Business and Professional Groups.
McLouth was the Governor’s Appointment to the East Coast Central Florida Regional Planning Council from 1998 through 2009 and also served as it’s Chairman.