Glen Furtado is general manager of the Calgary Parking Authority.
Can you explain who the Calgary Parking Authority reports to and how it operates?
Furtado: The Calgary Parking Authority (CPA) is an autonomous civic entity that is wholly owned by the City of Calgary. We are governed by a committee of council, who in turn report directly to city council.
We’re not taxpayer funded; instead, the CPA self-funds all our operations through the parking and enforcement revenues that we generate. Each year, we also return tens of millions of dollars back to the city; over the past five years, this has totalled over $120 million that the city can use to help fund city enhancement projects and other initiatives as they see fit.
How have the last few years of a challenging economy impacted CPA revenues?
Furtado: The challenges in Calgary’s economy have certainly impacted the CPA. We have seen a decrease in our customer base coinciding with the office vacancy rate and reduced employment numbers in downtown Calgary.
Compounding the issue is that many of the partially-vacant office towers downtown also have parking under their buildings and those building operators are trying to find ways to attract parking patrons to their facilities as well to offset their operating costs.
We are, however, fortunate to have quite a loyal customer base and continue to offer very competitive off-street parking rates. Combined with the operational efficiencies that we’re always looking for and by providing good service, we’ve been able to keep most of our customers and maintain our return to the city.
How do you encourage people to come downtown and park in light of the economy?
Furtado: Parking is a lever that can be used to, among other things, support our local businesses. By making parking a visible and accessible option, and by working with the business communities where we operate, we help support the needs of their customers.
In the short term, we’ve implemented a number of customer incentives such as promotional rates for ParkPlus cellphone account holders or offering discounts at select locations for those who use our MyParking App to pay for their parking session.
In the medium to long term, we’re looking at partnering with local businesses with strategies like targeted marketing so that we can work together to help encourage people to come downtown and support businesses.
We believe that if we can make it convenient for people to come downtown they will do so, and that in turn is the small part we can play in encouraging them to support local businesses.
What are your growth plans?
Furtado: The only immediate plan we have for growth is the 9th Avenue Parkade in the East Village, which is set to open in 2020. We recently broke ground on that project with our partners the Calgary Municipal Land Corp. and Platform.
When complete, this facility will be a first for Calgary in that it’s a parkade, yes, but it will also be home to an innovation centre. It’s also unique in that the structure, if needed at some point in the future, could be readily converted into commercial or residential space.
It’s pretty exciting to be part of something new, a different spin on the traditional stand-alone parking structures that are common in our industry.
Aside from that, we have a pretty finite inventory of parking but are always looking at how we can partner with other businesses and venues throughout our city to support their parking needs. We believe we can offer a good value proposition to businesses through the ParkPlus System by making their paid parking operations efficient, profitable and easy for their customers to use.
What have you done as an organization over the years to improve your public image?
Furtado: People are pretty passionate when it comes to parking. While some people are neutral in their opinion of us, most people usually fall into one of two categories – either they like us or they don’t.
We know we have a role to play in keeping our roadways safe, enabling traffic flow and providing fair and equitable access to curbside space in the downtown, and sometimes people forget we’re just doing our job.
We essentially generate revenue in two ways: through those who park legally and pay, and through those who don’t park legally and/or pay and end up getting a parking ticket. People basically self-select if they fall into one of these categories.
Parking is a pretty unique business and on a given day we try to serve our customers within a complex set of sometimes changing constraints. Everything from policy, politics, pricing, competition, supply and demand, and even the weather can influence our customers day to day.
We strive to run our business with both our heads and our hearts and do our best to treat everyone equally and fairly.
We’re strong supporters of local charities and many of our staff volunteer their personal time with organizations that try and make a difference for Calgarians. Highlights of these efforts can be found in our annual Report to the Community at reporttothecommunity.com.
At the end of the day, it’s about improving our public image through interactions with people one person at a time. I’m pretty proud of our team because they understand this and approach every conversation or experience with the public with this opportunity in mind.
– Mario Toneguzzi