GALVESTON — The Port of Galveston’s governing board is expected to consider Monday whether to increase fees it charges owners of private parking lots and hotels who shuttle passengers to cruise-ship terminals.
The Wharves Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the measure at its regular monthly meeting. If history is an indicator, the meeting likely will be attended by displeased parking lot owners.
The fee increase has been a hot topic for months, and the board has several times delayed taking action.
The port, which isn’t supported by taxes, has invested many millions of dollars to attract and keep cruise ships and argues private parking lots, which have profited from those investments, should help cover related expenses such as security and traffic control, infrastructure and channel dredging costs.
The port also must service about $50 million in debt and is expected to take on more to accommodate its growing cruise operations.
But private lot owners have argued they pay more than their fair share and some said they’re already paying too much in port access fees.
The port and private lot owners compete for cruise-ship passengers to park in their lots.
The public port owns 2,750 parking spaces. Its private competitors own about 800.
The port and private owners ferry passengers from their lots to the cruise ship terminals by shuttle buses.
In 2003, when private lots began proliferating on the island, the port began charging access fees, assessing vans and shuttles each time they dropped off passengers at a cruise ship terminal.
The move angered hoteliers and lot owners. In 2006, the port changed the fee structure. For private lots, the port assesses a shuttle fee of $8 a month per parking space.
That rate structure allows parking lot owners to better anticipate monthly expenses, Port Director Michael Mierzwa has said.
The port charges hotel shuttle buses $10 a trip. Large coach buses are assessed a $50 access fee.
The port hasn’t raised rates since 2006.
A port team, created at the behest of the wharves board, last year surveyed policies at other ports and airports and conducted an assessment of fees, including application and renewal fees.
In late November, the study team recommended the board consider raising access rates for hotel shuttles to $11.43 a trip from $10.
The study team also recommended raising rates to private parking lots to $9.14 per space from $8.
The team based the rate hike proposal on changes in the Consumer Price Index since 2006. The index measures variations in prices paid by consumers for typical retail goods and other items.
But Wharves Board Chairman Edward Walsh III argued the staff’s proposed increase didn’t help meet the goal of having private lots shoulder their share of operational costs. After that, there were some talks of nearly doubling the fees for hotel shuttles and private parking lot owners.
Mierzwa on Friday, however, declined to divulge what rates staff would recommend to the wharves board until the meeting on Monday.
What: Wharves Board of Trustees meeting
When: 9:05 a.m. Monday.
Where: Eighth floor of Shearn Moody Plaza, 123 25th St., in Galveston