The Port of Galveston owns 2,750 parking spaces that serve cruise ship passengers in lots such as the ones above. But the port charges private lots and shuttle buses fees to deliver cruise passengers to the terminals. The board on Monday will consider increasing the fees, a move that is expected to raise the hackles of private parking lot owners.

File photo by JENNIFER REYNOLDS

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

 

 

Contact reporter Laura Elder at 409-683-5248 or laura.elder@galvnews.com.

(6) comments

Richard Moore
Richard Moore

So let us parse the purported rational the Port is using for this increase:
“…private parking lots, which have profited from those investments, should help cover related expenses…”
Would the Wharves Board, using this logic, establish a “Shopping Bag Fee” to assess the downtown merchants based upon shopping bags passengers might bring into the terminal?

“…private parking lots, ….should help cover related expenses such as …infrastructure and channel dredging costs…”
This also is “wrong headed thinking”. The Port needs to develop a fee structure for its primary business which covers it’s infrastructure costs. Operating expenses also need to be appropriate. This is the “Core Business” of the Port – not parking, which can be provided by the private sector.

An assessment that can be equitably applied to all parking vans (including POG) to help cover the cost of “... security and traffic control,…” is probably appropriate

Matt Coulson

Exactly right.

Andy Aycoth

I think all the merchants on the Strand or restaurants within a one mile radius should pay a fee.
Also how about any companies that service the ships ?
They all profit ! It is like a tax, where does it stop ?
I will tell you when it stops when there are no more business left because they moved on .

Joel Martin

If there were no cruise ships then there would be no need for private lots and a lot less shoppers downtown and fewer motel patrons also.

Donnie Kelemen

Why not just put a toll booth on the causeway and only charge people going on a cruise?

PD Hyatt

Why do some people think that they have to tax EVERYTHING that moves? When is enough taxation, enough.... The rust belt taxed everything till the companies moved.... Is that what Wharf Trustees want? Do they want to lose ALL cruise ships to Houston and elsewhere???? Keep taxing and rasing the prices and see what happens....

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