The Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees should increase the fees it charges the owners of private parking lots and to hotels that run shuttles to cruise-ship terminals.
The Port of Galveston ought to charge fair fees. “Fair” means the rates that protect the public’s investment in the port, while allowing private enterprise to compete to provide services at the public port.
Today, the public’s interests need attention.
For years, wharves trustees have contended that private parking lots are able to undercut the parking lots that generate revenue for the port.
The public port has to pay millions to maintain the docks, the terminals and the related infrastructure.
The private parking lots don’t have to pay for any of that, so they have the advantage in a highly competitive business.
The trustees, who are responsible for protecting the public’s interest, should set fees on private operators that allow them to pay their fair share of those infrastructure costs.
One elegantly simple solution is to count parking spaces to determine market share.
The port did and figures it has 64 percent of the spaces.
Therefore, you’d expect private parking lots, which have 36 percent market share, to shoulder 36 percent of the costs of cruise terminal operations.
But they don’t.
Fees would more than double to get to that level.
Private companies can be expected to howl if fees rise that sharply. But they should spare the public the outrage.
When the wharves board meets Dec. 19 to discuss the fees, private operators should come with an explanation of why this proposal to allocate costs is unfair or they should resign themselves to paying up.
The trustees, meanwhile, deserve some public support for the idea that their first concern is the public’s interest.
The port has no tax support and it has about $50 million in debt, which was taken on largely to build the cruise ship business.
The wharves board hasn’t raised these fees since 2006.
The public port needs a fair share of the parking revenue to retire that debt.