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.

What’s fair?

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.

(5) comments

Richard Moore
Richard Moore

This is an incredibly ridiculous endorsement:
“Therefore, you’d expect private parking lots, which have 36 percent market share, to shoulder 36 percent of the costs of cruise terminal operations.”

Unfortunately, the Port has become overly reliant upon “parking revenues” generated by an activity (parking) which clearly is not their core business. Public entities do strange things when they develop businesses which are tangential to their core business and then try to justify “stifling” any competition in that non-core business.

Tell me rather you would advocate that these “Private” parking operators should have any say in how the terminal operations are run if they were paying 36% of the cost of operations?

The logic of the wharves Board in this instance is flawed – and could be asserted upon any private business which depends upon the Cruise activity.

This access fee would make much more sense if it were based upon a recovery of the costs for the areas actually accessed by these operators – the streets and ramps in front of the terminals. Assess cruise lines and the cruisers for access to the balance of the cruise terminals.

Johann Ramirez

I don't understand this idea at all: "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."

Is parking revenue the only revenue that the port gets for cruise terminal operations?

Raymond Lewis

Good points Mr. Moore. And that's not to say yah or nay on the fee hike. The wharves board clearly has not provided a substantive justification. To do so would risk their explaining why this port is so dependent on parking revenue for its bottom line.

Michael Culpepper

I agree completely with mr Moore on this one.

The bulk of the income to offset operational expenses should come from port tariffs and fees paid by cruise lines and their passengers.

Parking is parking and doesn't have a whole lot to do with cruise terminal operations.

If you don't believe that then what would happen if passengers are dropped off at the new transit terminal ( if ot is ever finished). and walk across the skywalk?

Mike Leahy

It does seem an odd sense of shared benefit and burden. If private parking companies should fairly pay their 36% of costs of port operations, then I guess they should have 36% of decision-making responsibility too? Where does that get us? Co-Port Directors, one employed by the Port / Wharves Board and the other employed by Harry's Pretty Good Cruise Parking, Inc.?

Maybe same co-positions for dual cruise terminal managers? Ask Bubba what he thinks about that idea! Maybe a couple of seats on the Wharves Board reserved for private parking lot owners, too...

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