After years of parking free, Rehoboth Beach employees who ride the DART bus into town will now have to pay $1.
The price to park and ride for city employees has been set at $4, up from $3. The city has traditionally paid the $3 cost, but city officials raised concerns that DART's $1 increase would break the city’s budget, which was approved March 15.
City Manager Greg Ferrese said last year, the city paid $72,000 to allow 2,400 employees to park. The city budgeted $71,000 for employee parking in this year’s budget. Ferrese said a $1 increase would have cost the city an additional $24,000.
In a compromise, brokered in part by the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, the city will continue to subsidize employee parking. The city will pay $3 per day, while workers will now pay $1 at the Park and Ride.
Chamber President and CEO Carol Everhart said the chamber got involved after a March 28 public meeting where downtown businesses raised concerns about the increases. She said city officials were unaware of the price rise when the budget was approved.
After discussions among the chamber, DART and city officials, a compromise was reached. DART will get its additional revenue, while the city will maintain its budget and continue to pay for employees to park.
“We’re happy with that,” Ferrese said.
“I thought it was a good compromise,” Everhart said.
Ferrese said the city subsidizes employee parking at the Park and Ride to encourage them to park there and ease the strain on the city’s parking system.
“It’s very successful. The program works,” he said.
In addition to the price increase for Rehoboth employees, the cost for everyone will go up by $1 from $7 to $8. City workers receive stickers with their license plate numbers that must be visibly placed on their car.
DART spokeswoman Julie Theyerl said the new rates would take effect Thursday, May 23. Theyerl said the Park and Ride rates have not been raised since 2003, when the rates went from $5 to $7.
DART’s operating costs have increased from $558,000 in 2003 to $835,000 in 2012, she said. Operating costs include overhead, such as salaries, utilities and opening and closing the facility, and direct costs such as operator salaries, parts and gas, Theyerl said. In addition, she said, ridership has increased from 226,000 in 2003 to 375,000 in 2012.