Feds allow city to rent stalls in nearly-empty parking garage - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Feds allow city to rent out stalls in nearly-empty new parking garage

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Nearly a year and a half after the city opened a $19 million parking garage, it has received permission from the federal government to allow hundreds of city employees to park in the nearly-empty facility.

The five-story parking garage is located along King Street on top of the Alapai Transit Center. 

It has some nice amenities such as bougainvillea planters, two elevators with glass windows looking outside and great views of downtown and Kakaako from the top floor. 

But the most important thing has been missing: cars. 

Just 34 of the building's 410 parking places were filled at mid morning Thursday. But that's finally going to change. 

"Within one to two months, we hope to have employees that are on a waiting list for parking in this facility, generating funds for the bus transportation fund," said Mike Formby the city transportation director. 

Because the federal government gave the city the money to buy the Alapai property for a transit center in the 1980s, the feds restricted its use to transit and traffic-related activities. 

So since the building opened in May 2012, the city has not rented parking stalls there to any city employees other than a small number of police dispatchers who work directly on traffic problems. 

Formby said his staff started working on the problem just one month after Mayor Kirk Caldwell took office at the beginning of the year. 

"You know, we started in February asking questions and they came back with a lot of questions," Formby said.  

After going back and forth with staff from the regional administrator of the Federal Transit Administration in San Francisco for months, Formby said he decided to "go to the man at the top, write a simple two-page letter. 

So in July, Formby wrote a letter to Leslie Rogers, the FTA's regional administrator, after Hawaii News Now did two stories about the nearly-empty parking structure. 

"I'm just positive and very pleased that after we wrote the letter, and we talked to you in July about that, that they came back this quickly and said 'yes,'" said Formby.

The Federal Transit Administration gave the city permission just two weeks ago to begin renting out the stalls to city employees as long as the money goes to bus transit. 

The city estimates it can collect at least $287,000 a year in parking revenues when the garage is full, enough money to operate a city bus for one year or expand some bus routes.  City civil service employees pay $60 a month for unreserved parking spaces and $75 for assigned spaces.  

It's also good news for city employees since there's a 200-person waiting list for parking spaces at the Fasi Municipal Building across the street.  Some of them have been on that list for as long as four and a half years. 

"We appreciate the patience of the city employees who have been on a list for a long time and the public, who have looked at this facility and noticed that it's been vacant," Formby said. 

This development also means fewer city employees will have to rent spaces at the Blaisdell Center parking structure, seven blocks from City Hall grounds.  Some of them catch the bus from the Blaisdell to the municipal building and City Hall. 

Officials estimate it will take one to two months to rent out 100 stalls to police employees and the remaining 299 spots to other city employees. 

That's because city officials have to consult with unions representing the employees to assure fairness in choosing who gets the coveted parking spots. 

"They(the unions) want to make sure that our policies for putting employees in here are fair and equitable and we would do nothing but institute fair and equitable policies," Formby said. 

The city spends about $112,000 a year to maintain the building, paying for elevator service, electricity and security.  Those costs are on top of the $1.3 million annual mortgage for construction of the parking garage, payments that will continue for 25 years.