Pricey Parking Problems in Downtown Lansing

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By Kristen Alberti
Listen Up, Lansing

As Michigan State University junior Emily Malachowski pulls in and out of parking lots and garages in Downtown Lansing searching for a cheap spot, she can’t help but think to herself how much easier it would have been to just stay home that day.

Downtown Lansing is not only home to the Michigan State Capitol, but also many shops, restaurants, and attractions that keep visitors returning to the city. Although this is so, one very prominent problem is how expensive parking is in the area.

It’s no secret that Downtown has scarce free parking and some pretty outrageous parking prices that are not only hurting Lansing residents, but also Lansing businesses and tourism sites, according to some Lansing business owners.

Cher Kiesel, owner of the Spotted Dog Cafe located on South Washington Square, is in agreement that it’s difficult to park and make deliveries around the streets of Lansing.

“Customers often tell me they had to go around the block several times to find a spot to park because they are unwilling to pull into the ramps on their lunch hour to make a stop of a few minutes to pick up lunch,” said Kiesel.

“Business, I think, is affected in that the lack of free nearby parking causes potential customers to just keep driving, rather than hassle with circling to find a spot, then hassling with the meters,” Kiesel said.

While Lansing does have many politicians and State Capitol employees bustling about, many citizens from the suburbs neighboring Lansing and even students from MSU down the road travel to Lansing, but are discouraged to do so with the outrageous parking costs, according to some MSU students.

“I really do enjoy visiting Lansing, but the hassle of having to make sure I bring at least an extra five or 10 dollars for parking is really frustrating,” Malachowski said. “For that price I’d rather just stay closer to home and save as much money as possible.”

According to the City of Lansing Parking Services Office, in the Downtown parking ramps, the price to park is $1 per half-hour with a $10 maximum per day. VIP parking is 70 cents per half-hour, also with a $10 daily maximum. With that, a lost parking ramp ticket can cost up to two times the daily maximum.

As for parking meters, the City of Lansing Parking Services offer a minimum rate as low as 30 cents per hour while the maximum is $1.20 per hour. The minimum meter capping fee per day can range from $3-$10.

When it comes to special events, the City of Lansing Parking Services charge $6 per day and $12 per space in reserved lots.

No one is looking to spend extra money in places they don’t have to, especially employees trying to get to work.

Kiesel said that about 20 years ago, a few businesses from downtown met with a representative of Mayor David Hollister who served as the Lansing mayor from 1993-2003 to discuss dedicating a parking lot to the employees of downtown businesses. The idea was that these employees could purchase permits at much cheaper prices than visitors have to pay; however, Kiesel said, she’s still waiting to see it happen.

Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA Donald Shoup said cities usually make a big mistake about picking a price for parking because they do so without looking at how many people actually need to park there.

“The right price for curb parking depends on demand,” Shoup said. “A city should try to charge the lowest price in demand and still leave one or two spots available.”

Driving around can also cause a depletion in fuel, an increase in global warming, and the robbery of shopping and theater experiences from customers, according to Shoup.

Security guard Quentin Vanhorn for the South Grand Parking Ramp, located on South Grand Avenue, said he’s not sure why the parking is so expensive, but from what he sees it depends on the area.

“I know they’re trying to push for more carpooling to help the economy and save people time,” said Vanhorn. “However, that’s pretty hard because people have different driving preferences and live different lifestyles.”

Nevertheless, the city has developed some plans to help residents, visitors, and employees of Lansing to get around the pricey parking of the area.

According to, the Merchant Validation Program allows business owners to buy parking passes to offer to their customers and clients for free in any of the city’s parking ramps.

The Value in Parking Card allows short-term visitors to park in any of the city’s parking ramps at discounted hourly rates, said

Monthly permits are available to those who park in ramps every day, and may be the most economical choice for those who do so.

Lastly, to be easier on parkers, the city offers CashKey which is a cashless way to pay for parking on the meters. This card works like a debit card and allows you to put $0.25 into a meter each time you insert the card, taking away from the $25 deposit you make to purchase the key, said If you run out of money you can take your CashKey to the Parking Services Office and add more money to it.

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