Occupancy at the Hill Street parking deck in downtown Champaign “continues to grow,” says administrative services supervisor Stacy Rachel.
I talked to her this morning after seeing that the parking deck set a new record for itself  during the sesquicentennial music festival that shut down the rest of downtown on July 10.
On that Saturday, 915 cars passed through the deck, and 537 used it between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Rachel said only hourly visitors were included in that number, and not permit holders. There were a total 383 spaces available for hourly parking.
Let’s keep in mind that parking is free on Saturdays, this was one of the biggest events ever held in the downtown and some other parking lots were inaccessible during the day.
Each of those vehicles received a validation ticket that will give them free parking next time they visit downtown, too.
Still, “it’s getting much more well used for special event parking,” Rachel said, and the below table, which I stole from the city’s website , shows a general increase from last year to this year.
July 10, 2010
Downtown music festival
June 20, 2009
Taste of Champaign
April 24, 2010
August 15, 2009
Downtown Festival of the Arts 2009
April 23, 2009
But that’s special event parking. What about the other 360 days of the year?
“The permit numbers are actually starting to grow here in the past couple weeks,” Rachel said.
In April, I reported that city officials had reversed their plans for the parking deck  and abandoned their scheduled permit rate increases. Instead, a rate decrease began this month.
Still, not the reason, Rachel said. The city’s parking office did not see a spike in permits following the rate decrease that took effect July 1.
“We’re getting some residential permit holders, and I think they’re moving into M2,” she said.
One of the biggest reasons city officials will cite for lower-than-expected occupancy of the $11.2 million deck is the delay of M2. The May 2009 opening of the deck was planned to coincide with the completion of M2 — and then the economy tanked, residential and retail rentals slowed, and we all know the story from there. The 2008 fire that took down the Metro building across the street from M2 didn’t exactly facilitate its completion, either.
The city still wants to see more though: officials hope occupancy rates next year will increase 30 percent, roughly double the current rate. In the next four to five years, they hope the deck will be, on average, 85 percent occupied.
To put that in perspective, 85 percent occupancy would mean 514 spaces in the 605-space deck would have to be occupied or rented all the time. So, for example, if all the 321 monthly permit spaces were rented (doesn’t mean the cars have to be in the deck), 193 hourly spaces would have to be occupied. Or if all 383 hourly spaces were occupied, 131 permit spaces would have to be rented.
By the way, if you were observant and caught that the total number of spaces I presented in the last paragraph adds up to more than 605, that’s because 99 permit spaces become hourly spaces on nights and weekends.
How often do you use the deck?