Port Canaveral Pulls A Crazy Ivan and Recinds June Fee Increases [UPDATED]

The Canaveral Port Authority held a special meeting on July 3, 2012, as a follow up to the June 20th meeting to discuss Parking and Transportation issues at the Port.

The June Meeting

During the June 20, 2012 meeting (video & agenda), the board discussed a continued loss in their lucrative parking revenue stream which accounts for 48 percent of the Port’s profits.  The port uses the parking revenue for investments and to pay off debt.  Michele Krakowski of Lumin Advisors (see video below), the Port’s parking consultant, warned the port commissioners in her presentation that the area parking vendors are really cutting into potential profits.  In October of 2011, the going rate for offsite parking was $7.99 which has since dropped to a low of $5.49 this June.

The current parking situation at the port [compares to] a movie theater owner allowing someone to sell cheap popcorn and soda just outside the theater and letting theater-goers bring the outside refreshments into the movie.
Michele Krakowski Lumin Advisors

Port Canaveral Parking Garage PanoramaSo far this year, the number of voyages (+9%) and passenger volume (+12%) are up; however, parking volume dropped (-15%) over the same period. On a typical day, only 47% of the parking spot are being used.  It is a clear indication that cruisers are choosing the much cheaper offsite options, than the Port’s $15/day rate.

By the way, it is now $15 per day, not night as it had been. For example, you pay $120 for a 7-night cruise which with simple math is 8 days. We found this out the hard way in October 2011 when we were leaving the port after our cruise prepared to pay $105, as had been the norm. I think it is safe to say this extra $15 per cruise has contributed to the decreased parking volume. Some offsite lots can save families up to $80 on a 7-night cruise and in this economy, that is a significant amount of money and depending on where you are driving from that alone could pay for your gas.

Krakowski’s presentation did not mention that in 2012, the [Disney_Fantasy] began sailing from Port Canaveral essentially to bring up the maximum number of cruise passengers by 1300 per Disney Cruise. A considerable amount of Disney Cruisers fly into Orlando and utilize Disney’s ground transfers from MCO, or a Walt Disney World resort. The increased size alone of the [Disney_Dream] and [Disney_Fantasy] will attribute to the increased passenger numbers this year. This would fall in line with the increased passenger counts and lower parking volume.

Krakowski’s provided the board a drastic recommendation, with a proposal for the port to revoke all permits from existing parking providers, thus eliminating the port’s competition. The board determined it would need more time to consider all the options.  The board did pass a 3-2 vote on a plan to stop issuing new permits to offsite parking providers such as remote lots and hotels who offer a free shuttle service to the port and charge a $50 trip fee for shuttles effective October 1, 2012.  Currently, shuttles have been paying between $2.50 and $15 per trip.

Krakowski made a stretch when stating, “[the] Public views off site parking providers as part of the Port and expects the same level of customer service as the Port.”  I do not think this is true.  People are looking for alternative to the Port parking because of the $15/day fee, not because they think it is one in the same.  Recently, I pointed out the pros and cons of parking at the port along with area alternatives which can save you a bundle.

 The July Meeting

The June decision to increase the fee for offsite parking vendors to $50 did not go over well, and as a result it was standing room only for the special meeting (video & agenda) the day before Independence Day.  This issue along with other mismanagement of funds almost cost the port’s CEO, J. Stanley Payne, his job which was saved by one vote.  Payne commissioned Krakowski, at $185/hr, to recommend a plan of action to recoup revenue lost to offsite parking vendors.  Vice Chair Tom Weinberg and Port Secretary & Treasurer Jerry Allender were not pleased that they were not given an advanced copy of the report before the June 20th meeting.

As oftentimes happens, this board was ambushed with misinformation and asked to make some significant policy decisions without the benefit of any advance information or documentation that would enable us to have any thoughtful discourse or meaningful dialogue
Tom Weinberg, Canaveral Port Authority Vice Chairman

The commission voted unanimously to rescind the $50/trip fee for shuttle operators, and approved the forming of a task force comprised of parking lot operators, hotel owners, transportation company officials, and port staff to draft come up with some ideas that are in the interest of all parties involved.  The commission also rescinded a previous measure that would have relocated shuttle pickup up locations further from the terminals.  The board decided to keep a band-aid in place by keeping the moratorioum on the issuing new permits, thus eliminating any new competition and further cutting into the Port’s revenue.

Moving Forward

Port Canaveral views parking as a core business and depends on this revenue to help pay for the 74 million dollars in bonds it has taken in the last 5 years. In fact, parking generates more profit than the ship business.  In this case of supply and demand, the offsite businesses are aggressively pricing and advertising; what is Port Canaveral doing???

Maybe instead of cutting out the competition, the Port Authority should look in the mirror and see what they can do lure cruisers to their parking lots and garages, aside from the convenience. If the statistics’ in Krakowski’s proposal are accurate, I think the consumers have spoken 53% to 47% that cost is more important than the convenience!

UPDATE: Advisory Committee Meeting

The 10 member advisory committee had their first meeting on July 24, 2012 and selected Tom Williamson as the committee chairman.  Mr Williamson operates three Cocoa Beach-area hotels and has been a vocal opponent of the Port Authority’s previous plan to increase rates.  The committee states that it’s purpose is not to protect the interest of any particular party, but to reach the highest level of customer service as possible.

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