Imagine you are one of those people who will drive to Safeway (or Albertsons or Cosco or Wallmart) to pick up just a quart of milk for the next morning's breakfast or coffee, or just a dozen eggs, or that bottle of whatever you forgot to get earlier in the week. There are probably at least three good reason to drive:
- The store is too far or unsafe to walk or bicycle.
- The drive is easy and the parking is plenty.
- The bus doesn't exist or doesn't run frequently enough to take.
Now imagine you don't mind parking at a parking meter. That is if there is sufficient time available and the cost is nominal. I know you would look for a meter with time already on it. I know you hate meters because the cost of a ticket is too high. But we both recognize that there are other common ways you already pay for parking. In large parking structures, you sometime take a token when you drive in and pay based on the time parked when you drive out. And at some special events, you pay a flat fee when you first park and nothing when you exit.
Next imagine you are about to drive to pick up those eggs. But this time you know ahead of time that the parking at the grocery store is not free. If the charge were 10 cents to park, you might become incensed that you have to pay anything at all to park. But, if the cost is low would you mind paying it to pick up eggs? So the question for this exercise is how much is fair to charge for parking to discourage frivolous driving? If you needed just eggs, you might do without rather than pay 50 cents, or 1 dollar, or 5 dollars to park. What is the correct number?
Before we go on with this exercise, recall that new parking meters are "smart". That means:
- They can change the rate they charge based on parking demand.
- They can be paid with charge cards and special discount cards for the disabled or poor.
- They can automatically increase the cost the longer you stay parked.
- They can be paid on your behalf as by a supermarket or other business.
- They can be looked up on a website to see if any parking is available.
Why Are We Doing This Exercise?
Before you ask that, consider once again the three reasons to drive:
- The store is too far or unsafe to walk, or too far or unsafe to bicycle. This will be the case in low density areas. Suburbs rather than cities. In cities, stores are more often than not within easy access to many who don't need to drive. In Suburbs, it is not that unusual for a grocery store to be four or five miles away. Much too far to walk, and almost too far to ride a bike.
- The drive is easy and the parking is plenty. Now we need to add that the parking must also be free. That cost is critical to understanding why people drive so much to shop. Yet we have all driven to a store just before a holiday or before some event or after some disaster and not been able to park because the parking lot was full with other cars prowling it to find a space. So sufficient parking is also necessary.
- The bus doesn't exist or doesn't run frequently enough to take.The lack of a bus, or low frequency buses is caused by lack of funds. If parking fees were not used to improve parks and not used to build new schools, and were instead used to improve public transit, well then parking fees could help to solve this last problem.
How Would Parking Meters Help?
If a suburban area had 100 stores and those stores averaged 50 parking spaces each and if each space charged an average of 10 cents per hour and each space were only occupied 4 hours per day on average, then that would create $60,000 a month for public transit. Now consider that a small town may have only 100 stores, whereas a medium sized town might have 500 stores. That would create $600,000 per month for public transit. And if the rate were $1.00 instead of 10 cents, that would create $6,000,000 per month for public transit.
Now to be fair, it would not help to meter private parking lots if there was no charge to park on its neighboring streets. If parking lots were not free and surrounding street parking was free, the average driver would look for street parking whenever shopping, searching residential streets for free parking along with other cars and frustrated drivers, all creating risk to children, bicyclists, and the elderly.
So you would have to put smart meters on streets bordering stores. Perhaps for a few blocks out from each store.
But why stop there? Why should parking anywhere be free?
When you park in your own garage or driveway that seems free, but it is not. Your driveway and garage are not free because its cost is computed into your mortgage and property taxes.
So what are the considerations surrounding parking meters to regulate all on-street and business parking?
- Should it be cheaper to park the nearer a parking meter is to a transit stop?
- Should parking be more expensive the closer it is to an on-demand location like a store, or tavern, or theater?
- Should the disabled be given free parking always, or just discounted parking?
- Should the poor be given discounted parking or perhaps free parking for special circumstances?
- Should fire, police and ambulances park for free anywhere they need to when in service?
- Should city officials (the mayor perhaps) park for free?
- Should street fairs have to reserve and pay for all the parking revenue that would be lost to close a street?
- Should public off-street parking also have parking meters, such as parks and beach parking and city owned parking lots?
- Should church parking lots be free? Should all not-for-profit business parking lots be free?
- Should state and county owned roads be exempt?
- Should it be a crime to over park? Or should over parking be just a civil matter? Perhaps a mixture of the two? A civil matter until it becomes habitual?
- Should the city issue parking cards? Smart cards for use in smart meters, that you can refill on-line? Should those smart cards also be good on public transit?
- Should coin meters be used because they are 1/4th the cost of smart meters? But, on the down side, their hourly rate must be manually reset, making them less attractive for intelligently designed parking.
- Transit buses at bus stops should stop for free, but should other third-party buses pay for using those same stops?
- Should there be free taxi-zones, or free Uber-zones? Or should taxi's get discounted parking?
This post was originally published on Linkedin.com