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HCoFP: chapters 15-18

Section 1 was on the horrors of free parking in general, and alternatives like in-lieu fees or developer-paid transit passes; Section 2 was largely about the costs of cruising for curb parking. Section 3 is called "Cashing in on curb parking".

Chap 15. "Buying time at the curb".
"Free parking is like rent control for cars." It's not a perfect analogy -- rents are controlled, while parking is oversupplied or underpriced -- but it's catchy and similar. Of course, some of my readers still think rent control is a good idea. Anyway, this chapter is about technological solutions to charging market prices for curbside parking, while the next two chapters are about political solutions. He describes the history of the parking meter -- 1935, Oklahoma City, and highly successful. "Within a few days other businesses were asking for meters on their streets." "It stimulated a huge growth in the assessed valuation of downtown commercial property." Price hasn't changed much: 5 cents in 1935 is 65 cents in 2004. Cambridge charges but $1/hour, downtown Boston $1.25/hour.

He notes the purpose: not just, nor even primarily, raising money, but encouraging efficient use and high turnover of high-demand spaces. A recurrent theme of the chapter is that free parking is often less valuable than convenient parking despite the fears of many businessmen. Of course, with such low meter rates, people would often park all day if they could, so time limits get added on, and enforcers to try to enforce that... The part of Boston in which I found $1.25/hour (quarter per 12 minutes) curbside, has a garage charging $6 for 30 minutes, $20 for an hour, $30 for all day.

New parking meter technology, several of which are used in Aspen Colorado:

pay-and-display multispace meters: pay at a machine, put it in your car. Doesn't need exact change. Smart machines vary prices by demand. Cheaper than 20-30 meters. With smart cards, residents can get cheaper rates if policy wants that. Parking space lines can be eliminated, allowing more compact cars to be parked.

pay-by-space multispace meters: Numbered spaces, one of which you pay for. Can overpay then get a refund for unused time. Meters could be networked, so you could extend time from a more distant meter.

person in-vehicle meters: Europe, Arlington Virginia, Aspen. An in-car meter you activate with a smart card and display for meter maids to see. Pay for exact time used, no overage. Pay-by-minute encourages faster turnover, vs. "I still have 15 minutes left."

phone payment: Another European system. Park, call, enter license plate and parking zone, call again when you're ready to leave. No extra tech needed, get charged for time used, no meter anxiety.

satellite payment: experimental system to charge road tolls and parking charges by in-car GPS units.

In chapter 17 he mentions a low-tech alternative for daily non-resident parking: hang tags you scratch the date off of.

Chap 16, "Turning small change into big changes". Largely about parking benefit districts, a love-child of parking permit districts and business improvement districts. Instead of parking revenue going to the city, reserve it for local neighborhood improvements, like fixing or cleaning sidewalks, planting trees, or whatever collective services the businesses in a BID might like. He details how this worked out really well in Old Pasadena, turning a seedy neighborhood into a thriving pedestrian business district -- one in which the mall with free parking ended up being torn down and replaced with more old-fashioned buildings. By contrast, Westwood Village stuck to conventional parking policies and has gone downhill, with crumbling sidewalks and alleys; he provides 20 years of contrasting newspaper headlines: "Parking meters saved Old Pasadena" and "Westwood, Stuck On Idle". 20 years ago, people drove 20 miles from Pasadena to Westwood, now they go the other way. Some San Diego districts get detailed as well.

Chap 17, "Taxing foreigners living abroad." More on the politics of parking benefit districts, and how people are more likely to support charges if they see the benefits directly. Also if the charges are paid by non-residents, as with selling some non-resident permits for a neighborhood. Re-using permit districts is easy, but he suggests going down to the block level, to really localize decisions; might also increase community spirit, or at least get people to meet their neighbors, to decide on how to use the money. He suggests that the revenues from fairly cheap parking charges could pay to fix a block's sidewalks in a single year. Residents might feel more friendly to development if they see it not as competing for parking spaces but as increasing the revenue they get from visitors.

Chapter 18: "Let prices do the planning". A bunch of math, and arguing markets are awesome. Which they are. Fairly obvious stuff like how solo drivers parking a long time will be willing to walk further for cheap parking, vs. carpoolers parking for a short time for whom high rates right where they want to go aren't a big deal. Also the failure of banning downtown curb parking in 1920 LA (repealed after 19 days), the success of banning it in Chicago's Loop, and how both extremes of banned parking and free parking are poor compared to right-priced parking.

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Damien Sullivan

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