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Motorcycles, a City’s Attitude, Live From IPI

John Van Horn

On motorcycle parking – No parking is free, no matter how small. If you want to use parking as a vehicle of social change (free parking for motorcycles so more will ride motorcycles and use less gas), so be it. However, that seldom works. What works is greed and the free market.

If you want people to buy a hybrid, wait until gas hits $3.75 a gallon and you will see the sales skyrocket (as is happening now). If you want to keep cars out of downtown, raise the price of parking so people will think twice about carpooling, taking the bus, or walking the two blocks from their house to the store.

Motorcycles should pay less to park, because they take up less space. But that doesn’t mean they should ride for free. Hell, some motorcycles cost more than my car and are so tricked out that, with a couple of linear feet of steel, they would be a car. They take the space; they should pay for that space.

And I still say that we should simply tell motorcycle riders to pay for their parking at the P and D and then take the receipt with them. If they see the parking officer, show him the receipt. If they don’t, and get a ticket, send the receipt along with the ticket and if the timing checks out, it will be voided.

What’s the big deal? My guess is that only about 10 percent of the motorcycles will be ticketed anyway.

There’s an article in April’s PT about how cities can blow years of good PR about parking with one sentence. The city of Barrie, Canada, did so. The City Council bowed to pressure to remove parking fees on nights and weekends, then said:

“The intention is to change our proposed parking regime, to simplify it. By removing evening parking charges and replacing it with an increase sooner, we are simplifying it. We will not have any Saturday charges or any evening parking charges. What we will do is bring the increase sooner than planned to offset that loss.”

OK, here’s what happened. The City Council dropped weekend parking rates. It then discovered how much money the city would be losing and decided to add night rates (now free) to cover the loss. The businesses complained, so then the City Council decided to return to free parking in the evenings, but raise the rates during the day to cover the lost revenue.

What the city of Barrie has done is simply confirmed what everyone knows. Parking fees have nothing to do with merchants, parking availability, convenience for patrons or – gasp! – a free market approach to parking. They are, quite simply, a tax – a way to garner revenues for the general fund. Parking fees don’t even go to provide services for those in the places where they were collected, but simply pay for city expenses.

What if the City Council had said the following?

Parking is a valuable resource in our fair city. Your elected officials take seriously the protection of that resource. Just as we provide crossing guards to protect our children and rangers to protect our parklands, we provide officers that ensure our parking resources are used properly.

After considerable deliberation, the city has decided to change the way that we fund our parking and related resources. We are taking a number of steps.

First, we are removing on-street parking charges for nights, holidays and weekends.

Second, we are raising charges for daytime use of the parking spaces.

We are using the money generated by parking to pay the costs to adjudicating and protecting that valuable resource.

Fourth, any monies left over after those direct costs are paid will be returned to the areas from which it was collected. It will be specifically used for local neighborhood projects, including streets, streetscapes, infrastructure, and in the case of business areas, promotional activities for the business communities in general.

Fifth, the parking resource staff is being given new training and will be able to provide CPR, directions for visitors and information about local areas of interest, and will be in constant contact with local police to assist in security and safety in the neighborhoods.

Sixth, working with local businesses and residents, we will be reviewing all parking charges on an ongoing basis to ensure that parking is available in our downtown areas. Our goal is to make it convenient for longer-term parkers (those who work in local businesses, for instance) to park in off-street lots and garages and to make it easy for those visiting local merchants to find places to quickly and easily park.

We want to lower “cruising” time while people look for convenient parking, make it easier to pay for parking charges, and ensure that the local business areas are easy to use and visit. Barrie residents should look to our parking resource staff as a link between themselves and the many services, public and private, our city has to offer.

Plus, this is an opportunity for those who drive to our business and residential areas to provide for the ongoing maintenance of the parking resources they use. It’s a wonderful win-win for local businesses, residents, visitors and your city government. We invite all Barrie residents to help us maintain and protect this valuable community parking resource.

Instead, the local government simply told its constituents that parking is just another revenue generator. And as an industry, we are at the bottom of the heap, again. At least with trash collection, they can see the results.

If Barrie had taken the above approach, my guess is that the local merchants would be back in a few months asking that night and weekend parking charges be instituted. They also would be working with the parking resource staff to ensure that everyone is paying. After all, the money would be coming right back to them in the form of civic improvements and the like.

Parking is ever-changing and must be fluid to meet changing requirements of drivers, residents and businesses. If a 12-screen multiplex opened up downtown, or even a large restaurant, the parking dynamics in the area would change.

Just a few Shoupista words for consideration: You don’t have to do all this at once, and the political will it takes to do it is great. However, the upside potential is great. If the downtown becomes a bustling hive of mercantile splendor, think of all the sales and property tax revenue the city will get. It will far outweigh any loss in parking income.

The IPI is holding its annual bash this month in Tampa. It promises to be an extravaganza of the first order. We are going to do something a bit different. If you can’t make the show, drop by PT’s web site. We will be netcasting (video) from the show and I will be blogging live at www.parkingtoday.com. Attend the IPI conference without leaving your computer.

Article Abstract from May, 2007




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