Magazine

Point of View

Escondido, Baker Street and Arizona …

John Van Horn

The city of Escondido, CA, home of Parking Today staffer Pat Restivo, is considering a ban on overnight street parking. Their goal is to reduce the number of families living in houses in the area.

The idea is that if you can’t park your car on the street, and there is no room in the driveway or garage, you will go somewhere else to live. HUH. They say illegal immigrants are flooding homes in some areas, living with relatives, and if they couldn’t park there, they would move somewhere else.

Let’s see – many families are living in single-family dwellings. They are living there illegally. They are in fact in the country illegally. So how do we solve this problem? Simple – we take away their parking space. Oh, please.

If you don’t have the political courage to enforce the laws you currently have, I can’t see how making a new one will help.

Now if you decide you want to have cleaner streets, less congestion, a beautiful Menlo Park-like atmosphere in your community, and you think that not having people park on the streets overnight would do that, then so be it. But don’t blame the problem on illegal immigration.

I think a much better way to solve the problem is to charge for on-street parking. Give each house a permit to put one car on the street, then charge for all others. Generate money; let people make the economic decision if they want to live where they have to pay to park their cars.

Maybe a lot of driveways and garages will be cleaned out if the occupants realize that the junk in place of their vehicles was costing them a lot each month. Think of all the yard sales that would crop up to get the places cleared out. Then the cars would be off the street and in the garages. If not, pay or be towed.

Certainly makes better sense in a town like Escondido than a sweeping regulation to clear the streets. Parking is a valuable resource that should be nurtured by cities, not destroyed.

This is a quality of life issue, and the money generated could be used in the neighborhoods for parks, sidewalks, better law enforcement, etc. etc. etc. Let the people who use the resource pay for it, and pay to protect and preserve it.

***

“It’s not only the fact that a car overstays its time at a meter, it’s the fact that it probably is unregistered, has not paid its road taxes, and doesn’t meet minimum safety standards. In my opinion, that car should be treated like any other piece of trash on the street – picked up and disposed of.”

Over cokes and chips in a pizza parlor near Baker Street Tube Station, a senior parking official in the UK was railing on the problems of enforcement. He asked that he not be identified as his strong opinions might not be taken too kindly back at his office.

“There’s the story of the woman who drove a first-class Range Rover. She thought that the sun shined out of her ear and figured that she didn’t have to pay the tickets. She had about $5,000 in tickets, and with penalties and other fines, she owed about $15,000. One day she parked her car on the street and left on a vacation.

“While she was gone, the local police found the car, compared it with their records, and towed and sold it. When she returned, she found a check for $6,000 in the mail and a note from the local city government. It informed her that they had picked up her $70,000 vehicle, sold it for $21,000, paid her fees and returned the difference to her.”

Now that’s how everyone should be treated, the UK parking official says. Get the trash off the street, collect the money. If people don’t pay their registration fees or their parking tickets, they should pay the price. Unregistered or untaxed vehicles, or vehicles that have unpaid parking fines, are simply large metal boxes and should be treated like any other refuse found on the street.

“We British are just too nice,” he said. “Most see parking laws (and this includes many police) as suggestions, not legally binding. I know you have the problem with uncollected fines in the States; we have it here, too. My approach, the Range Rover approach, would go a long way to making that problem go away.”

As we walked back to my digs, we passed a number of traffic wardens sort of milling about, smoking and talking. “See, they have no pride. You would never see a London policeman smoking in uniform. They should be out doing their jobs, not goofing off.”

When we parted, he said he was going back to his office and become “nice” again.

***

Oh, spare me – A school district in Arizona is adding a “fee” to students’ activity charges for parking. $5 a year. Can you believe it? They have leased space from local churches for the parking lot, will grade it, gravel it and put in spaces. They are going to number them so each student has an assigned space. They will then patrol the lot to enforce the rules. I doubt seriously if 50 cents a month per space will cover their costs.

But that’s not my biggest concern. Schools are supposed to teach our children. A good lesson would be what it costs to drive a car. They already pay for gas, insurance, maintenance, and the car itself, why shouldn’t they pay an appropriate amount for parking?

What I would do is charge them $20 a month to park on the lot. If they didn’t want to pay it, let them find somewhere cheaper to park. Collect the $20 each month ($15 if they pay quarterly). Give them a lesson in economics and teach them how to save, budget and the like.

Also, that way the school will have enough money to actually pay for the service they are providing the students.

What a concept.

Article Abstract from June, 2007




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