The Amateur Parker …
I Want My Free Parking
By Melissa Bean Sterzick
If I am more than an amateur in any specific parking area, it is in on-street parking. That’s because it’s the option offered to me most frequently to date, and the option I choose most frequently – when it’s free.
So I might be something of an expert when it comes to on-street parking, and there are probably many drivers out there who could say the same thing. On-street parking is such a no-brainer that when it occurs without cost or episode or effort, it barely registers as a parking experience.
In my day-to-day life, I park on the street less and less anymore. Now that I have joined the ranks of the property-owning public, I am entitled to two always-reserved private parking spaces in my very own driveway. And if I get rid of three bicycles, a tricycle and a wagon, various Costco-sized bulk food and paper product packages, and my husband’s tool bench, I have another two parking spots in my very own garage – all for the bargain price of a Southern California mortgage.
But since there will be no scraping of snow or frozen brake lines in my ZIP code, unless the Apocalypse is upon us, my garage will continue to be dedicated to miscellaneous storage.
However, in my former days as a beach-city renter, I parked on the street every day. With my little tag on the rearview mirror, I was entitled to any spot I could squeeze into along the two blocks nearest my apartment. I paid a very affordable $20 a year to scavenge for a decent spot.
But it wasn’t the price of the parking that made my life miserable; it was the terms of the parking. If I forgot to hang my tag or move my car on street-cleaning day, I got a $35 ticket.
If I had dinner guests, they were invited with strict instructions to park on the street parallel or depart at 8 p.m. sharp to avoid the same penalty. Needless to say, entertaining was not a simple procedure – there’s nothing like a deadline to pump up a party.
If I had overnight company, I had to accommodate their vehicles by borrowing a neighbor’s extra permit. If I had a large item to unload, I parked in the red zone and looked over my shoulder nervously.
I still park on the street when I go to the beach. If I can find free on-street parking, I take it; if not, I pay the meter and check my watch compulsively for the next few hours. Most of my local grocers, doctors, churches, etc. offer free parking in their lots, so I am spared the search.
Overall, I’d say my life as a parker has improved dramatically since I became a homeowner.
Still, a threat to my days of carefree parking looms darkly in the form of this magazine’s illustrious and opinionated publisher, John Van Horn. Hardly a month passes that he is not advocating paid on-street parking on every residential and commercial street in the country.
I understand the theory that a fee to park in front of my own house would prevent me (or my neighbors) from leaving a rotting old El Camino in my driveway indefinitely. Paid residential parking would put an end to overstuffed garages and five-car families, rusted boats in carports, and an irritation I have recently noticed: the parking of my neighbor’s jalopy in front of my house.
But what JVH must not realize is that his proposal, if carried out, would have a negative effect on the quality of life of every parker involved. Paying for on-street parking in residential areas adds a constant stress to the lives of residents.
Permits mean tickets or the defacement of bumpers. Permits mean annual registration and payment that comes around whether you’re ready or not. Permits mean parking enforcement officers trolling your street every day waiting for you to screw up.
Sure, I’d like to drive down my street with nary a car in sight, but what about the days and nights I have guests? Have you ever driven your own father to the impound lot after his car has been towed on your street? Have you ever had to dash out the front door in your robe, run down the street and move your car for the street cleaner?
I’d much rather put up with the inconveniences of free on-street parking than live with the un-American interference that comes with paid on-street parking. Sure, my neighbors don’t always park on the street the way I want them to. But my cynicism has not reached the level where I would rather limit their options to park than allow them the ability to choose what is best for them, and hopefully, for our neighborhood.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is PT’s amateur parker and proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.
Hey, Melissa –
Mind if this “un-American” “darkly looming” editor responds?
Parking isn’t free. Someone pays for it. The question is who. Should the property owners pay for it, the renters in an apartment building, business owners, the “city” – or should the people who own and drive the cars pay for it?
As much as I understand, appreciate and embrace your libertarian approach (and hear your frustration), if nothing else, it simply isn’t fair. Some guy owns five cars and parks them in front of my house and moves them once a week so he can stay ahead of the street sweeper. I own two cars and put them in my garage. Why should I pay for the space on the street so this guy can park his fleet?
All the Shoupista folderol aside – and I do think paying your own way is the “American Way” – it simply isn’t right to tax a young couple with a couple of kids who are trying to pay that LA mortgage so the rest of us can park our cars. Hell, if I’m going to help pay for his parking, why not his gas, oil and insurance while I’m at it?
PS – There are very easy ways to handle permits that don’t require annual renewals and allow for visitors. Check with a number of our advertisers and their “automated” on-street permit system.
Article Abstract from February, 2009