A Simple Concept

From Mark: These quotes were in an article in Scientific American.

 Because every vehicle trip must end in a parking space, limiting parking through economic and policy changes has significantly reduced miles driven

This is the key to making the concept work, but it’s the one thing nobody in the US seems to understand;

Parking regulations work best when done in concert with other policies, said Deron Lovaas, federal transportation policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “They have to be part of a package, and that has to be communicated to consumers,” he said.

Parking, road construction, mass transit, pedestrian traffic and alternative transportation options are all connected, and at some point somebody is going to realize that you can’t keep on trying to address each of those as a separate issue.

For this to happen, we need to coordinate all aspects of transportation from highways to light rail to bicycles to airplanes to guess what – the only discipline that ties them all together, parking.

I am the last person to recommend that the government get involved. It tends to overreact and often causes more problems than it solves. In fact, as the article points out, most of the parking issues in the US have been caused by government intervention, that is mandated parking requirements and government subsidy of parking in downtown areas.

It’s a rather simple but messy solution – let the free market work. If I want to put a restaurant where there once was a hardware store, so be it. Parking shouldn’t become an issue for the government. I’m a restaurant expert. I understand how people get to my store. Maybe I will have to bus them in from that big lot outside of down – so be it.

Price parking based on the market. Raise it until there is one open space on each block fact and see what will happen. People will begin to makes choices based on their pocketbook. Businesses will learn to attract customers by giving them a reason to come to their stores. People DO NOT go somewhere just because parking is easy; they go somewhere because there is a reason to go there. If you make it attractive they will come. Don’t get me wrong, making parking convenient is a good idea, but you also need to be sure there are other ways to get to your store.

The government can be a facilitator. It can bring businesses together and help with overall designs and policies. It can remove obstacles to providing transportation (like jitneys in crowded areas, for instance). It can let the marketplace lead, not follow.

It’s time we realize that parking can drive the transportation issues in a city. By limiting parking downtown through free market pricing, money can be generated to lead urban renewal. By letting the market decide about parking, drivers will begin to determine on their own what is best for them. Should they drive and pay $50 to park or should they take the bus? A $50 parking fee can mean two couples take one car. Parking pricing then halves, and so does the traffic.

Busses can be more convenient. What if a parking lot was built at the edge of the city, and shuttles or busses ran conveniently to downtown and dropped folks off at the opera, or museum, or restaurant/club areas. If it cost $5 to park there and $5 to take the bus, that $25 for four people, half the price of parking. Of course, that can’t happen if parking is subsidized. I’ll just continue to drive.

Those busses can be VIP busses, if one wants to pay more. Maybe hotel/airport sized shuttles with high end seating and easy on/off. You let the marketplace go and you would be shocked at what might happen. But you can drive it by letting the price of parking float.

Should the city provide the busses? NO NO NO. The marketplace will do it if it is profitable to do so. Downtown merchants might pay the shuttles a tad to stop in front of their store or restaurant, Jitneys can move people from place to place. You would be surprised what the free market can do.

Stop requiring parking. Stop subsidizing parking. Will it happen overnight? Of course not. But it will happen quickly. The market is strong and can move mountains. We just need to let it.

JVH

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One Response to A Simple Concept

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