Parking Waddles up to the Federal Trough

I will probably be pummeled for this but I am taken aback by the fact that the parking industry, at least the public sector, is slurping at the public trough. Harvey over at the Parking Matters Blog has been nice enough to list a few grants that have been awarded by the Federal Highway administration… read this:

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced more than $363 million in grants from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to fund a wide variety of highway improvements that include the Value Pricing Pilot (VPP) Program. The VPP Program supports a variety of strategies to manage congestion on highways, including tolling highway facilities through congestion pricing, as well as other methods that do not involve tolls, such as mileage-based car insurance and parking pricing. Awardees and grant amount included:

Multimodal, Dynamic Parking Pricing in Downtown Washington, D.C. $1,090,000 

ParkSmart New York City  $950,000

Kendall Square Employer Transportation Benefit Pricing Trail

Performance Parking System Implementation in Los Angeles

San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission Regional Parking Pricing Analysis Tool $560,000

King County, Wash., Park-and-Ride Pricing in Multi-Family Developments. $543,900

Parking Pricing Enhancement Study in San Francisco

In the scheme of things, the $5,000,000 noted above is a pittance. The government spends that much every second. But in every case, if you read the background, you find that the end result will be increased revenue for the entity involved. In most cases, the revenue increase will come from market and demand based pricing, Consider this in New York City:

The project continues the work of a previous pilot to introduce higher on-street meter rates during peak times in select neighborhoods to support retail areas by increasing vehicle turnover and allowing more vehicles to access on-street parking. It offers tailored pricing strategies in up to 25 new neighborhood retail corridors to reflect parking demand, and will reduce congestion caused by double-parked and circling cars. $950,000

The Feds are giving New York City a million bucks so that they can study increasing pricing for parking to reduce congestion.  The end result will be more money for the Big Apple.

So here’s the question — if NYC is going to get more revenue, why can’t some of that revenue be used for the ‘pilot’ program, rather than the Federal government giving money it doesn’t have to promote a system that won’t bring a dime to the Feds.  NYC, if it wanted to do so, could use money generated to pay for the ‘pilot’ and all would be right with the world. But they will use the ‘free money’ anyway.

This is exactly what has gotten our government into the place it is. We are trillions in debt and we still provide money to states and cities to study projects that may or may not lead anywhere. We have provided SF Park more than $20,000,000 and it seems unable to provide any usable data on whether or not the program is working, and of course there is no provision for the city to return the $20,000,000.

The five million noted above is peanuts, but it reflects a larger issue.  At a time when we are so far in debt, why are we doing things like this?  Wouldn’t it be better if we took a deep breath and said “no.” No to all these grants. No to all such projects.  Maybe just for a year or two, until we get back under control. Then start rethinking what the role of the Federal Government is and then spend money based on that role.

I know that studies cost money and that they may be necessary.  But why is the Federal Government involved.  Why is someone in Nevada paying for a study in New York or San Francisco?  How does that make sense?



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2 Responses to Parking Waddles up to the Federal Trough

  1. CJD says:

    The guy in Nevada is not paying for studies in NY or LA, at least not the way I look at it. Nevada ranks 32nd in total Federal Tax dollars raised, it ranks 37th in Federal Tax dollars spent…pretty equal in my mind.

    California, New York and Texas are the top 3 tax producers and are also the top 3 receivers of Federal money.

    Isn’t this what Shoup wants? Spending the money back into the district it came from? 🙂

    NYC and LA have parking/congestion problems. Nevada does not.

    I don’t see a problem. Federal monies are needed to fund projects that cities cant afford or because the are politically unpopular. Being able to say ” the feds are paying us to study this” provides as a solid political cover.

    I will agree with you on one front- If the study produces a change in operations that creates additional revenue, the grant should be paid back.

  2. JVH says:

    Charlie — ah the naivete of youth.
    1. Why should any state or city for that matter, receive Federal Tax Dollars for projects like this? An argument could be made for anything that wasn’t something that didn’t affect the entire country (Defense, Foreign affairs, etc) should be ignored by the Feds. We got into this problem by the Federal Government taking on too much.
    2. Shoup wants the money collected on a block to go back to that block — this makes changes and the charges more politically acceptable. There is no way a person living on a block in Manhattan could see the connection between money withheld from their paycheck by the feds and a parking meter upgrade in front of their house.
    3. If LA has a congestion problem, then LA should fix it. If Nevada is too hot, it should fix it. Its not up to the Feds to fix local problems.
    4. Coward — If you are looking for political cover, maybe you should run for office. If you can’t make a good argument for what you want to do, then perhaps it shouldn’t be done.
    5. Payback — it will never happen.

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