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35% Parking Tax and Forbid Monthly Parking…Where to Begin

An opinion piece in the New York Times (you can follow the link at parknews.biz) calls for a citywide 35% tax (up from 18% in Manhattan and 10% in the rest of the city) plus forbidding the sale of monthly parking. Its written by Jay Primus, the architect of San Francisco’s SF Park. Let’s begin with SF Park.

The program was funded by the Feds and as soon as the money ran out, it was abandoned. The entire idea was to use technology to communicate with parkers so they could find the less expensive places to park on street and to adjust off street parking so those parking on street would be attracted to parking off street. No one seems to know if it was a success, but if it had been, why not continue it when the funding ran out. I think we all know the answer to that. It was headed by a former PR executive named Jay Primus.

Mr. Primus, now a private consultant, has moved to the completely opposite camp, touting raising parking fees, abandoning technology (too expensive) and removing the ability of the private sector to sell their product as they see fit. He also recommends requiring an off-peak discount, you know, giving a discount to those who arrive early or stay late.

First, the government solution for everything. Raise Taxes. This money would go to cleaning up New York’s failing subway system. That way, more people would be attracted to riding the trains rather than driving to work. There seems to be a loss of logic here. You want to raise taxes for the very purpose of reducing traffic, but if you reduce traffic (and hence parking), you will not have taxes to collect. Is it possible that one might raise the cost of riding the trains just a bit so you could cover the cost of proper maintenance? This is an out and out money grab for the city. I would be shocked, SHOCKED if the tax actually ended up cleaning up the subway, rather than the Big Apple’s general fund.

Second, let’s take away the right of building owners to sell parking as they wish – no monthly parking. Jay likens monthly parking to a smorgasbord where since it is there, people will come back and back. However, if they have to pay for parking every day, and search for a space, they will find it inconvenient and therefore ride the subway. No wait… So, as is usually the case when the government gets involved the law of unintended consequences kicks in and, in this case, rather than a driver going directly to a space and parking, she will cruise around looking for an open space, a more convenient one, or a cheaper one, and therefore adding to congestion, pollution, and the rest. Am I missing something here?

Third, the city should require that operators give discounts to all those who arrive at off peak times, thus reducing traffic. Gee, Jay, have your ever heard of ‘early bird’ rates. Drive around Manhattan, or for that matter San Francisco, and see all those signs promoting low-cost all-day parking, “In before 7:30, $10 all day.” This is something the private sector has been doing for decades. Those who want the discount drive in early, those that don’t, don’t. Oh, I see. If we do away with monthly parking, then people will come in early to get a cheaper space. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s sitting for hours in traffic that I find less than pleasurable, and if I want to avoid it, I leave home early so I can get to work before traffic sets in.

New York City already has close to the most expensive parking on the planet. I don’t think that raising it even more will get the desired results.

The National Parking Association sees this proposal as an attack on the parking industry. In its letter to the Times, the NPA points out that congestion is a byproduct of commercial activity and that we need to look to smarter ways to make it easier, not more difficult, for people to get to work in the city. It is funding studies to help determine the root causes of the problem and to explore viable solutions.

There is undoubtedly a myriad of small steps that can be taken to mitigate the problems of city life. It may be time to put aside the sledge hammer and pick up 100 of the smallest ball peins we can find. One size doesn’t fit all, and a solution for one driver may not be the solution for the next.

JVH

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