The Alameda Sun reported on the City Council discussion about possibly raising the prices of the metered parking in order to facilitate drivers using the new garage on their visits to Park Street rather than looping the blocks in order to find on-street parking, highlights:
…The conversation between Development Services Director Leslie Little and the council favored raising on-street parking prices, increasing enforcement around the Park Street business district and possibly raising the price of parking tickets.
All of this came out of talk over how to encourage drivers to use the new 341-space parking structure once it opens in early 2008. By raising the fee on the street, city officials hope drivers will choose parking garage spaces priced at the current on-street price of 50 cents per hour.
The plan says the parking structure rate should not exceed the on-street parking price. It also recommends evaluating the current price of on-street parking. “It is important that the City avoid creating a disincentive to use the garage by over-pricing the rates relative to on-street parking,” the document says.
This reminded me of a post I had read a while ago on PedShed about Redwood City’s efforts to deal with traffic congestion in their main throughfares as well as the perception that there was “no parking” available in their downtown corridors. Highlights from the PedShed entry:
At first glance the notion of free-market parking meters seems impossibly arcane. But as Donald Shoup pointed out in a recent NY Times editorial, “cruising for curb parking generates about 30 percent of the traffic in central business districts.” Shoup studied Westwood Village…and found that drivers searching for curb parking created 950,000 excess vehicle miles of travel per year. That’s equivalent to 38 trips around the earth, taking place in just one retail district in L.A.
…The unnecessary traffic congestion hurts downtown businesses and activities. The extra miles traveled waste gasoline and generate pollution. If curb parking could somehow be freed up so that it was always easy to find a space, then that extra waste and pollution could be eliminated.
One solution is free-market parking. Set parking meter prices so that 85% of spaces are occupied and 15% are open at any given moment. This idea has been getting more attention lately, and Redwood City, CA is the locality that has put the most advanced implementation into action…
The most enlightening thing about the article is the feedback from the Downtown Development Coordinator, Dan Zack, who imagined this Shoup-like parking scheme, highlights:
…We never had an overall parking shortage, but our prime areas were always chronically congested, with the frustration, cruising, and complaints of “this place has no parking” that parking congestion entails. However, within a few blocks there were always plenty of spaces. We had an odd system in which Broadway (the main drag) was free, while side streets and garages were metered. So people were actually given no incentive to walk a little bit — they were actually penalized for it!
We were willing to bet that people would be willing to walk if there was a reward. So we set up a system in which the main drag is 75¢ per hour, side streets are 50¢ per hour, and lots/garages are 50¢, 25¢, or free depending on their desirability.
So far, Broadway has decongested quite a bit. You can now find a spot at most times in prime areas. Many people, especially long term parkers and bargain hunters, have shifted to cheaper parking on the edges of Downtown and off the street. Seventy-five cents isn’t a lot of money, but you would be amazed at how frugal people are when it comes to parking, even if they are driving $50,000 BMWs filled with $3/gallon gas.
…I really think that it is a promising method for managing municipal parking and getting the most out of a limited amount of parking in a compact, walkable district.
Also, we borrowed a page from Pasadena’s playbook and have dedicated all surplus parking revenue (after parking expenses are paid) to increasing cleanliness, safety, lighting, street furniture, and other amenities that will make Downtown a nicer place to live, work, eat, see a band, and shop.
On the entry itself there is a map that shows the different levels of parking, of course, as mentioned by Dan Zack, the main street, in Redwood City’s case: Broadway, in the case of Alameda it would be Park Street, the rates per hour are $0.75 per hour. Since Alameda is already considering repricing the parking in the Park Street Business District, why not take this opportunity to really make a statement about the costs of parking. One of the many critiques about the cost of driving is that the “free” parking really isn’t free, Stop, Drop, and Roll touches on it briefly in this entry, and I talked about it briefly before as well.
But back to what Redwood City is doing, they have created a really clever FAQ to answer basic questions about their new downtown parking plans, one thing that I found interesting is that another impact of moving to this “free-market” parking system is that the meters would probably need to be upgraded but the type of meters used (think of the Berkeley kiosks for a closer-to-home example) is that meters would not need to be individually placed in front of each parking spot, which would indeed clear up a lot of the sidewalk clutter and help with the overall beautification efforts.
And I will leave you all with this editorial by Donald Shoup, and pull out a quote from it by George Costanza:
“My father never paid for parking, my mother, my brother, nobody. … It’s like going to a prostitute. Why should I pay when, if I apply myself, maybe I could get it for free?”
Even free parking comes at a price.