Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 21, 2013

Free parking to decide

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Neighbors — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

And on the subject of parking, lest we think that we are all alone in the parking meter raises.  Walnut Creek is also looking to raise their meter rates to $2 an hour, you’ll have to pay on Sunday — something you don’t have to do in Alameda — and they’ll start enforcing the meters after 5 p.m. so essentially you are going to be paying for street parking for dinner plans as well.  And it’s not just the street parking that will rise, parking garages will see a 50 cents hike, going from 50 cents an hour to $1 an hour, still cheaper than street parking.

The point of the street meter raise?   To push people into the parking garages so that Walnut Creek can maintain a 15% availability rate for the street parking.

In the who else is raising parking meters as well: the City of San Rafael, from the Marin Independent Journal:

Each of the city’s approximately 1,000 parking meters will be replaced early next year with a solar-powered meter capable of accepting both coins and credit cards. As part of the installation, the hourly parking rate will be increased to $1.50 per hour for all on-street parking meters.

Parking is currently $1 per hour for spots on Fourth Street and 75-cents per hour at city parking garages and all other spaces. Rates have not increased since 2007, and city staff said the parking program, which doesn’t receive general fund money, is in need of funding.

And the reason for the street meter raise?  To help fund the general fund and push people into parking garages.

The whole idea of this notion of “free parking” is a complete myth.  If we talk about shopping centers like South Shore, in actuality the parking really isn’t free at all.  Someone paid for it in the form of purchasing the land to build the parking, someone continues to pay for it by maintaining and keeping the area clean and tidy.   Those costs are then passed on to the merchants, who then pass on the costs to the customer.   It may be largely invisible to the consumer, but make no mistake that there is nothing “free” about parking at South Shore or at Target.   When it comes to “free” street parking, that’s not free either.   It’s subsidized by the City government (or county depending on where you live) and then the cost to maintain it comes from the City’s general fund (taxpayers) so that is not free either.

I’ll point out that one benefit of higher parking meters is that when it does force people into parking garages they are less likely to circle the block looking for parking and therefore clogging up the streets.  That’s sort of the whole point of Donald Shoup’s High Cost of Free Parking research.  From a NY Times article:

Many suburbanites take free parking for granted, whether it’s in the lot of a big-box store or at home in the driveway. Yet the presence of so many parking spaces is an artifact of regulation and serves as a powerful subsidy to cars and car trips. Legally mandated parking lowers the market price of parking spaces, often to zero.

The subsidies are largely invisible to drivers who park their cars — and thus free or cheap parking spaces feel like natural outcomes of the market, or perhaps even an entitlement. Yet the law is allocating this land rather than letting market prices adjudicate whether we need more parking, and whether that parking should be free. We end up overusing land for cars — and overusing cars too.

As Professor Shoup puts it: “Who pays for free parking? Everyone but the motorist.”



  1. If the motorist pays taxes and buys products and services at the places he or she parks, the motorist pays for the “free parking”, too.

    Let’s not forget that there are options for those who do not want to pay for parking: shopping online or not shopping at all except for necessities like food. With the economy still so fragile, I think it’s a mistake to get too aggressive with the parking fees just yet. Our neighborhood shopping options are a treasure. I would hate to see them take another hit just when things are beginning to turn around.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — November 21, 2013 @ 9:08 am

  2. On his way to Beijing where he’s Honorary Professor at the Beijing Transportation Research Center here’s the good professor trying to describe his parking theories to a fellow traveler in Moscow, if you watch the clip following you’ll see what he’s up against.

    Почему важна правильная цена на парковку на улице и что происходит когда она слишком дешевая или отсутствует. Дональд Шуп, distinguished Professor of Urban Planning, UCLA, 2012

    Donald Shoup about praking {sic} in San-Francisco

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 21, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  3. “The whole idea of this notion of “free parking” is a complete myth.” How about right now, @ Alameda Point? Parking there will never be cheaper than it is right now. And not much money is required to maintain it either.

    Comment by vigi — November 21, 2013 @ 10:08 am

  4. This seems to be a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” debate. Which came first, the parking or the business? At AlPo, clearly all of the parking spaces precede any higher development. Most of the lots have had little maintenance since 1997, yet they are still very usable. Development at AlPo will only decrease the number of available spaces and put price tags on them, which must be constantly fought by the Loyal Opposition, serving as checks & balances against Municipal Tyranny.
    Parking always starts out free, as God intended it to be.

    Comment by vigi — November 21, 2013 @ 10:37 am

  5. 2) Not much Critical Thinking but lots of Vodka in the Koolaid…….So the Circle Sniff continues…….

    Comment by Circle Sniff continues — November 21, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

  6. Comment by Circle Sniff continues — November 21, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

  7. “John”, you’ve truncated the circle by inserting your head directly up your own ass. what you call that, “pretzel sniff”?

    Comment by Circle Smurf — November 21, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

  8. Smurphy……..I know in your World your not allowed to think Critically….The Guru of Parking Donald Shoup is a Joke and totally laughable….But looks like he enjoys his cocktails….Cheers to his Koolaid Jello Shot Wisdom.

    Comment by Circle Sniff continues — November 21, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

  9. Comment by Circle Sniff continues — November 21, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

  10. Uhm, ah, no: that’s not how economics works: the price of the land for parking at South Shore is not seamlessly transferred from the property owner to the stores and then to consumers. The price for the merchandise at stores in South Shore or Alameda Landing is set by the larger market: otherwise the price of goods in, say, SF’s Target in downtown SF would be different from, say, the price of goods in Target at Alameda Landing — and they are not. Certainly, many goods no doubt are sold in ways to re-coup cost, also known as “price-making”; likewise, many goods are sold on what’s called a price-taking basis. Catellus will certainly factor in the price of land it purchased and subsequently used as parking when extending a lease to stores like Target or Safeway; in turn, Target and Safeway corporate will determine if in locating in South Shore or Alameda Landing they can make store sales and store profit targets — but the actual price of this or that goods sold by Safeway or Target at Alameda Landing or South Shore won’t be altered by the fact that cost of parking is in their respective lease payments to Catellus or Jamestown, because, as said already, the price of goods are dictated by larger market forces — and that’s why the price of goods in a shopping center with **free* parking** is more or less the same as the price of goods sold in parking-constrained areas where parking costs are high, like d’town SF. Thus, parking at South Shore and Alameda Landing **is**, for all intents and purposes, free to the goods-purchasing consumer.

    Comment by Tony Daysog — November 21, 2013 @ 11:09 pm

  11. Except for the fact that the downtown San Francisco Target doesn’t have parking and relies on San Francisco’s market based parking — SF Park — to provide parking (meters and public garages) for people to park. Or people can use public transportation which is funded by parking funds. I’m sure the lack of need to provide parking in the downtown area made some part in Target’s decision to locate a store there.

    Comment by Lauren Do — November 22, 2013 @ 5:42 am

  12. Safeway has many different Ad Regions and their pricing structure Varies by Region.

    Most are setup by Demographics.

    I’m sure Target has same type of pricing and Regional and Demographic pricing.

    For Example Safeway is using AD Region 10 for their pricing in Union City. Just pulled it off their Store info.

    Comment by Just a wild Axx Guess — November 22, 2013 @ 7:45 am

  13. “Individual store offers, savings and discounts may vary during periods of special promotions.”

    Ad Region 10

    Comment by Just a wild Axx Guess — November 22, 2013 @ 7:47 am

  14. Safeway and Target are getting Huge Tax Breaks for Opening Stores at the Alameda Point.

    If anything like Enterprise Zone Subsidies it works out to around 38,000 per Employee.

    Comment by Just a wild Axx Guess — November 22, 2013 @ 7:56 am

  15. From a Bloomberg article about Target’s expansion into downtown markets:

    The economics of downsizing stores can be challenging. Wal-Mart has struggled with its Neighborhood Markets locations, closing some before announcing an expansion plan this year. Target will raise some prices to offset higher commercial rents.

    Comment by Lauren Do — November 22, 2013 @ 8:15 am

  16. @14: Wild Axx-you from out of town? Alameda Point is not Alameda Landing. Didn’t I say it was a terrible idea to keep naming everything in Alameda with the first word being “Alameda”? Soon people will be confusing Alameda Station with Alameda Point. There otta be a law…

    Tony D., why don’t you propose one?

    Comment by vigi — November 22, 2013 @ 9:37 am

  17. MY family are lucky to live close enough to Park Street to walk there, though I often drive to destinations like taqueria or Peet’s when I’m coming or going from work or other destinations. I avoid the parking garage because it is very tight configuration with small spaces and I’m not a fan of that system of metering for a garage though it doesn’t bother me on Park Street it self. If there is no street parking I sometimes just skip my stop at Park Street, but if I want to shop at the book store for example I’ll park a couple blocks and walk, and the cost of the ground level lots or street spaces is never an issue, nor is cheaper parking at garage an incentive for me to use it. I helped my wife with an errand in downtown Oakland on Veterans Day and didn’t think to read meter kiosk hours. The $58 ticket was a bummer because I would have paid if I’d realized it was not a holiday for meters. I agree with John P that fines hurt at $35 and there should be a little more humanity there. Oakland’s kiosks will only sell credit card time starting with $2 minimum for an hour which is a rip off. I believe our machines at least allow increments on credit cards. I hate it when I’m short on change. I tip at places like Peet’s and the taqueria so I end up without change sometimes. Kiosks solve the no change problem. Ironically, after reading this blog post I was headed to the taqueria and parked in the street level lot. I had specifically scrounged change from around the house but after the rain and cold weather I found the meters on the east side of the lot had fogged with condensation and I couldn’t read either the rate or the time I was getting for my quarters. Pissed me off.

    I was somewhaT opposed to the garage in basic principle because I’m a tree hugger who is concerned about impact of encouraging car use, but I’m also a pragmatist and try to avoid hypocritical behavior, but I am truck dependent for work. Redevelopment and bond debt aside, Climate also, I see that the garage has been a benefit for business at Park Street. I don’t see tiered parking rates and other fees as socialism but rather libertarian approach to parking in that the free market of capitalism dictates. I don’t see parking spaces as something to which we should all have unimpeded access as an absolute right because I think all too often public funds are used to subsidize embedded costs of automobile use. I think that we need to consider the arbitrary impact of a meter mistake on people of limited means so that fines should be limited. $58 is extreme.

    Comment by MI — November 23, 2013 @ 9:34 am

  18. Our society subsidizes every aspect of private automobile use–including the provision of “free” parking, which is never actually without cost. (The average ground-level parking space costs about $15,000. Each parking space in a BART or City of Alameda parking garage costs at least $25,000 per space.) BART spends about $5/month per space just to maintain it (cleaning, etc.).

    If we allow the users of those spaces to pay those costs more directly (charging users for the actual cost of providing the service)
    then those of us who do not use them are freed from the “tax” of supporting them. That frees up income for other, more productive uses that help stimulate the economy more than paying off a $40 million bond issue with property tax revenues.

    I agree with Mark Irons and others that we should pay for what we actually use–be it grocery bags at the store or the auto parking spaces we “demand” because we are unwilling to walk or bike or take the bus to our destinations. (The people are less mobile and unable to walk or bike can be provided with better access and transportation services from some of those revenues, improving transportation access and equity for all travelers.)

    The same myth applies to our residential streets and neighborhoods, of course: on-street parking near one’s house cannot be created or maintained without a cost, but we are not currently asked to pay those costs directly because everyone subsidizes this service. I think we should identify the actual costs of providing and maintaining on-street residential and commercial district parking and start paying for such benefits directly–we will all benefit by knowing–and being more aware of–what the costs of our way of life really are…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — November 23, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

  19. 17/18
    Since you’re both in favor of paying for what you actually use-be it grocery bags, parking spaces or health care, let me be the first to welcome you to the brave new world of the libertarian approach.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 23, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

  20. 18.”Our society subsidizes every aspect of private automobile use…”

    What exactly does that mean? And I mean by that spell it out. Do you mean capital cost, maintenance, fuel, insurance, roads, etc. or do you mean some existential subsidy? I don’t recall ‘society’ ever subsidizing my ownership of any vehicle even though I’ve personally ‘subsidized’ a lot of stuff for ‘society’.

    Comment by Lavage10 — November 23, 2013 @ 8:21 pm

  21. Automobile use is indeed subsidized (roads, parking lots, etc) but autos also produce significant tax revenue. The sales tax on a new car, for example, is approx $3000, and used cars pay as well. Gas is taxed, tires are taxed, the VLF, etc. The production & servicing of cars is a large taxpaying industry.

    It would be difficult to know exactly how this washes out because the taxes go into many coffers (fed/state/local) and the funds come from others still. For example sales taxes go to the GF, while roads are funded by Caltrans, muddying the picture somewhat. One could google studies of the net fiscal impact of cars but it would be hard to trust them, as an issue this charged has many sides sponsoring studies which magically conclude what each side wants. Whatever the net number is, however, it’s fair to conclude that autos are far less subsidized than just about any other form of transit, as those other forms are not producing anywhere close to the taxes that cars are. .

    Comment by dave — November 24, 2013 @ 7:52 am

  22. 20, 21: Roadways are heavily subsidized by general tax revenues and bond issues paid for by property owners and others: it is well known that federal and state gas taxes fall far short of paying the maintenance costs of our current roadways–much less the construction costs of the federal and state highways, streets, and roads.

    Hospitals and taxpayers subsidize the costs of auto collisions (among them: time lost from work, temporary and permanent disabilities, the costs of medical care for those injured by uninsured motorists, etc.).

    Employers and employees lose millions of hours every year in productive work time due to traffic congestion.

    Private auto owners pay millions of dollars each year to repair tire and suspension damage caused by the poor state of our roadways (due to underfunded and delayed maintenance due to inadequate repair and repaving budgets.

    Sales taxes from auto sales–just like the wholly-inadequate and outdated gas taxes at both state and federal levels–are but a drop in the bucket when compared to all the costs of our auto-centric transportation system.

    Never mind the hundreds of billions of dollars caused by our production of so many greenhouse gases (GHGs) that we have thrown off the meteorological balance of an entire planet. (About half of Alameda’s GHGs are the result of fossil fuels burned in the transportation sector, and most of those GHGs come from trucks and autos. And Alameda’s percentages are similar to most CA and US jurisdictions.)

    When BART, for instance, provides ground-level parking lots, each space costs about $15,000. Not even the annual maintenance costs are paid for by the parking fees BART charges, and the capital costs are paid for by bonds, fare revenues, and taxes paid by all BART service area residents and businesses–not by the users. (The subsidies are even higher for each space in a multi-story parking garage such as at Fruitvale or Dublin-Pleasanton stations: each space in one of those behemoths costs $25,000-$28,000, and parking revenues there do not even match the annual maintenance costs, much less the construction expenses.)

    It has variously been projected that if gas taxes were set at levels sufficient to pay for the true cost of building and maintaining our streets and highways, gas for our cars would cost $8-10/gallon at the pump today–even if petroleum costs and oil company profits were stabilized at current rates.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — November 24, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

  23. If you want to free up some local parking spaces, put reasonable time limitations on handicap placarded vehicles.

    Comment by Basel — November 24, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

  24. Without greenhouse gasses this planet would be a big hunk of ice. So drive people drive your GHG spewing nottyboybill!

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 24, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

  25. 23) It’s Unlimited and free…….I don’t see them changing that at DMV.

    I’m sure there is some abuse by some and everyone suffers.

    In most retail areas they require 1.5 times as much parking space as there is Retail Space.

    Would be interesting to see the amount of Square feet in Park Street area retail vs parking spots .

    It appears Park Street doesn’t even have enough parking space for the employees let alone customers.

    After my last ticket I try and avoid at all costs.

    Would be interesting to see actual Parking Tickets issued this year vs 5 years ago.

    I know they Start writing them at 5 am in the Morning on the West End where they have everyone crammed into Apartments and Street Parking is limited……Most are all renters and can hardly afford.


    V C Section 22511.5 Disabled Parking Authorized Parking Zones

    Disabled Parking: Authorized Parking Zones

    22511.5. (a) (1) A disabled person or disabled veteran displaying special license plates issued under Section 5007 or a distinguishing placard issued under Section 22511.55 or 22511.59 is allowed to park for unlimited periods in any of the following zones:

    (A) In any restricted zone described in paragraph (5) of subdivision (a) of Section 21458 or on streets upon which preferential parking privileges and height limits have been given pursuant to Section 22507.

    (B) In any parking zone that is restricted as to the length of time parking is permitted as indicated by a sign erected pursuant to a local ordinance.

    (2) A disabled person or disabled veteran is allowed to park in any metered parking space without being required to pay parking meter fees.

    (3) This subdivision does not apply to a zone for which state law or ordinance absolutely prohibits stopping, parking, or standing of all vehicles, or which the law or ordinance reserves for special types of vehicles, or to the parking of a vehicle that is involved in the operation of a street vending business.

    (b) A disabled person or disabled veteran is allowed to park a motor vehicle displaying a special disabled person license plate or placard issued by a foreign jurisdiction with the same parking privileges authorized in this code for any motor vehicle displaying a special license plate or a distinguishing placard issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

    Comment by Nothing Says Thanks For Shopping Like a 55.00 Gift Card To City. Happy Holidays!! — November 24, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

  26. The DMV needs to do a better job of bookkeeping surrounding the disabled placards. They were still sending one to us for my mother-in-law 10 years after she died. We destroyed it but I’m sure there are those who don’t. The fine for using someone else’s is very high but I wonder how often the police check to make sure the person using it is the person to which it was issued.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — November 25, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  27. In November 2007 The Cost for basic Parking Ticket was 17.00…….Adjusted for inflation they should be 19.15.

    Were Now at 55.00.

    California Gasoline Tax: Highest in the Nation
    California’s combined local, state and federal gasoline taxes total 72 cents per gallon, the highest in the nation. (This includes the 3.5-cents-per-gallon increase approved in March 2013, effective July 1, 2013.)

    California now consumes 43 million gallons of gasoline and 12 million gallons of diesel fuel per day.

    That works out to 40 million in Taxes a day from the Gas Pumps alone in CA to pay for Roads and Highways.

    Average Household In Alameda Taxes at Gas pump per year is 1000.00. Jon Spanglers #s Would bring this to 7-8,000 per year.

    That doesn’t include all the other taxes and fees we pay for roads.

    Comment by 17 to 55 — November 25, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

  28. 27: All the tax income you cite–as high as it might seem at first glance– is nowhere near enough to pay the actual cost of building or maintaining our existing streets and roads. I was trying to point out that, as user fees go, our current gas taxes and other vehicle-specific taxes and fees are woefully inadequate to pay for the resources we are using now.

    How we pay for our roads and highways–and how equitable those user fees and taxes are–is certainly a matter for debate–and the issue of tax equity should be addressed, too. But the fact remains that that those of us who drive are not paying enough public monies into the system to support the infrastructure that we use every day. “Free” parking is just one of many examples of this, but it is far from the only or most dramatic one.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — November 25, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

  29. And are the bicyclers paying enough into the system to support the infrastructure they use every day? As we used to tell the hippie chicks thumbing rides at the foot of University in Berkeley back in the 60’s…Cash, Gas or Ass, nobody rides for free.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 25, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

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