The Enterprise editorial basically argues that the parking issue while it has been about the availability of spaces, will become about revenue. It is an interesting argument, the problem I think is that the issue is really about supply – whether it morphs into a need for revenue at some point is another question.
The editorial points out: “staff, in response, have emphasized the goal to “free up” parking spaces, that by charging to park, the law of supply and demand will incentivize shoppers to move on, and thus commerce will flow.”
Actually, I don’t believe that is the argument at all. The bigger argument focuses around the 15 to 25 percent of those parking on surface streets being employees rather than shoppers. The goal therefore is to encourage business owners to purchase x-permits for their employees and incentivize them moving from surface streets to X-permit lots.
The Enterprise however, focuses on revenue. They write: “Parking spaces are presented as a wasted resource that the market is not being allowed to commoditize. However, once paid parking is established, and cities start wondering how much to charge, the argument shifts. At that point, studies commissioned by municipalities begin to emphasize how inelastic demand is for parking. Consumers, it turns out, don’t modify their shopping behavior based on parking costs, which is why every city that has implemented paid parking inevitably starts raising rates.”
This is an interesting point that the Enterprise makes that undercuts the argument made by the Chamber and others, that parking will encourage people to shop elsewhere – either in neighborhood centers or out of town. It turns out – that is not the case.
So why is the Enterprise opposed to this – well they believe that this will shift the issue to a revenue stream is: “no matter what the goals were at the beginning (fewer idling cars, more biking), paid parking becomes a revenue stream, and all other considerations fall by the wayside. The only question becomes, how much can we charge?”
They write: “Doing it in a limited area will have the added effect of creating two zones; one free, one paid. And the paid zone will happen to be in the area already hit hard by the mass exodus in the wake of the sale of the Brinley Building.”
It is also the area that is most impacted in terms of parking. Why? Because it is the area where most of the restaurants are in the downtown. The studies show the southeast quadrant during peak hours generally being in the red zone – about 94% of spaces occupied.
Does the Enterprise really believe that by creating a paid parking area in one portion, the people will not park in the free areas and open up spaces in the red areas? Also – what happened to the Enterprise cited studies that show “how inelastic demand is for parking?”
There is a lot to this argument that simply does not make sense.
The Enterprise concludes: “We can’t support this proposal — the City Council should look at other ways of raising revenue.”
The models from the city show that this won’t generate much in the way of revenue. At best it will off-set the cost of enforcement efforts.
I have to wonder: did the Enterprise talk to anyone on the council or for the city when they wrote this editorial? Did they look at the city’s studies, parking patterns, projected revenue?
—David M. Greenwald reporting