It kind of reminds me of the euphemistic title the “right to work,” but “freedom to park” is the title of the campaign opposing paid parking in the downtown – ironic because prohibiting the charging of a fee for public parking might do the opposite of what they intend, and limit the city’s ability to provide for parking in the downtown.
An op-ed in the local paper by Robert Milbrodt, Coleman Thomas Randall and Pam Nieberg notes that they rarely encounter advocates of “paid parking” – which is not surprising, given the public discourse.
The problem of course is that without the ability to charge for parking, the city has limited tools to redistribute the congested surface parking spots during peak hours, few ways to preclude employees from occupying those spots and, most importantly, few ways to generate funding to add actual capacity.
The advocates note that “the initiative prohibits the charging of a fee for the public parking that is already provided by our tax dollars.”
While I am not a lawyer and I am not looking at the exact language of the initiative, that phrasing taken at face value makes for some interesting legal possibilities. First of all, to what extent is public parking provided by our tax dollars? There are all sorts of public assessments and in lieu fees that might render that point legally problematic.
In short, an attorney would need to look at that provision, but, as currently written, it may not be legally enforceable.
Second, the authors note that “the initiative requires the replacement of the 120 parking spaces that the City has already removed from the downtown. These spaces can easily be replaced by turning parallel spaces into perpendicular or slant parking spaces, for example.”
But can they? There are several problems here. The first is that the most congested areas already have slant parking on at least one side of the street. G Street is a great example. The block between 2nd and 3rd for instance has slant parking on both sides of the street for a stretch. There is also slant parking along 2nd Street.
Do the authors have evidence that there are areas wide enough to expand slant parking?
Slant parking is also dangerous. There is slant parking on G Street outside of where our offices are located – the visibility is not great, cars drive too fast, and bikes are in harm’s way.
The piece argues that the city must replace the parking spaces already removed, but they may not be able to legally enforce this to the extent that the removal was part of making sidewalks and streets ADA-compliant.
Has anyone done an analysis to determine how many spots that were removed can be put back into place?
Will paid parking discourage the use of automobiles? I doubt it. I agree with the authors there. However, the authors write: “[P]aid parking will discourage the use of paid parking spaces.” That’s the idea. At least in theory.
One of the beliefs of the parking task force is that a number of surface parking spots is taken up by long-term users of the downtown – namely, employees. They simply park on the street for two hours and move their vehicle to avoid getting cited.
The belief is that if those individuals would have to pay, they would not be able to afford to park in the downtown and pay for eight hours. Thus they would move their cars to long-term parking on the periphery and then walk.
That would then free up surface street parking for short-term users.
People would have a choice – they can get the convenience of parking up close, but they have to pay for it. How much would such an option discourage street parking? We know from experience that the E Street parking lot fills up during heavy use hours. Clearly then, some people are willing to pay to park.
It is all a matter of experience and expectation. When I drive to San Francisco and Sacramento, I expect that I am going to have to pay to park. Most of the time, I am happy to just find parking. Even in places like San Luis Obispo, you end up with a choice – you can pay to park on the surface streets, you get 90 minutes free in the parking garages, and you can park far out from the downtown and walk if you don’t want to pay.
When I used to live there, it would depend on how long I was going to be there. If I had to work in the downtown, I usually parked far out and walked. If I was getting something quick, I’d drop a quarter into the meter.
Will paid parking reduce the number of vehicles circling?
The authors argue it won’t. They argue: “Those who are unable or unwilling to pay for a parking space will circle the streets searching for a free space, or they will drive somewhere else.”
There is a problem with that argument. All someone needs to do right now to find parking that is available is go to the parking garage on 4th and G. The data that we have presented many times shows even during peak hours, there is plenty of capacity outside of the heart of the downtown.
Will most people really drive elsewhere due to having to pay a dollar or two to park? Given the cost of gas and wear on the car, the only reason to do that is stubbornness.
I suspect, after a period of adjustment, this won’t be a big deal to most people. Of course, the council has largely backed off of paid parking anyway, so we’re probably looking at ten years down the line.
It will be interesting to see what the specific language is of this initiative, but on the surface, it seems somewhat questionable in terms of legality.
—David M. Greenwald reporting