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The Case Against Cheap Parking

It's no fun to drive around for 10 minutes looking for a parking spot. But the price of parking in our cities is artificially low. Meters don't...


It's no fun to drive around for 10 minutes looking for a parking spot. But the price of parking in our cities is artificially low. Meters don't reflect the market value of a parking spot, and many spots are simply free anyway. And because developers are forced to supply a certain number of parking spaces with each building, the supply of parking spots in our cities is actually higher than it should be.California state senator Alan Lowenthal has stirred up a nest of idiots hornets with his Senate Bill 518. Lowenthal, recognizing that providing lots of subsidized parking is only enabling our addiction to cars, has introduced legislation that would incentivize cities to start reforming their parking rules.His legislation would work like this: There's a buffet of different parking reforms, and each is worth a different number of points. A city can choose whichever reforms it wants to enact and if their points total reaches 20, it gets an edge in getting state funding. The reforms are wide-ranging. A city could, for example, install parking meters in high-demand areas (five points), raise parking meter rates to reflect market prices (10 points), or entirely scrap the requirements that new residential buildings come with a minimum number of parking spaces (20 points). You can see all the reforms and their point values here.This is a really sensible bill. It would free landlords, developers, and entire cities from the rules that force them to build for cars, structure incentives to encourage other modes of transportation, and raise public revenues in the meantime. And Lowenthal's mix-and-match system is flexible enough that each city can choose its own approach.But the bill been getting a lot of criticism online. Most of the criticism is ridiculous. Here's an example from a commenter at the Los Angeles Times:
Lowenthal!!! why don't you do something good for CA residence and stop worrying about your friends who want to make money of parking. ... We are struggling financially and our legislators don't care, all they want is more rules, regulations and laws so they can tell us "you did wrong, now pay up" I really think it is about time that WE THE PEOPLE of California put a stop to these useless and tyranic legislators with all the ridiculous ideas and rules.
First of all, Lowenthall's bill would direct money from the new public parking revenues back into transportation infrastructure improvements in the district where the revenue was raised, not to his "friends who want to make money of [sic] parking."A lot of the complaints also raise this issue of onerous rules and regulations. That's ironic, of course, because Lowenthal's bill would create an incentive for cities to get rid of the rules that have kept parking artificially cheap and subject the market for parking to market forces.You can read the whole bill here. If you like it and you live in California, contact your representative or help Streetsblog's effort to organize public support for the bill. And if you have a good argument against the bill, I'd like to hear it.Photo from Flickr user Tacoma Urbanist.
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