Parking advocate and Park Green adviser Donald Shoup is a very strong proponent of rational parking policies. His notion that parking should pay its own way without subsidy is winning more converts all the time.
Just published is his article in Access Magazine on the benefits of parking revenues for neighborhoods, entitled “Making Parking Meters Popular.” We have reprinted a portion of Dr. Shoup’s article below — for the complete article as well as graphics, click on the link HERE.
We found these ideas to be not only good policies, but also to embody common sense. Just one of several interesting points: if you are a resident or property owner in a residential or commercial area, you should receive a discount on parking rates because you are already paying taxes for upkeep of streets and sidewalks in the area. Visitors should pay undiscounted rates in part to offset the costs of the neighborhood infrastructure that taxpayers are otherwise paying for.
Enjoy Dr. Shoup’s article — and tell us what you think of this idea of making parking meters into valuable public servants.
35 ACCESS NUMBER 45, FALL 2014
Most people view parking meters as a necessary evil, or perhaps just evil. Meters
can manage curb parking efficiently and provide public revenue, but they are
a tough sell to voters. To change the politics of parking, cities can give price
discounts at parking meters for their own residents.
PARKING DISCOUNTS FOR RESIDENTS
In Miami Beach, residents pay only $1 an hour at meters where nonresidents pay
$1.75 an hour. Some British cities give the first half hour at meters free to residents.
Annapolis and Monterey give residents the first two hours free in municipal parking lots
Pay-by-license-plate technology enables the resident discounts. Drivers pay either by
cell phone by entering their license plate number at a parking kiosk and paying with cash
or credit card. Both the cell phones and the meters can automatically give discounts to all
cars with license plates registered in a city. Cities link payment information to license plate
numbers to show enforcement officers which cars have paid or not paid. Pay-by-plate is
common in Europe, and several US cities, including Pittsburgh, now use it.
Like hotel taxes, parking meters with resident discounts can generate substantial
local revenue without unduly burdening local voters. The price break for city plates should
also please merchants because it will give residents a new incentive to shop locally. In big
cities, the discounts can be limited to each neighborhood’s residents. More shopping
closer to home can then reduce total vehicle travel in the region.
Resident parking discounts are justified because residents already pay taxes to
maintain the streets and municipal garages in their city. The discounts are also justified
because they can increase voter support for meters that are needed to manage the parking
supply. Parking meters with resident discounts come close to the most popular way to
raise public revenue: tax foreigners living abroad.
Cities can also increase political support for parking meters by using the meter
revenue to improve local public services. Pasadena, for example, offers neighborhoods a
package that includes both parking meters and additional public services financed by the
meters. The meters not only manage curb parking but also provide a steady stream of
revenue to pay for cleaning and repairing the sidewalks. The parking meters in Galveston
and Ventura provide free public WiFi on the metered streets. People who live, work, shop,
and own property in the metered neighborhoods can then see their meter money at work.
With discounts for residents, locals will see that parking meters are working for them
rather than against them.
A WORLD OF GOOD
Many cities suffer from congested curb parking, polluted air, poor public services,
and political opposition to parking meters. To solve these problems cities can charge fair
market prices for curb parking, spend the revenue to improve public services on the
metered streets, and give price discounts for residents, small cars, and clean cars. By
changing the politics of parking, cities can meter more of their valuable curb space,
producing more money, less traffic, cleaner air, and a cooler planet. Parking meters can
then do a world of good.