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zenstyle

From today's NY Times

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....but we knew that. The trouble is, most of Grand Rapids doesn't!

Here's the article:

free parking

This is completely ridiculous. According to the article, "... it’s a classic tale of how subsidies, use restrictions, and price controls can steer an economy in wrong directions." The article then carries on the make the following claims, among others:

  • "We have way too much free parking."
  • "Higher charges for parking spaces would limit our trips by car."
  • "Higher fees and permit prices would help shore up the ailing budgets of local governments."
  • "If we don’t give away cars, why give away parking spaces?"

Most of these points are absolutely stupid, or contract the apparent thesis that government controls regarding parking are bad. Can anyone really see someone putting up a grocery store and then gating the parking lot with a charge to shop there? Or putting up a store and having no parking for cars in the hope that the lack of parking will encourage the "socially responsible" behavior that the authors desire? The cost of parking for the vehicles, like the air conditioning and the lights inside of the store (and/or the store itself) is built into the price of the products that the store sells. The parking is not free, nor are any of the other creature comforts provided by the store. The parking is provided free of direct cost to customers because the business owner sees free parking as a valuable tool to induce customers to come to his store, even if they don't actually make a purchase.

The only semi-valid point that the article makes is this: "Legally mandated parking lowers the market price of parking spaces, often to zero." While the authors clearly don't have a problem with the government discouraging parking, they at least recognize that the government should neither mandate parking, nor (necessarily) provide it for "free." Let the business decide how much parking it needs, and if it underestimates, let it suffer. I strongly suspect that a lack of mandates would not result in substantially less "free" parking. Mandating that a business have parking spaces does not mean that those spaces are free. Nothing prohibits those business from attempting to charge for parking. They simply do not do so because it is not good competitive practice.

When the City of Grand Rapids enacts silly policies which involve holding an empty parking lot hostage for $3.00 or more, this is likewise a very bad business practice unless there is actual demand for the parking. Charging too much for parking in a city like Grand Rapids means you reduce demand for your city, because people just ain't comin' without their cars. Cities must subsidize parking because failing to do so means that people leave for areas where there is room for them to park the cars they want. How do they get there? Why, the highways those paying the taxes "subsidized" to get themselves out to the 'burbs in the first place. I've gone downtown to eat (at, say, Fridays) on more than one occasion, couldn't find a spot for less than $8.00, and left for Alpine.

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The only semi-valid point that the article makes is this: "Legally mandated parking lowers the market price of parking spaces, often to zero."

The only sem-valid point? It's the main point of the entire article. It's not advocating getting rid of all parking, but letting the market do what it does best: set prices such that supply meets demand. Do you think mall/strip mall/big box stores would build so much unused parking if it weren't required? How about businesses in dense urban areas who can rely on enough customers from walking and transit that they don't need any parking?

And yes, the cost of parking is built into the cost of things we buy, so we pay for it indirectly. The point is that if people bear the cost more directly, they'll consciously factor it into their decisions. They may still choose to drive and park, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The same argument applies to roads. It's not that we shouldn't have any roads, but the cost of the roads is often so far removed from each individual's personal decisions that the cost doesn't factor into them. If you choose not to drive, you're still paying for the roads through your taxes.

These are both examples where the free market hasn't been allowed to operate.

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I liked the San Francisco policy of charging a sliding rate for metered parking based on demand and other factors, from 25 cents to $6per hour. That is an example of making parking work for a local government. If you have to, let's say, park directly in front of some place at rush hour rather than walk a half a block, then you should be forced to pay a larger hourly rate, for the benefit of those businesses, consumers, and residents of the area who have had someone park in that spot for years.

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This is completely ridiculous. According to the article, "... it’s a classic tale of how subsidies, use restrictions, and price controls can steer an economy in wrong directions." The article then carries on the make the following claims, among others:

  • "We have way too much free parking."
  • "Higher charges for parking spaces would limit our trips by car."
  • "Higher fees and permit prices would help shore up the ailing budgets of local governments."
  • "If we don’t give away cars, why give away parking spaces?"

Most of these points are absolutely stupid, or contract the apparent thesis that government controls regarding parking are bad. Can anyone really see someone putting up a grocery store and then gating the parking lot with a charge to shop there? Or putting up a store and having no parking for cars in the hope that the lack of parking will encourage the "socially responsible" behavior that the authors desire? The cost of parking for the vehicles, like the air conditioning and the lights inside of the store (and/or the store itself) is built into the price of the products that the store sells. The parking is not free, nor are any of the other creature comforts provided by the store. The parking is provided free of direct cost to customers because the business owner sees free parking as a valuable tool to induce customers to come to his store, even if they don't actually make a purchase.

The only semi-valid point that the article makes is this: "Legally mandated parking lowers the market price of parking spaces, often to zero." While the authors clearly don't have a problem with the government discouraging parking, they at least recognize that the government should neither mandate parking, nor (necessarily) provide it for "free." Let the business decide how much parking it needs, and if it underestimates, let it suffer. I strongly suspect that a lack of mandates would not result in substantially less "free" parking. Mandating that a business have parking spaces does not mean that those spaces are free. Nothing prohibits those business from attempting to charge for parking. They simply do not do so because it is not good competitive practice.

When the City of Grand Rapids enacts silly policies which involve holding an empty parking lot hostage for $3.00 or more, this is likewise a very bad business practice unless there is actual demand for the parking. Charging too much for parking in a city like Grand Rapids means you reduce demand for your city, because people just ain't comin' without their cars. Cities must subsidize parking because failing to do so means that people leave for areas where there is room for them to park the cars they want. How do they get there? Why, the highways those paying the taxes "subsidized" to get themselves out to the 'burbs in the first place. I've gone downtown to eat (at, say, Fridays) on more than one occasion, couldn't find a spot for less than $8.00, and left for Alpine.

Did you say "Fridays" just to get people riled up? :rofl: Who drives downtown to eat at TGI Fridays?

I do agree that if suburban retailers started charging for parking, it wouldn't last very long before they trashed the idea (once their competitors started having free parking Saturdays or other specials).

I generally meet with a lot of people downtown, but I'm beginning to shift my meeting places to where I don't have to pay so much for parking, like Wealthy Street or East Hills. It is just getting to be too cost prohibitive, even with one hour free at the MC ramp. So yes, I'm shifting my behavior, to opposite of what the article is suggesting.

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