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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Barking Over Parking

Double Wide Meter

Here are some of same basic reasons that every city gives for
parking meters (or any limited parking enforcement):
  1. Turnover. Ensure that people move their cars every 15
    minutes to 5 hours to allow other cars a chance to park (and shop the stores
  2. Social Engineering. Get people to use pubic transportation
    instead of their cars when shopping downtown.
  3. Income. Generate money from the meters. The money from
    meters can be significant (especially when there are thousands of meters
    installed) however, cities really want people to overstay their parking limit so
    they can write parking tickets - this is where they make most of their money. In
    Portland a plain parking ticket is $16.00. Some place, like near PGE Park (a
    stadium) the basic parking ticket is $40.00!
  4. Portland, in their transportation budget, expects 2.5% of
    it to be derived from citations. 2004 Budget was around $54 million dollars.
    Thus, around $1 million dollars is expected as income from parking citations
  5. To encourage people who work downtown NOT to drive their
    cars downtown to allow shoppers to park.
  6. Cut down the need to build new roads to handle the traffic
    going downtown
  7. Enable the handicap to park easily so they can
Why Parking Meters Should be

Last year (during our policy battles with the State Theatre) I was of the opinion that we should just raise the price of the city’s parking meters. I wanted the City Parking Garage locked down to freebies. And I wanted scofflaws, violators, and ne'er-do-wells ticketed. That was then.

Just a couple of weeks ago we were cornered with an eleventh hour budget proposal to increase parking meters 100% (from $.50/hour to $1.00/hour). My knee-jerk reaction was, “Hell Yeah! Make everyone share the costs.” Residents and business owners crowded City Council Chambers. People stood up and spoke out.

And what happened then...? Well... in Easton they say that my Grinch ears grew three sizes that day!

I heard some opponents to my opinion. No, I really heard some opponents to my opinion. I heard people give solid criticism to the hap-hazardness of the plan. I heard people offer viable alternatives. Here’s the thing… I actually “heard” what they were saying.

Suddenly, mine was not such a well thought out position. And, well, quite frankly; that’s because it was a position of emotion. My agenda is clear—Resident First. In my heart of hearts I believe that the people need to be advocated. When I approached the parking meter issue on adrenaline alone, anyone not for it was against the resident. That was a mistake. Upon future review (and hearing other people) I realized that the issue is not one of extremes.

Yes, the rates need to be increased. They need to be increased for two major reasons—fairness and revenue. Everyone must contribute to the well being of the city; not just now but always. We can not continue to operate the city on the backs of the resident/taxpayer. We discussed this in detail during the Amusement and Mechanical Devices Tax talks. Use-based fees are fair and necessary.

The rhetoric that parking meters are not revenue devices has been bounced around a lot lately. The problem is that the rhetoric is not entirely true. Firstly, it’s made up. Meters exist for whatever reason the owner chooses. The simple fact that revenue is generated from meters invalidates the stance. A more correct statement may be that parking meters don’t have to exist for the sole purpose of revenue generation.

Although it is sometimes disputed, Carl C. Magee, of Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma, is generally credited with originating the parking meter. He filed for
a patent for a "coin controlled parking meter" May 13, 1935. The patent,
#2,118,318, was issued May 24, 1938.

The world's first installed
parking meter was in Oklahoma City, on July 16, 1935. Mr. Magee had been
appointed to the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce traffic committee, and was
assigned the task of solving the parking problems in downtown Oklahoma City.
Apparently, folks who worked in the area were parking on downtown streets,
staying all day, and leaving few spaces for shoppers and others who visited the
central business district.

Magee's solution was to install parking
meters, charge for the use of the parking spaces, and turn over those spaces
that would otherwise have been filled by all day parkers. In addition, the
parking meters would generate revenue for a growing city. It must have worked,
as the idea of metered parking eventually caught on worldwide. From that early
beginning, the use of parking meters by municipalities, colleges and
universities, and private parking facilities has increased to the point that
today, in the United States alone, there are an estimated five million parking
meters in use.

Based on this number, if every parking meter
collected only 25 cents per day, the gross revenues generated by parking meters
in the U.S. for one day would be a staggering 1.25 million dollars

Although Magee's mission was to solve parking
problems, it is evident from his patent application that generating revenue was
an important issue from the beginning.
In the application, he stated that his
invention related to "meters for measuring the time of occupancy or use of
parking or other space, for the use of which it is desirous an incidental charge
be made upon a time basis."

The Parking Meter Page

The real shame we have to bear is that we did not address this issue over months. One of the most sensible arguments to the increase I heard was that we lack a plan. And our lack of planning, NOT a couple of quarters, is the limiter in the proposal.

Speakers have pointed out that we need coordinated actions when we address parking. Street parking costs need to compliment garage costs. Garage costs need to be less that ticket fines. Residents need evening exemptions. Overnight parking costs needs to compliment parking costs in destination cities like Philadelphia and Ney York City. Payment needs to be convienient, and taxicab loitering needs to be managed.

The answer is not “to fee or not to fee.” That would be catering to our emotional special interest. The answer is a coordinated, well-mapped parking master plan.

Maybe we need some authority over parking...?

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