The City of Sacramento has announced free holiday parking (on the Downtown Sacramento Partnership website), stretching from Old Sacramento through midtown, to attract shoppers. This is done in order to attract people who might otherwise shop at suburban big box stores and malls that offer acres of free parking, as this free parking in the suburbs puts downtown businesses at a disadvantage. (There is, of course, no such thing as free parking, someone has to pay, but that is another argument for another day.)
However, why no benefits for people who use transit to reach downtown, either by choice or necessity? I think there should be free transit tickets for people who shop downtown during the same times and places as the free parking is in effect. Businesses would give out a SacRT single ticket (normally $2.50) to each shopper for the trip back home. There might be a minimum purchase requirement, just to prevent someone from accumulating a large number of tickets by making small purchases at several businesses. However, since one free ticket doesn’t cover the trip to the business, nor trips requiring a transfer, nor family members, I think overall it would be more than fair to the city.
The free tickets would cost the city money, since they’d have to be purchased from SacRT. I’m sure a volume discount could be worked out, but there would still be real costs. The free parking offer means that the city is foregoing a considerable amount of parking revenue in order to support local business. Whether the increase in sales tax revenue from holiday shopping balances the lost parking revenue, I don’t know, but the city obviously considers it an overall benefit whether the balance sheet works or not. The same benefit could be obtained through free transit tickets.
Fare is fair! Let’s see free transit tickets!