Hansen’s community meeting on parking

timed parking and residential permit
timed parking and residential permit

On August 12, Steve Hansen sponsored a community meeting on parking issues. This is a report and reaction. The meeting was actually quite civil, not often the case when neighborhood people get involved in issues. There was clapping for things they liked but no booing and no angry outbursts.

Matt Eierman, parking manager for the City of Sacramento, presented on the current proposals and a bit about future ideas, what the city is calling “parking modernization.” He addressed concern that there would not be enough parking for the arena by showing a map of downtown parking spaces overlaid with walking distance at the Sleep Train Arena (ARCO), with sufficient parking available.

Eierman claimed that credit card fees at parking meters cannot legally be charged back to the credit card holder, however, San Francisco and many cities outside California are doing just that.

Eierman said dismissively that he hates the idea of “dynamic” parking fees, the idea that parking rates would change with location, time of day or day of week. He said “no wants to drive up to a meter and not know how much it is going to cost.” This is an absurd statement, and I’ll provide an analogy. Would a person say they are never going to buy apples at the store again because they don’t know ahead of time whether they are $0.89 or $1.19 this week? Of course not, people make decisions based on changing information, and parking is no different. With a smart phone, the person would know the fee even before pulling into the space.

The two things being proposed to go the the city council in the near future are:

  1. An increase in the parking rate from $1.25 per hour to $1.75 per hour, at all on-street metered parking in the central city. The city pointed out that fees have not increased in some time, though costs have gone up, and that an increase for on-street parking would shift longer term parking off the streets and to city parking garages and lots, some of which are very underutilized.
  2. A SPOTZone (Special Parking Over Time) pilot in Old Sacramento and one location in midtown that would allow people to pay for time beyond the set time limit, at a higher price. The pricing would discourage long term parking, causing more spaces to be open, but through payment mechanisms (smart meters and smart phone payment) would reduce the number of parking citations.

The audience seemed to accept that these two were the only proposals at the moment, but knowing that other ideas would be coming, mostly wanted to talk about other ideas, about which they had much greater concerns. These include residential parking permits and parking availability on residential streets, where the money is going, and extension of parking restriction hours to evenings and weekends.

Most of the time was spent talking about residential parking permits. The majority of the audience, with a few exceptions, seemed to feel that they should be guaranteed one or more free parking spaces on their block, and were upset that commuters and, every more so, entertainment visitors, were filling up the spaces that belonged to the residents. The idea seemed to be a residential parking permit system that would affect everyone else, but not the person speaking. Several people also insisted that they be able to obtain an unlimited number of visitor permits, easily. Cheers erupted when Hansen announced that visitor permits would be available online within a year.

There was discussion about parking for docents at Crocker and other museums in the central city, who have to run out to feed the meter, or even worse, move their car before their work shift is over. This seems a reasonable thing to be concerned about, particularly for the Crocker which is on only one bus route that doesn’t run often. However, I had to laugh when someone from the California Museum said that parking was nowhere to be found in the area. The light rail runs right in front of the museum, better than every 15 minutes weekday and better than 30 minutes weekends, and provides access to large areas of unlimited free parking, as well as to many residences.

Several people talked about abuse of disabled parking permits, which fills many parking spots all day long with vehicle driven by someone who is not legitimately disabled. This is not something I’ve looked at, but since it is reported from nearly every major city in the US, I imagine it is true. Some people claim that the city can do nothing about this because state law prevents it, but I’m not so sure.

I had two major concerns:

  • These two proposals are being considered in isolation from all the other ideas. I think that the parking system is so badly broken that all ideas should be considered and solved at once, so we don’t have to keep coming back to it.
  • The phrase “parking management” was used throughout, but the city is not doing, nor proposing to do, parking management. Real parking management means managing demand, so that there are always some open spaces available. Setting a single parking fee throughout the central city, whether it is $1.25 or $1.75, does not manage demand because demand varies widely by location, time of day, and day of week. I’ll leave it at that because I’ll come back to this issue in more detail in a future post.

You might wonder why I show so much interest in parking, when I don’t own a car and don’t even like cars. It is because parking, poorly managed, can be one of the greatest harms to livability in a city, while parking, properly managed, can contribute to mobility, livability, traffic calming, and economic vitality. I’ve posted before: parking feesRiver Cats: no such thing as free parkingFree holiday parking? Why not free transit?diagonal parking, and as part of many other posts, and will again. Very soon I’ll respond to the SacBee article by Tony Bizjak.

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