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:
- 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.
- 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 Sacramento News & Review published this week Parking Nightmare: Major changes in Sacramento could mean higher prices, stiffer restrictions, following up on a earlier blog post (https://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/pageburner/blogs, scroll down to July 15). SacBee also had an article on Friday, Downtown Sacramento parking rates likely to rise. Apart from the SN&R click-bait headline, the article provides more depth than anything else available at the moment, and provides me a chance to review parking fees and consequences. First, I would not for a moment counter the claim that an increase in parking charges is due at least in part to the city’s need to increase revenue to pay off arena bonds. But beyond that, it is possible to evaluate how parking should be priced.
My views on parking are all based on two concepts:
- There is no such thing as free parking. If parking is free, it is being subsidized by someone. The seminal thinking on this issue is The High Cost of Free Parking, by Donald Shoup, as well as writings by others. The objective of managed parking pricing should be to ensure some free parking on every block so that people do not circle looking for parking, and that some of the parking fee income be returned to the neighborhood for improving the right-of-way, including sidewalks and pedestrian amenities.
- On-street parking is not, as some people think, a bad thing. It slows traffic by generating “friction.” On street parking might be removed when there is clearly a higher use for road right-of-way, such as bike lanes or sidewalks, however, in almost all cases, removal of a travel lane is better for everyone than removal of on-street parking. I don’t support on-street parking because I want to see more space devoted to motor vehicles, but because of the traffic calming effect and because I think on-street parking creates a more livable environment than do parking garages, which I consider to be the lowest use (or mis-use) of urban land, only exceeded by off-street surface parking lots. Our streets would in fact be safer if there were more on-street parking on weekends and evenings, when most of the extremely dangerous and egregious speeding occurs.