Monday, January 10, 2011

Paid Parking Is All the Rage

The title for this week's entry could and probably should be taken in two ways. Many communities, including Dover, are beginning to see the value in charging for on street parking spaces. The second meaning is that as communities look at charging for this commodity, residents/merchants begin to cry foul.

As I look at the removal of “Free parking,” I tend to see that it isn't really as free as people might think. People pay for parking and the maintenance of the spaces through property taxes, in a fiscal means. In an green way, the less it costs to drive, and park, the less people will explore alternative means, such as the City's FasTrans system, COAST Bus, or walking to get to destinations downtown. Also the less the charge, the less we place a value on something, including an overall value on our fair city.

For Dover, revenue from parking meters will be used to pay for local parking staff and associated costs of operating the parking bureau in the Police Department. This is similar to other fee for service funds that the City has (garbage bags, building permits etc). These are accepted fees, that I am sure were met with resistance 20 years ago when they were implemented.

According to a book by David Shoup, a professor at UCLA, The High Cost of Free Parking, parking policies are devastating American cities, and we’re wasting billions every year on parking subsidies that should go to parks and other human-scale activities. Shoup points that by offering free parking we ignore the fact that a lot of our excess capacity goes begging. An Urban Land Institute survey shows that at least half of all spaces are vacant more than 40 percent of the time the businesses they serve are open.

In an article in the New York Times, in August of 2010, Tyler Cowan, argues that there are economic and environmental costs for free parking. On the economics side, he believes that if all parking had a cost associated with it, drivers would make more efficient and economical choices and would limit trips made by car. From an environmental standpoint, less vehicle trips is a good thing. less trips means less emissions, less congestion and, may improve land use on abutting properties.

One goal of the paid parking option is to encourage long term parking to occur in lots off the main roadways. By freeing up these at curb spaces for customers, the parking becomes more available for consumers who will spend money in the stores. These long term parkers have many opportunities here in Dover for parking within a few blocks of their business.

One thing I find ironic is that drivers feel that parking should be free, where they don't feel the same way about gas, oil and other elements associated with driving. Imagine going to a gas station filling up and moving on. You wouldn't rationalize that, but for some reason we can rationalize free parking.

Does gas have more value than parking spaces? If so, why?

One thing that I see is that the value isn't really in the parking space, but in what the parking space allows you to do. You can park and shop or eat or do whatever you need to do. The value is in knowing that for up to 3 hours your spot is claimed. Now, you might argue that you can go to the mall and park for free, but are you really? The cost of the parking is included in the rent charged to the merchant in the mall, and that charge is in turn placed in your purchase price for the good or service you bought.

One merchant told me that she is looking forward to the paid parking, because she sees that her goods are valuable and she has faith that people will pay a quarter for 20 minutes to shop in her store. She said that merchants should have faith that their food, or good is worth the price to pay and park.

I agree with the merchant, and wonder if people are concerned about the value of goods and services offered in Dover, what is the genesis of their low expectation or view of Dover, and the goods and services offered. We need to acknowledge that Dover is a great place to live, work, and shop. One way to acknowledge this is to respect the cost associated with doing all those things.

Would a consumer pay to park in Portsmouth and get the same good or service they could get in Dover? If so, why? If the product is the same, is the price of parking the sole deterrent to the local purchase (in other words would you purchase the widget in Dover if the parking is free, but purchase it in Portsmouth if there is paid parking in Dover)?

If the price of parking is not the sole deterrent, why not advocate for an improvement in the quality of the goods and services offered. The problem might not be the parking, it might be the value of the good or service. All I am saying is that you should always look at the root of the issue, not just the surface concern.

I believe that we have a lot to offer in Dover, and we do offer a lot as a community. By investing in ourselves we are able to show the value and care... no pride, we have in our community. In return for showing that pride and demanding a return for the value we have placed (the price of parking) we have an expectation of high quality good and services and a high quality in community building.

Those expectations seem like basic ones we all should have. Remember, the Beatles offered that "the love you take is equal to the love you make." The same thing applies in communities, the pride and value you place in a community - whether through paid parking or otherwise - should be returned. So expect high and give high. You'll get what you give.


  1. I am actually somewhat relieved and encourages to know that the metering project has at least in some way been influenced by Mr. Shoup. I am still unsure that the downtown area is enough of a draw to make the paid part truly effective...however I will reserve judgement...

    Will the prices change based on demand? I mean we don't have the funds to do what San Fran. is doing... but something updated every month or so based on observed demand? The goal being to have ~85% of the spots filled...

    Will the monies fully go to the general fund, or will this be earmarked for transportation...? Ideally they could go to providing bicycle parking in the downtown core for those that wish to use that mode of transportation, thereby reducing trips even more and providing a safe convenient fast option for those on two wheels...

  2. Wow! What a crock. This is the biggest pant load I’ve ever read. You are somehow attempting to make me believe that having our customers pay for parking exhibits a perceived higher quality goods and services? Are you kidding? Thats like telling me $3.10 a gallon for gas is fair because , well, it’s good gas. Metered parking is like me hiring someone to stand at my door and collect an admission fee. You might as well put a toll house on both ends of Central ave. I didn’t mean that. Please don’t get any ideas. If the quality of our businesses is so great why aren’t the meters on at night? Are you saying our restaurants and clubs are somehow sub-par? You can spin this any way you like but the truth is the truth and that is this WILL hurt our businesses period....