A lot has been written recently about the so-called "war on cars"---that is, Mayor Mike McGinn's efforts to increase rates for private and on-street parking, promote alternatives to driving alone, and build sidewalks and bike lanes. To name just two recent examples (not to mention an upcoming Seattle Times piece by Emily Heffter on the subject):
1. KING-5 TV, which asks flatly, "Is there a war on cars?"
I think we can assume that their answer was yes, based on the fact that they didn't interview one single person who thought it might be a good idea to spend more money on alternatives to driving solo. Instead, we get half a dozen "motorists" (some anonymous) complaining that "you just go round and round" trying to find parking downtown; whining vaguely that it's "tough on the streets, very tough"; and arguing that the city shouldn't extend paid parking to Sundays, "because I work on Sundays."
2. Next up: Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, who argues that by increasing parking rates to $4 an hour downtown---just over half the existing market rate in downtown commercial parking lots---the city is going to "war with its citizens."
His supporting evidence? One downtown Seattle business owner thinks the city is being too tough on scofflaw parkers. (The number of parking tickets in the city has increased about 23 percent in the past five years). Between 2000 and 2009, the city's population grew about 7 percent.
"That's all I'm asking, Seattle City Hall. Don't be like the other Washington. Cut us a little slack."
I'm not going to reiterate all the reasons PubliCola has outlined to show that it makes sense to raise parking fees a modest amount to help pay for some of the city's transportation needs; if you're interested, you can read those here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Instead, I'm just going to link to this piece on StreetsBlog LA, which argues that: 1) Simply raising rates across the board isn't the solution; 2) Cities need to charge a price for parking that results in one or two empty spaces on each block---which is exactly what McGinn's proposal aims to do; 3) Cities should spend the money raised from meter parking in the neighborhoods where it's raised (an idea the city has discussed implementing in the past, but which hasn't gone anywhere); and 4) Cities should get rid of parking requirements for new developments (a "duh" idea that has met resistance from the council because of pressure from neighborhoods).
To paraphrase the progenitor of all those proposals, Donald Shoup, cheap parking isn't cheap. When drivers whine about having to pay for parking, they're ignoring the actual cost (in terms of congestion, loss of land, loss of revenues that could be spent elsewhere, traffic deaths, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.) of the public subsidies that make driving, and parking, so convenient.
If there is a war on cars, cars are winning. Proposals like McGinn's just help level the playing field.
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