Ah Ha, A Potential Problem


Ah Ha, A Potential Problem

The City of Harrisburg, PA, is considering leasing its on street parking operation for the next 75 years to a parking concern from New York. They would be paid $215 million for the parking rights and the company would then collect all the monies from the parking and enforce, adjudicate, provide meters and the like.

Here’s the rub. The company may, in the future, want to add pay for parking where it’s presently free and obviously it will want to raise rates.  Residents are concerned about that and there is a clause in the agreement that says that additional pay parking may be added "with the approval of the city council." If the city council disagrees, they must compensate the contractor.

The contractor will most likely let the free market set the on street prices. That makes perfect sense. The problem is that the uproar caused by that will not be mitigated by using the increased parking fees to upgrade the neighborhood from which those fees came.

It is also doubtful that the city will use the $215 million to upgrade those areas, or set aside funds for future upgrades, but that the money will find its way into the general fund or to reduce debt or whatever, and the find citizens of Harrisburg will discover that they have lost their parking income and also control over their parking spaces.

Cities have to move carefully when selling off their on street parking. The ability to convince residents and merchants that parking should not be cheap but prices should be set to make parking available and stop cruising by using the money generated to plow back into the neighborhoods for safety, maintenance, and other services, might just go away.

Harrisburg has already gotten its first taste of "parking rage" at its city council meetings. The contractor says there "are no plans" to charge for parking in nearby residential areas. But these wise residents know that plans change. The contractor admits that the clause to add pay parking is there because who knows what will happen in 50 or 60 years. Not very comforting to the merchants and residents.

However if they knew that if parking charges were to come to pass that the money would be put back into street lights, new sidewalks and curbs, another police patrol, and the like, they may feel that it was worth it. However it’s unlikely a private company would want to take its profit and use it for such amenities. After all, they need to get their $215 million back, plus all the operating costs.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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