Opinion: The Third Party


Opinion: The Third Party

On PT’s Parking Blog, I have been railing about the problems of putting market-based on-street pricing into effect, particularly in communities around colleges and universities where residential neighborhoods run right up against the school and the students and faculty park there rather than in university lots.
The other issue is that student housing typically surrounds the schools and there isn’t enough parking, so the students park in the neighborhoods, causing the residents to haul out the torches and pitchforks and attack city hall.
The city dads then try to make the world safe for everyone and cut the baby in half. By doing so, no one is happy and the problems simply keep getting worse and worse. They usually institute an area of permit parking and don’t allow anyone to have a permit who doesn’t live on the street affected. Of course, that blows the students away and frankly is a bureaucratic nightmare for the residents.
To salve that savage (student) beast, they then try to find parking for them, usually a mile from their homes, or they ignore them completely, conveniently forgetting that the university is an integral part of the economic subsistence of the community.
No one is going to mention the fact that if there was paid parking in the neighborhoods, everyone would benefit and all would be right with the world.
See, it works like this:
You set up a parking control district that includes both the on-street and available off-street parking in a particular area. You can, if you like, provide one parking permit to each homeowner at no charge, and then if they need more, they can pay the going rate. (They should be parking in their garage anyway.) You then sell permits, at market rate, to whoever needs to park in the area. You raise or lower the rates to fill the spaces available.
You also can sell permits for unused spaces at the local church, bank, amusement park or shopping center. If the shopping center knows that it is never full and has 20 spaces always available, then sell 20 permits for those spaces.
You then compensate each area based on the amount of money collected, both from fines and from the permit sales. (Obviously, you take out the admin costs for the program first.) So the residential areas would get new street lights, or sidewalks, or perhaps an extra police patrol or two; the businesses would be compensated for the use of their property; and the students, best of all, would have an alternative to no place to park.
It’s seldom an issue of not having the money to park (after all they could afford the car, the gas, the insurance and maintenance). It’s simply not having the ability to purchase parking anywhere. Besides, when better to learn that you have to pay your own way than in college?
The problem is typically political. Politicians such as the local council are simply unable to “sell” this type of program to the local citizens. They fold at the first hint of resistance.
What’s needed is a third party who is vested in the deal to sell it and market the results. I suggest that this is a great opportunity for private operators to provide assistance where it’s needed, and make a few shekels on the side.
Of course, they would have to become experts in the science of market-based parking pricing and returning the results to the neighborhoods whence it came, but why not? They are the parking professionals. This is a perfect way for parking operators to become consultants to the communities in which they work.
Operators know where all the available spaces are and the going rates for parking. They would also benefit in their off-street operations if the on-street rates were set higher than off-street to attract parkers to the off-street locations.
I have gone to area after area where I’m told there is no parking available and found literally hundreds of empty spaces. They are on the street a half-block away, behind the shops and stores, under buildings, at filling stations, churches and shopping centers.
All that is needed is for those parking spaces to be located and cataloged and deals cut with the owners. Who better to do that than a commercial operator?
I know some will say this is a simplistic view, but can anyone come up with a reason it won’t work?

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