LA Needs more Parking Space – I don’t think so…


LA Needs more Parking Space – I don’t think so…

The LA Times has a long article this morning about parking in the city of Angels. And of course it fails to understand the dynamics of parking, period. Read it here.

Basically the story talks of residential permit programs in the city and the fact that they ensure that space is kept from nearby businesses (duh). The city is considering permitting businesses to buy permits in the neighborhoods and guess what, the local residents don’t want it – Doesn’t somebody realize that the reason for the permit program in the first place was to keep nearby businesses from using the space…

Of course the real problem is that what little money is collected from the permit program goes into the general fund and is never seen in the neighborhoods where it was generated. This is the real issue – having enough space to park is frankly secondary.

The second issue is that the permits are much too cheap. They barely cover the cost of administering the program. Oh, the business permits will be higher, but still not in line with market pricing.

The businesses (and residents) want the city to build parking garages but the fund (over $50million) that was to be used for such construction is being taken by the mayor to help cover a nearly half a billion dollar budget shortfall. It was also pointed out in the article, that people don’t even use the city lots currently in existence because they are more expensive than on street parking and after all, who would walk two or three blocks to get to their dentist or accountant.

Want my solution:

Charge market rates for on street parking, everywhere. In front of residences, in front of businesses, everywhere. And take the money generated and use it to clean up and support the neighborhoods where it was generated. If you like, provide a permit for homeowners, but charge for it. Motivate em clean out those garages and put their cars there. Set up monthly parking programs in city (and private) lots near apartments so people who don’t have places to park can buy parking nearby. So they have to walk a couple of blocks when they get home. That’s life in the big city, folks. If you want to live in suburbia, then move to suburbia.

My guess is that if the money generated from parking, including fines, was sent right back into the neighborhoods, and streets were repaved, sidewalks replaced, alleyways cleaned up, graffiti removed, and the like, people would be much less reluctant to pay for parking.

Also, if market rates were charged, that three block walk wouldn’t be such a hardship.

The chances of this enlightened approach happening in Los Angeles, slim to none.

I am stunned that San Francisco has had the fortitude to begin to put market pricing in it parking program. People say it can work there because they have a better rapid transit system than we do in LA. I don’t see it that way.

If we charged market prices, the first thing that would happen is that all the spaces that aren’t being used would suddenly be found and cars would be in them. My guess is that 90% of the parking issue would go away instantly.

Second, more people would begin rethinking car pooling, and would take another look at the bus system — it works and goes almost everywhere.

Third, perhaps the demand would cause the creation of alternative transportation programs, like Jitneys, shuttles, and the like. Much of the regulation on such transportation would be relaxed and people would have a much wider choice of public and private transportation. Hell, they might even use the Billion Dollar a Mile subway system we have currently installed.

And Fourth, much of the city’s problems with paving, broken sidewalks, and typical urban mess could be fixed without taxing the hell out of everyone. Of course, the general fund would have to look elsewhere for money, but then, much of the cost of street maintenance and the like would be removed.

Whatcha think?



John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. JVH:
    Your insights are right on the money. The only added insight I might offer is that this is not a problem of not having enough parking spaces, its a problem of time management. If there were a shortage of parking spaces then many residents wouldn’t be able to find a parking space at the end of each day. While the space might not be convienent or the driver has to pay for the space, i.e. in parking lots or garages, everyone eventually finds a space to park their car each day. The challange is to develop a time management system that would make available convienent parking spaces based upon the time that each group of drivers needs a parking space, i.e. residents at night, on holidays and weekends,versus commuters during the work day. Coupled with paying a market rate price for each space that reflects it’s true value and that would be large enough to fund the sustainablility of neighborhoods. Parking in urban residential neighborhoods is a time (usage) problem not a space problem.

  2. JVH is 90% right. The basic problem is that LA’s parking spaces are not charged for correctly. There is an economic maxim: “If you have a problem relating to supply and demand, first set your prices correctly. Then see if you still have a problem.” In LA, parking charges are set too low. The correct level is so at any time of the day there should be around 85% occupancy – ie, 15% vacancies. This means that any driver would, on average, be able to find a vacant spot after driving past seven parked cars. If there are more vacancies charges are too high. If too few, charges are too low. The relevant authorities should set parking charges on this basis, and varying them to ensure the 15% vacancy rate is maintained through the day.
    And yes, 50% of the net revenue should go into “Local Improvement Districts” (separate for residential and business) and 50% into the general fund, where it can provide additional police – for keeping crime off the streets.
    The same principle should be adopted for paying for roads. LA should furnish the streets with “E-tag” tolls so that any journey by car/truck other than to the local shops means a toll is paid. If many ‘toll gates’ are used the cost of a journey will roughly vary as the length of a journey. If many are used, individual tolls will not be high, so short journeys will not be penalized by passing a ‘toll gate’. Tolls should be set so overall net revenues cover maintenance of roads AND a fair return on the capital investment in the roads. Where possible, tolls should also reflect use of roads, so roads with little traffic have low tolls – roads with high traffic have high tolls, and freeways, with their massive capital costs, have massive tolls. All costs of road constuction and maintenance should, after the start of tolling, be removed from the General Fund, thus lightening the burden on tax payers.
    With parking charges set as above, (removing ‘mobile parkers’ who circulate round and round a block looking for a parking space, thus creating congestion) and tolling for the use of roads in general, congestion should markedly decrease, and all Los Angelenos will benefit.

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