Parking Assessments == these are charges the city levies against businesses to cover the costs of providing parking in downtown areas. The city justifies the charges because of the expense of paving, marking, policing, snow removal, and the like. You can read about Jackson, MI’s issues here.
Let’s review the bidding. Merchants in a down central area want customers. They feel, I guess, that charging for parking on street causes those customers to go elsewhere, so they lobby the city to provide free parking for their customers. The city, understandably, says “sure, we’ll provide “free” parking, but someone has to pay. So rather than charge everyone in the city, they charge the merchants an assessment to cover the costs.
The merchants then pass this assessment along to their customers as a higher cost for their goods and services and suddenly downtown merchants aren’t as competitive as those in the malls outside of town.
Of course, everyone pays for the cost of parking, not just those who drive. Those who walk, take the bus, or ride with someone else also pay for the parking assessment.
And, there’s another problem. There is no way, with “free” parking and a parking assessment, to regulate who parks where. With “free” parking, the folks who work in stores and shops in the area simply park where they like, taking the best spaces. The visitors must “cruise” looking for parking, and causing congestion.
The “free” parking causes traffic problems, angry customers, and frankly, decisions to shop elsewhere. Few make the decision to shop at the mall at the edge of town based on free parking. They go there because of good prices, selection, and the “scene”. All of these could be available downtown.
The merchants in Jackson are asking the city to review the parking assessment, some claiming that it is a “tax” (of course it is) and that it is therefore illegal. The city is saying that they will review it, but the program needs to be funded, and the “fee” must stay in place.
Of course there is an alternative – Charge for parking and have the money generated go back into the neighborhoods from whence it came. Charge enough so that there is one empty space always available on each block face. Tell people that the parking charges are there for clean streets, better parks, new sidewalks, and the like.
All would be right with the world.