Paul Hits a Nerve — JVH Piles on


Paul Hits a Nerve — JVH Piles on

Paul certainly hit a nerve in the post below. Five responses in a day is a new record, I think. Its probably because he is right. Clyde wants a ‘user fee’ but why should I care if all the money just goes into the ‘general fund.’  User fees pay for the service, however cities treat the money like a tax.

Read the one before, about the money collected in DC. Think about it. Potentially a billion dollars in one major city. We talk about how much is collected, but not about where its spent. Hmmmmm.  Do we even know.

Sorry, Charlie, but organizations need to walk the walk, and stop all the talk. Communicate with the customers, the parkers, and stop fretting over ‘policy, “sustainability,” and technology. Where are the stories about how the money goes to the sidewalks, or the police, or the parks and rec.  I don’t see any. I see self serving articles about what the organization is doing, not what you are doing in State College, or what someone else is doing in Peoria or  Denver or Seattle. Wearing cute little pins doesn’t make “parking matter.” Stop talking about how good parking is or whining about how no “parking professionals” are at the policy table. Start telling the story about how the money generated makes for a better city, a better park, a better wing on the hospital.

Of course, the money has to go for that stuff to be able to tell that story, doesn’t it? Does it in your town?

Remember that one of the three legs on Don Shoup’s parking theory is to ‘return the money to the neighborhood from whence it came.’  Everyone is all hot to talk about the success of SF Park (heh) but who talks about how the money generated is going back into Cow Hollow or the Tenderloin to make Baghdad by the Bay a better, cleaner, safer city.

They aren’t because the money is going to try to keep the SFMTA afloat. So the people don’t care — they still want free parking, and hate it when they have to pay for it.

Go Paul. Keep it coming…


John Van Horn

John Van Horn

5 Responses

  1. People are going to complain about paying to park to matter how you present it to them. Same as people are always going to complain about paying taxes, paying $8+ for a beer at a ball game, paying $3.75+ for a gallon of gas or a $5 toll to cross a bridge. It’s what people do.

    Bottom line is we need to quit trying to figure out how we can make people happy about “paying” for parking and concentrate on providing the best product and service we possibly can. That $8 beer isn’t as painful if your team is winning, but if they’re having a bad year then it’s a total rip off.

    If you have a first class parking operation that is clean, easy to use and provides a feeling of safety to those using it then you’re going to get far fewer compliants about your rates. If the people representing the parking operations to the public aren’t friendly and well trained then the compliants are going to come in hard and heavy.

    Many parking operations are run by the “winner” of a bidding process where the lowest bid gets the deal, and in most of those situations they get exactly what they’re paying for. Can you imagine what it would be like if Disney operated their parks using the same process for staffing? Would their parks max out on weekends when it costs $14 to park, $80+ to enter the park and a simple lunch for a family of 4 costs $40+?

    The answer is “NO”, all they’d get is a bunch of complaints about how much everything costs and they’d be out of business within a month. The difference with parking is that the pricing is based on a supply/demand model, much like gasoline. The difference is that not only are we providing a product (the parking space) , but we are also providing a service (the parking operation). People “need” the product, but if the service that they pay for is no better than the product they get for free at other places (and in many cases it’s actually worse) then no matter how you spin it they are going to complain.

  2. It’s true, we will complain no matter how you spin it – but if the truth isn’t a “spin” and we feel good about that truth, we’ll be more supportive.

  3. “Free” is never free. Google aren’t a non-profit organisation offering the world a search engine free of charge. Even for a car park to cut even its going to have to charge someone – somewhere.
    Parking “Tax” is probably one of the most honest ones out there – you get what you pay for. Convenience in specific timed amounts.
    Do we pay for gas, water and petrol?

    Imagine how much out rage there would be if you paid a single tax bill every year – and it covered everything from water to parking……….but it didn’t tell you what your paying for. Because that is the alternative for councils.

    Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.

    They might sweeten it by saying it will build a bridge somewhere……but lets be honest……99% of the time that is marketing. There is no separate fund – it just get pooled into the big one.

  4. You may consider this blasphemy, but I don’t agree that Shoup’s 3rd rule applies to every municipality in the world. As we have debated before, rule #3 makes sense in a municipality that is large enough to have multiple districts in a Downtown. Let’s take Philadelphia for example. Philly has a few districts that I could see segregating the revenue. There is a Financial District , A Performing Arts District, and a Bar District. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume that cities that have over 250k in population are large enough to have multiple districts. That will put you to #185 on list of cities by population . Now lets assume that it takes 50,000 people to have a downtown active enough to have paid parking. There are 601 municipalities that are over 50k(and I checked #601 has a paid parking program). The way I look at it, the segregation rule to reinvest the revenue back to the district it came from only applies to roughly 1/3 of all municipalities that have a paid parking program.

    So where does my on-street and citation money go? It goes into the General Fund. But before you call this a tax or a slush fund, you need to take a few things into consideration. Without getting into exact numbers, downtown State College receives a majority of the Boroughs Capital Spending, even though a majority of our revenue is derived from the surrounding neighborhoods ( Real estate tax and Earned Income Tax). In additional most of our services that the Borough provides to the downtown, Police for example, cost more to provide the service to th downtown than the portion of downtown revenues generated.

    Next you need to consider that we spend Capitol Dollars even though the there is a Downtown Improvement District. They have an assessment. The assessment is not used for major Capital Projects. Want to guess who is the largest contributor to the Improvement District, yep, that would be parking. Even though we are tax and assessment exempt, we still pay what the assessment would be on all my parking lots and garages, in excess of $50,000 a year. The monies are used for downtown events, parades, and marketing for the downtown. Still don’t think parking does not reinvest in the downtown?

    In the end we invest more monies in the Downtown than is generated in both the taxes generated in the downtown and by parking revenues. Why create another fund? We already do it. If the downtown stakeholders want to provide input on HOW the money is spent, we are all ears. There a public forums each year for the Capital Improvement Plan and we do special meetings specifically for the downtown for next year’s projects. I can count on one hand how many people attend them.

    This brings me to my next point. I am not whining about the fact that parking professionals aren’t at the policy table. It’s a fact and it’s a problem. A larger problem is how many municipalities don’t even have a parking professional. In the past year alone I have had 6 municipalities in Pennsylvania call and ask for advice, 3 of them should have a parking professional.( meaning that they had revenues to support a parking professional) When a Mayor or City Councilmen or a Town Manager calls, I can almost guarantee you they have made bad policy decisions, because they do not do this every day. A proper parking operation is an integral part of the viability of a downtown. The problem is a lot of municipalities don’t pay someone to manage it properly.

    Paul- Here is the simple truth, no spin. Parking makes money, a ton if it. Deal with it. It is a by product of a properly managed operation. Some cities treat it as a slush fund, some dont. Dont lump us all togethor.

  5. Charlie:
    You have missed the point completely — as do the parking organizations. You need to find a way to communicate to the parkers that the new street or park or extra cop on the patrol was paid for by parking fees. Most of us don’t know it and if you tell us, we probably wouldn’t believe you. As long as the Mayor has a limo and the city manager makes $300K a year, there is a lot of suspect in how money is spent.

    You are very defensive, and probably rightly so. Since I haven’t been to State College I don’t know, but do you have a plaque next to the parking meters that say “revenue from this meter will pay the salary of one policeman, or will pay for the paving of main street, or …” well you get the idea. My guess is that since there is no specific way to know where the money goes once its in the general fund, the City’s lawyers won’t let you put up such a sign.

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