Raising Parking Fees – “What were you thinking?”


Raising Parking Fees – “What were you thinking?”

Charleston, SC, is raising meter prices to equal garage prices. The local hospitality workers are enraged because this is dipping into their pocketbooks in a big way. Seems they park on street because it costs less. Oh, and the city is also extending enforcement til later in the evening, meaning additional costs for workers.

Hold the phone! Why would it cost less to park on street, a few steps from your destination, that to park in a structure a block or two away? Wouldn’t the more convenient space cost more? It seems the pricing was upside down to begin with. Of course, that’s the way it is in many cities. Buck an hour onstreet, $5 an hour in the structure.

The cooks, waiters, and baristas who park in those onstreet spots to save money are also missing something. They are taking their customer’s spaces. I understand the need to save money, particularly when you are on a budget, but to do so by making it more difficult for you boss to cover your paycheck? I don’t think so.

The article posted on Parknews.biz had some ideas – shuttles from lots on the periphery of the city, permits to reduce parking rates in structures for local employees, building rapid transit (a brilliant short term solution) – and the city council is mulling. But the key is this graph:

City Council didn’t vote on the issue because it already approved the parking meter changes late last year during the 2018 budget process. The decision was part of the plan to avoid raising homeowners’ property taxes to cover extra expenses this year, including a cost-of-living raise for city employees.

Did you note the words “budget” and “cover extra expenses” in the story? Yep – parking fees were being raised to cover costs unrelated to parking. It was also buried in the budget passed last year. Oh Please.

Now, after the raise is said and done, it comes to light. To quote a late-night host talking to a movie star caught with a prostitute “What were you thinking?” No wonder the local citizens are reaching for the torches and pitchforks.

Come on Charleston. Parking is one of the most emotive subjects you address. You can do better than this.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. “…parking fees were being raised to cover costs unrelated to parking…”

    Parking fees seem to be a major “go to” source for many municipalities as a means of balancing their budgets, or funding other programs. This was a major issue back when parking meters were first being installed on a wide-spread basis for the purposes of helping manage various traffic control issues. There were numerous law suits brought in multiple states declaring that parking meters were unconstitutional, and one of the main arguments was that the purpose of the meters was to create a revenue source versus serving as a regulatory action. To make a long story short, several State Supreme Courts all seemed to come to the same conclusion, so long as the charges were used to offset the costs of the parking program AND and any excess revenues were used to further the goals of the parking program (capital improvements to road and pedestrian infrastructure; money for future garage construction; sinking funds for future maintenance; money to cover salaries, pensions, etc of those involved in the parking program; etc.) then the parking meter programs were constitutional and the municipalities were within their rights to implement the programs. If the excess funds were used to finance programs and/or expenses that were not related to the parking program (parking meter revenue paying for a new City Hall or providing benefits to non-parking operations related employees, etc.) then the program was not legal and the courts would be within their rights to force the fees to be lowered to the point where all revenues stayed within the parking program.

    Here’s a summary the long story if interested (there are numerous other examples available);


    Don’t think many law makers have been looking at those decisions in the past few decades.

  2. The other problem is that people aren’t engaged early along in the process. Providing low cost passes to employees in the parking structures has worked well in the city I’m in when a similar change was made. There are way to engage people that use the meters prior to these budget decisions instead of people getting enraged a year or so after the decision was made in a public setting. One example I’ve seen is using a service like Textizen and placing stickers on the meters for people to provide public comment by text to their public officials. They used these to identify places for bicycle rental parking locations.

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