Residents are Free, Visitors Pay


Residents are Free, Visitors Pay

Let’ s see if I understand this.

The city of Myrtle Beach is a vacation destination and during the summer, they charge visitors to park but allow residents to park for free. They have a severe downtown parking problem during the summer months. Residents, and I assume this includes folks who work downtown, have a decal that allows for free parking.

The city wants to lease a local unused private parking structure to alleviate the onstreet parking issues. This brings to mind some questions:

  1. Do residents get to park in the structure for free?
  2. Why would a resident park in the structure if they can park more conveniently on street for free
  3. If a visitor has to pay anyway, why not pay to park on street.
  4. What are the rates for on street parking and are they more that parking in the structure?

My kneejerk reaction is that leasing the structure will not work. The city wants to lease the structure basically for free and pay the owner a piece of the parking action. However, if they charge in the structure and its free on street (to residents) that means all visitors will park in the structure, I guess. But will the structure price be the same as the onstreet price? Will visitors know enough to try to find the structure?

If I were the owner, I would suggest a different deal:

The city should charge all to park on street, and it should be enough so that people would think twice about parking there. The owner would open his garage to public parking. He would charge what the traffic would bear, which would be under the pricing for on street parking. Residents could get a discount for parking on street or in the garage, using a debit card program. The owner of the garage would be reimbursed by the city for any resident discount. The city would have no connection to the private garage. All would be right with the world.

That seems fair. The city is in competition with the owner of the garage and the free onstreet parking is probably the main reason the garage is closed now. Why open a business if the guy across the street is giving your product away free. If the city wants to give away parking, so be it, but in doing so, they should realize that they are destroying the ability of the owner to make a living. They also are ruining the downtown parking system as “free” parking means that the marketplace is artificially out of balance. People drive around looking for a “free” space, residents get ‘free’ parking for political reasons, I guess, and parking in the city is a mess.

If the city wants to subsidize parking, then they should pay the cost of so doing.



Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. How this is typically handled in the UK, and seems to work, is to separate out the residents’ parking from the visitors’ parking: residents park in specified permit bays, everyone else pays to park, either on street (which typically has a time limit), or on an off-street car park. This seems to work pretty well as spaces are reserved for residents, and new spaces are created through the day for visitors.
    Commuters park in off-street spaces, and often buy discounted year-long permits for those car parks. Some of the off-street is owned by the local authority, some privately.

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