Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Parking Meters Annoying, but Could Be Beneficial Long Term

There has been a lot of discussion and coverage about the city's sale of our parking meters to a private corporation for $1.2 billion. The effects of this are starting to boil over and people are angry. A fellow Slooper and host of the blog American Crow recently reached out to us about some correspondence with 3rd ward Alderman, Pat Dowell about the parking issues. They bring up some valid and important issues that need to be addressed.

Carol Marin, a blogger for the Chicago Sun-Times also weighs in on the issue:
A teacher who lives in the South Loop along Printer's Row wrote, "Now I have to wake up at 7:30 on Sunday so that I can move my car. Many of the businesses in my area are not even open on Sundays. My street is like a ghost town. It's lost its vibrancy. . . . "
The Printer's Row teacher brings up a valid point about the neighborhoods loss of vibrancy. We assume the teacher is implying that the parking meters are deterring people from parking and coming to the neighborhood. If that's the case it would be interesting to hear about how businesses are coping with this lack of 'traffic'.

However, there is a silver lining in our opinion, but we need to think long term.

By increasing the cost to use parking meters it inherently will force people to weigh the benefits of driving downtown. Hopefully it will deter people from this action which in turn could ease congestion and possibly encourage them to use other forms of transportation (CTA, Metra, Bikes, walking). As we heard throughout the presidential campaign, we need to ween people off their dependency of cars and foreign oil.

This brings to mind an old theory about a "gas tax" that would encourage US consumers to be less dependant on gas and cars. Thomas Friedman, the renowned NYT columnist, is a big proponent of this theory and discussed it in this column from 2005:
...with a higher gasoline tax locked in for good, pump prices would never be going back to the old days, adds Mr. Verleger, so they (US consumers) would have a much stronger incentive to switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles and Detroit would have had to make more hybrids to survive. This would have put Detroit five years ahead of where it is now.
Another similar theory or concept that has been considered in Chicago is a congestion tax for drivers entering the loop or business district during peak times. London has had this scheme in place since 2003 and overall the impact has been successful (depending on who you ask).

All three of these controversial theories or actions (higher cost to use parking meters, a gas tax or a congestion tax) have one thing in common and that is the ability to make people reconsider their transportation choices. It will affect some of us more then others, but gradually we will adapt and at the end of the day, we think that's a good thing.

Would love to hear your thoughts as it's obviously a controversial subject. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think people will decide to just avoid Chicago all together and stay in the burbs. For those of us that do live in the city, we will not park at meters and instead not be lazy and find free residential parking nearby. It can be found everywhere if you want to find it.

The end result is a loss for everyone. The city collects less money due to the law of diminishing returns, the street parking goes un-utilized resulting in crowding on nearby streets and businesses lose customers to places with free parking and lower taxes.

Anonymous said...

You right Matt. What the purests don't want to talk about is:

a. Hiking taxes in this recession
could kill alot of middle class
to upper-middle class people and businesses who are trying to find every reason to stick it out in
Chicago and the South Loop
despite all the State, Cook and city tax, hidden cost, permit,
and fee increases already
proposed, on top of what the
Messiah has planned for your money you have left over. All that will be left is bus riders, and people who need government assistance (i.e. Chicago Democrats)

Why pay all these fees on top of $10K+ for private school for the kids when all this is free or a fraction in LaGrange, Western Springs, Naperville, and Oak Park.

b. TIF increase - don't kid
yourself about all the other
proposals from the Central Area action plan to support the Olympics. The city wants to do $10-15 Billion in infrastructure and transportation projects where normally there was mass federal subsidies for, but with that vanishing with the Messiah, and Daley want's to have ability to TIF much of this, while also having full portability to take the money from all TIFS to pay for the big projects. That is probably over $50,000 per taxpayer in the Central & south Loop from 2009 - 2018.

c. The graft in designing and executing these deals and contracts. For example, do basic NPV of the parking meter deal, and Chicago is getting 25% of the value at best.

They will cry for their falic highrises for 'density' and want their transit oriented development but will cry when no one stays, shops, or eats in the South Loop.

Anonymous said...

I don't think people are going to avoid Chicago because of parking meters. In many cases driving into the city is much more of a hassle then taking the metra (or cta if possible).

If they want to stay in the suburbs fine. Personally I would rather like to try and find a way to make it into the city, whether it's coughing up the extra dough to drive and park or simply taking a train.

Anonymous said...

Your point is well-taken. Steps that will lessen traffic congestion downtown and decrease greenhouse gas emissions are necessary. However, the current system (i.e. coins in a slot) needs to be replaced ASAP. For those who need to park it is simply not feasible to plug a meter with upwards of 20 coins. Get machines that accept cc's and print time-stamped slips which are displayed on a parked vehicle's dashboard. Geez.

Sloopy said...

Yeah, the coins need to be replaced, that's just unacceptable and inconvenient. I know Michigan avenue has the credit card and ticket on the dashboard system. Hopefully they do that throughout the rest of the neighborhood (and city as well).

Anonymous said...

I think there are better ways to decrease global warming and dependence on foreign oil than to raise parking meter rates. Also, who carries coins anymore? You give those to those bums so they can sip some of granddad's cough medicine. Go to a credit card system with the parking meters. It'll be easier and more convienent.

Sloopy said...

No argument that there are better ways to decrease global warming and dependence on foreign oil. The main reason the city did this was to simply get more money to fund a budget issue.

What we're saying is that a byproduct of this action could potentially make people drive less, which will help with congestion, oil consumption and environmental issues.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that of all the cities with parking meters, that the City of Chicago is the first to privatize them. Why?

From the City's perspective, obviously they are trying to fill budget holes; however, there has been some speculation that the city got hosed on the deal.

From other cities' perspective, why has no other city done the same thing? I think that privatizing a public good is illegal and it will be a matter of time before the lawsuits come forward. Parking on streets is a public good, you can't just lease that off? Can you imagine if the city leased the rights of the public library to a corporation and they started charging monthy fees for your library card?

The meter deal is bad all around. It is particularly bad in the South Loop, where free parking 5 years ago has become metered parking now.