Everyone’s favorite contrarian, Noel Weyrich of Philadelphia Magazine, drops in on the Opinion section of the Sunday Inquirer with a noticeably intelligent and acutely worded critique of the pricing structure and rates of Philadelphia’s parking garages.
There's no doubt that the modus operandi of parking garages in Center City is completely fucked. Short term rates are high and long term rates are low — exactly the opposite of how pricing should be structured to minimize congestion and optimize the amount of “beneficial” (i.e. retail-inclined) car traffic downtown. The idea: commuters should be taking transit, while other shorter, more spontaneous, retail-oriented downtown trips (shopping, dining, etc.) should be able to find relatively inexpensive off-street parking.
Mr. Weyrich states that short term rates in garages should be legislated to be “capped at 125 percent of the price for parking at the nearest on-street meter." That way, there would much less of an incentive for people to “meter cruise”, i.e. when motorists drive around in circles looking for cheap, metered parking, instead of pulling into a garage for an hour or so, because short term rates are so high.
Well, he's right.
And guess what? Garage operators stand to make even more money by doing it this way.
Would this bring financial ruin to the private parking companies? Hardly.Contrast that with how the Philadelphia Parking Authority idiotically operates its lots:
In Portland, Ore., where publicly owned garages already set downtown parking rates this way ($1.25 per hour, $12 to $15 all day), officials say that their garages make more money than those of private competitors with higher short-term rates and lower all-day rates.
The Parking Authority runs an 850-space garage at 10th and Filbert Streets that seems hell-bent on making traffic congestion worse. One hour of parking in this garage costs $9 (a powerful incentive for drivers to go meter-cruising), but the all-day early-bird special is just $11 - cheaper than a round-trip regional-rail ticket to Levittown, Yardley or Langhorne.No, it’s true. They really are. As if it weren't blatantly obvious.
This garage even offers a "Crazy Eights" special - $8 if you're in before 8 a.m. and out before 8 p.m. Crazy is right. The Parking Authority is bribing drivers to bring their cars downtown, while a few blocks to the north, the Port Authority plans to spend $660,000 studying just why congestion is so bad around the Ben Franklin Bridge off-ramps.
Seriously though — the future economic health of Philadelphia depends on its ability to make itself (and, therein, its streets) truly livable — and its willingness to not make more and more concessions to the automobiles and the dummies who drive them. (Sorry, if you’re one of them, but it has to be said — if you commute for work into Center City via auto because you don’t “want” to take Septa, you are flat out stupid. Hella-stupid. Like, straight up Larry Mendte-dumb.)
However, as can be plainly seen by the very unfortunate end to Mayor Bloomberg’s praise-worthy congestion pricing proposal for Manhattan, any effort to get Americans to drive less, especially into city centers, is an incredibly uphill battle.
But one that has to be fought. Or our cities are going to die. A horribly sucktastic death.
The good news? Weyrich correctly asserts that this is something that Mayor Nutter and his people — specifically, Nina Cutler, the deputy mayor for transportation, and Mark Allen Hughes, the new director of sustainability — both can and should tackle immediately.
Legislation could quickly and simply rectify the problem.
Portland started it. San Francisco followed suit. Now even Chicago and DC are getting on board.
So Nutts, you going to let Philadelphia get shown up again?? We really, really hope not.
It's time to shift parking rates [ Philadelphia Inquirer ]
How the politics of parking can defile a city [ Toronto Star ]
Hell's Parking Lot [ Streets Blog ]
DC to Devote Parking Fees To Livable Streets [ Streets Blog ]
San Francisco Launches Ambitious Parking Reform Program [ Streets Blog ]