Notes from the ChairApril, 1997
While sitting through one of Boulder's interminable city council meetings a few weeks ago waiting to speak on Nathan Schomer's behalf, several of us were present for the discussion and approval of Boulder's new parking permit system.
It's heartening to know that they at least understand the basic economics of the situation: if there is a surplus of parking, its because it's being subsidized; and rather than further exhorting selfish car-addicted commuters to switch to healthy unicycles and pogo sticks, they are doing what should have been obvious all along: reducing the subsidy by raising the price.
It was also heartening to hear Lisa Morzel's complaint, that two planned city-owned parking garages will be subsidized as well, and the low price for parking will not allow the structures to become profitable for decades. Morzel argued that commuters should pay the full cost of what they do.
Absolutely. But I would go a step further: if the city would charge market rates for parking all over the city, it wouldn't have to build parking garages. Without the competition for subsidized parking, building a parking garage would become a profitable private sector business.
And a step further than that even: if the city were to sell it's curbside parking to private businesses (or give them to adjacent landowners as partial reimbursement for their property taxes), the price of parking would quickly rise to cover the cost of maintenance and enforcement, besides making buses, taxis, and parking structures profitable.
The lesson here is: you get what you pay for. If you hire painters to come paint your house, then get mad later that they painted your house instead of fixing your plumbing, you have no one to blame but yourself. Similarly the city massively subsidises an expensive, scarce resource like parking spaces, then complains that people aren't riding the busses or carpooling. As long as the basic level of subsidy remains the same, no stack of comprehensive plans and modal shift studies will have any siginificant effect.