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The High Cost of Free Parking

From: David A. Roise <"David>
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2018 15:14:27 -0700

Dear Council Members,

Instead of debating how to build a ridiculously expensive parking structure,
you should be considering how to implement a paid parking system for all
public parking spaces in downtown Menlo Park. Anyone who has taken a high
school economics class would understand that you can't just give something
away for free without creating an imbalance in supply and demand. Whether
you're selling widgets or parking spaces, market forces should generally be
used to set an appropriate price for something of value that is available
only in limited quantities.

In case you haven't heard, San Francisco is in the process of implementing a
"demand-responsive pricing" system for all of its 28,000 on-street parking
meters. (See https://bit.ly/2ASQ71L.) An earlier pilot program showed 1)
increased business for local merchants in the trial area; 2) lower parking
rates; 3) decreased parking search time; and 4) decreased daily vehicle
miles traveled. Why wouldn't we want to emulate such a successful program
here in Menlo Park?

If you're having trouble penciling in the numbers for a downtown parking
structure, maybe it's because you're ignoring basic economics. The
technology is available to make car drivers pay an appropriate price for
their parking spaces. Charging a demand-responsive price for parking will
also incentivize people to leave their cars at home, especially when
demand--and therefore the price--is highest. That will open up parking
spaces for those folks who really need to drive. Win-win. For the cost of
installing some parking meters, you may even discover that we already have
as many parking spaces as we need. Plus, I'll bet you would have an easier
time finding a commercial partner for a metering system with existing
parking spaces than you will to build a new parking garage. (For what it's
worth, I'm not aware of anyone beating down your door to build a new parking
structure without massive subsidies--in one way or another--from the city.)

If you're concerned that drivers will see the implementation of paid parking
as some sort of money grab by the city, maybe you could pledge to plow all
the money earned from paid parking back into improvements in the downtown
streetscape and other public spaces. Other than the complaints of a few
vocal downtown merchants, I don't see how a demand-responsive paid parking
system wouldn't be a huge benefit for all of us. And even those merchants
concerned about the loss of their beloved (city-subsidized) free parking
spaces may discover that their businesses are better off with more foot
traffic and less car traffic.

With thanks for your time and efforts,

Dave Roise
Creek Drive
Received on Mon Apr 23 2018 - 18:57:34 PDT

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