A parking meter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, displays the word “fail”. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.
I want nothing more than to believe Mayor Rahm Emanuel has created a good deal but I believe his own parking meter deal is just as ridiculous as the deal – from Richard M. Daley and 45 aldermen – that preceded it.
Rahm’s deal changes none of what Chicagoans abhor about the current deal, which include:
- It scheduled many price increases, without offering the buyer, those who pay to park, any additional value. Value could come in the form of a parking benefit district, where the revenues pay for local infrastructure improvements.
- The city gets none of the revenue (it collects fines, though).
- It costs us more than we ever expected (disabled parking placard, reimbursement for street closures, road work, and festivals).
- It removes control from the city administration and aldermen over our streets. Thanks goes to Active Transportation Alliance for pointing this out in their excellent June 2009 original report (since retracted and revised) in which the organization said, “As a result [of the lease], planners and neighborhoods have lost control over one of their most powerful urban planning and revenue generating tools.”
It changes nothing that policy makers dislike about it:
- We can’t implement dynamic or market or congestion pricing, unless the revenues for CPM stayed the same or were increased (although this would have to be negotiated).
- It throws another cog into the city’s plans to expand bike lane mileage. We’re already having a difficult time with merchants not wanting to lose parking in front of their store, despite all the evidence pointing to bike lanes increasing revenues. To make way for a bike lane, the metered parking space has to be moved to an equally valuable spot within the same Parking Region. The alderman has to get involved and it’s not an easy process.
Rahm’s deal, which the city council must approve as an ordinance, doesn’t help Rahm’s priorities.
The Active Transportation Alliance report said, “This lease agreement [from 2009] compromised the city’s ability to adjust parking policy; because of the agreement terms, meters will be the primary consideration in the planning of our city streets. Everything else, from traffic flow to pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities may only be considered after meters and their corresponding income has been considered.”
Rahm’s new deal doesn’t change that, but in fact will likely give CPM the same or more revenues under the plan. It will reduce the chargeable hours by 12 hours on one day (the newly free Sunday) and increase by 1 hour at more valuable times (weekday and weekend evenings) in areas that charge $2 and $4 per hour, and is increased by 3 hours at the same times in areas that charge $6.50 per hour. I’ve attempted to estimate how much more revenue with the spreadsheet below.
The city isn’t saving $1 billion – it hasn’t spent that money and there was no surety that it would; the press release acknowledges this, calling them ” estimated future charges”. The point here is that CPM and the city have agreed on how things like street closures and disabled parking placards will be paid for (by the city). CPM isn’t going to agree to any deal that reduces the value of the company to its shareholders.
No one asked to have free parking on Sunday. No one asked to have free parking on any day. Sunday is the day when people drive the least! If anyone deserves a break, it shouldn’t go to a small segment of the popular (“Sunday churchgoers”, Rahm said, acting as if they’re being harmed, and excluding churchgoers who don’t attend on Sundays), but to everyone who had to pay more than the parking space was worth and anyone who couldn’t get a bike lane in while people are being doored left and right.
Why else is free parking a bad idea? The experts at Active Transportation Alliance wrote:
Underpriced curb parking is a hidden source of traffic congestion and stimulates the most inefficient form of urban transportation. Underpriced parking encourages drivers to cruise for cheap parking, which harms everyone’s health and safety, slows down automobiles and buses behind the cruiser, and provides little benefit to the cruiser. It is a danger to bicyclists and pedestrians because cruisers focus on finding the right spot, not on whether a pedestrian is crossing the street.
It’s this last point, the lack of focus on anything but the parking spot, that is believed to be the cause of a cyclist being severely injured last week on Milwaukee Avenue.
Just like Daley, Rahm didn’t consult the one alderman whose ward might be affected most (it’s unknown if any aldermen were consulted). If this trend of the current city council being the most “rubber stamping” in all time (by my favorite local blogger Whet Moser), I predict it’ll be passed.
[table id=8 /]
Since the number of spaces doesn’t change between the old and new scenarios, there is no need to calculate the total $ per space per region. Revenue estimate assumes the space is always occupied. In the new scenario, proposed by Rahm Emanuel and CPM, all spaces not in neighborhoods have become slightly more valuable, enough to more than make up for the reduced value of spaces in neighborhoods.
Updated May 3, 2013, 15:51 to add a link to the current version of Active Transportation Alliance’s parking meter report and to say that it replaced the original report.