The Real Cost of Free and Abundant Parking in Los Angeles

Here’s an article from Los Angeles magazine that I’m hoping has caught the eye of Decatur’s Zoning Task Force, who has been tasked (heh heh) with the intensive goal of making wide-ranging zoning recommendations to the City Commission, which includes a reconsideration of the city’s parking ordinance.  The article “Between the Lines” is an extensive look at how the various parking requirements have contributed to starkly different development patterns around the L.A. metro area.

It follows the work of 73 year-old Yale-trained economist David Shoup, author of “The High Cost of Free Parking“.  According to the L.A. magazine article, the premise of Shoup’s book can be boiled down to a single sentence…

What if the free and abundant parking drivers crave is about the worst thing for the life of cities?

After years of being near-universally ignored, some cities are beginning to take the embedded assertions in Shoup’s question to heart.  Los Angeles is just the latest U.S. city drowning in parking to institute a new free-market style parking meter plan…

This spring the [L.A. Department of Transportation] plans to introduce an $18.5 million smart wireless meter system based on Shoup’s theories. Called ExpressPark, the 6,000-meter array will be installed on [LA’s] downtown streets and lots, along with sensors buried in the pavement of every parking spot to detect the presence of cars and price accordingly, from as little as 50 cents an hour to $6. Street parking, like pork bellies, will be open to market forces. As blocks fill, prices will rise; when occupancy drops, so will rates. In an area like downtown ideal for Shoup’s progressive pricing, people will park based on how much they’re willing to pay versus how far they are willing to walk to a destination.

Would such a system help Decatur usher more of its visitors to parking decks and increase city coffers at the same time?  How do the city’s privately owned – and randomly priced – parking decks fit into the equation?  Some of this was addressed in a 2009 parking study – done by a GSU grad student – but with so many conflicting opinions on parking around Decatur among various rightly concerned parties, any potential “solutions” to our ongoing parking issues are still unknown and untested amongst the general population.

Decatur Consolidates Positions to Create “Parking Manager” Job

“May God have mercy on this person’s soul.”

So said Mayor Bill Floyd when the city commission came upon this particular action item during last night’s Decatur City Commission meeting.

After hearing a synopsis of the city’s request from Assistant City Manager Lyn Menne to consolidate the two parking supervisor positions into one, higher paid Parking Manager position, the city commission unanimously approved the change.  (One position is currently vacant.  The other employee is being recommended to take on the new job with the Decatur Tourism Bureau.)

This individual may well be crying “Mercy!” by the time they learn the full job description and get a taste of all the attention and criticism that will inevitably come with the territory.

According to Ms. Meene’s note to the commission (page 23), this person will have experience running a comprehensive and holistic parking management program and will be tasked with coming up an “efficient and effective downtown parking management plan.”  This means anything from developing working relationships with private property lot owners, to assisting downtown employees with finding off-site parking for their employees, to finding ways to publicize the “wide array” of parking options to visitors, to improving bike parking, pedestrian safety and maintaining parking data to “assist with the implementation of the Community Transportation Plan.

(During last night’s meeting one of the commissioners asked whether this person would also be tasked with giving out parking tickets.  Ms. Menne stated that while this person would supervise the 4 part-time PALS employees already tasked with giving parking tickets, they would spend a large majority of their time working on the other items described above.)

Decatur’s Top Challenges of Next 10 Years, According to Residents

The mob has spoken.  (That’s you!)

And has relayed to the city what they believe are Decatur’s greatest challenges over the next 10 years.  The official Strategic Plan website, Decatur Next, just came out with a synopsis of challenges relayed by residents in last week’s meetings.

  • Automobile traffic, parking, pedestrian and biking safety and all the connected issues of mobility. How can we achieve successful coexistence between cars, bicycles, and people?
  • Sustainability. Are there ways Decatur can become “greener” in the broadest sense, from local food production and distribution to energy conservation to resource (especially water) management?
  • Infrastructure. Roads, sidewalks, storm water management, parks and green space – how can we address those needs in an era of limited resources?
  • Coping with an aging population. What can the City do to help residents age comfortably in the neighborhoods they call home?
  • Community affordability. What combination of programs and policies have to be in place to assure that Decatur continues to be accessible to a broad range of ages and incomes?

What’d think?  Did they hit all the high points?

(I don’t see my obsessive talk of a grocery store noted here.)

NOTE: If you have specific comments you want to make “officially” to the city, you need to write a comment over on Decatur Next.  If you’re just philosophizing and/or rambling, DM is here for you.

Chapter II in Nelson Ferry Parking Saga

Nittany writes in…

With the first nice day of spring ,the police have started ticketing those cars parked illegally on Nelson Ferry next to the park. Park visitors will need to more closely abide by the no parking signs and/or park in the designated lot offered by the church.

Here’s something I’ve been wondering…why are the new “no parking signs” facing the other side of the street?  Aren’t most signs usually perpendicular to the street, facing down the road so oncoming drivers can see them upon approach?