Letter to the Editor: City should charge ‘market price’ for parking

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To the editor:

In his Sept. 6 letter to the Times, “City officials created Chatham quagmire,” Dan Hazlewood said, “The idea some have that less parking will encourage public transit is a myth that is disproven daily by our still-growing car culture.“ This is not in fact the case.

Numerous studies show parking minimums in cities lead to more car ownership and more car usage than would otherwise be the case. That is why more and more cities and some suburban counties are relaxing their parking minimums, and even eliminating them in selected locations.

That allows developers to include off street parking only when there is a real market demand for it. And yes, people do look to see if it is available — when my wife and I moved we looked at the parking situations for all our options, we did not presume access to free parking. Comparing checking on that to an unreasonable software usage agreement is silly.

The real problem here is not allowing developers to choose the amount of parking they want to provide on their own property — it is that on-street parking is provided free, or for a nominal charge via a parking permit. Like most things provided cheap or free, it becomes scarce.

If parking were priced at what economists call “a market clearing price,” there would be no need for battles like this, because the right to buy a parking permit would not be such a desirable benefit. If some complain that this would be unfair to those who long ago bought in an area assuming cheap parking permits, we could “grandfather” them in at existing prices, and allow them to sell their permits to new residents. Economists call this arrangement “a white market,” so no one is worse off.

-Ken Notis, Alexandria

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