|Liberty Parkade (on the weekend)|
|Back in September |
Metering is the big item on Council for Monday. Who knows how that'll go.
But since arguments for metered parking don't seem to have made much headway, let's switch courses.
What a Persuasive Anti-Meter Argument Would Look Like
Here are arguments that could change my mind, what it would take for proponents of free parking to persuade me that I should support continuing free parking. I think the case against a giant bridge and highway is overwhelming, and I'm confident. I don't see how the City or pro-bridge forces can be persuasive.
I'm considerably less confident that meters right now are a great idea, so here's an outline of what could persuade me:
- It seems to me there's a clear pattern of infusions of Urban Renewal dollars into the parking district. Council's agenda for Monday has a three-quarter million infusion! Claims that there is funny bookkeeping or a conspiracy to milk the district for general fund monies to be directed elsewhere do not ring true to my eye. Proponents of free parking should drill into the yearly parking district budgets over the last decade and show in detail why they believe the City's claims are false. It doesn't have to be forensic-level accounting. But so far I have only seen a discussion of some summary spreadsheet:
The City Manager decided to round up the $425,000 number to $500,000 (an extra $75,000 every year), then added a fictional operational shortage of $160,000 a year, and rounded that up to $200,000 (another extra $40,000 a year). Then deducted the $383,000 from eliminating the Parking Tax (rounded up to $400,000) and landed on a shortfall of $1.1 million a year.This is more confusing than clarifying and lacks specific year-over-year detail to support a strong claim about slack city budgeting or misleading city claims about the budget.
- Discuss in more detail the subset of block faces that do meet the 85% threshold at peak occupancy and why exactly they should not be metered. There is merit to the argument that overall downtown does not meet the 85% threshold, as a figure of 75% overall seems to describe more accurately the overall picture. However there is a smaller subset of block faces that do seem to meet the 85% threshold - the latest number is 92% - and opponents of metering should say in detail why these blocks are not good candidates for meters and why the elimination then of the parking tax would not meet with rejoicing.
- Talk more about the idea that free parking has been a great success. We've had 40 years of free parking, and from this vantage point it hasn't yielded a healthy downtown now - and it seems likely, ever. So why such strong insistence that more of a failed policy is going to yield different results? The empty storefronts seem to go with free parking. If free parking was so powerful and so necessary, wouldn't we have a healthier downtown already? When exactly was there a "golden age" of free parking in Salem that yielded a terrific downtown?
- Since the examples of successful metering in Pasadena, Tacoma, PDX/Lloyd District, and Oregon City as well as Ashland, downtown PDX, Hood River, and Corvallis haven't been persuasive, how about free parking advocates cite case studies where metering garages and keeping on-street parking free has been successful. This is counter-intuitive, free-parking advocates must understand: By putting a cost on the plentiful and underused resource (garage stalls) and keeping the scarcer in-demand resource free (on-street stalls), metering only the garages flies in the face of normal economic/market theory, and should be backed with more than mere speculation. Let's see some data about how this actually works.
|Meeting last October|
(Other agenda items after the jump)
Here are more general points that could be addressed:
- Hopefully we agree that people are the key to a vibrant downtown, so let's count people instead of cars, and realize that there are many ways to make sure people get downtown - that in fact, there might be ways to have more people and fewer cars. At least this is a possibility, since many cities and towns in the world in fact have more people and fewer cars than in downtown Salem.
- And we agree that car travel dominates downtown, right? In this free parking has been a central ingredient in creating the transportation monoculture downtown. Most people feel like they have no rational choice but to drive to go downtown. Transitioning away from free parking will help nudge things towards a better and more fair balance in a diverse transportation ecosystem. I think most people will agree that more choices and more freedom to choose are better.
So here's the Staff Report with recommendations and a "parking management vision." It also contains some comments in opposition to meters - though it seems the main energy in opposition has gone to the petition campaign rather than to engage the City on the merits and details of this particular proposal and vision.
Some of these are worth more attention, and maybe I'll add them in some comments over the weekend.
A report on the Sunday Streets project for September 8th. This is an information report only, and I had thought from the paper's article that Council action had become necessary. But Council would not appear to be deciding anything, and the project seems on!
There's a Skateboarding Ordinance for first reading. Council can refer it for more review, hold a hearing, or advance it to second reading without a hearing. It'll be interesting to see how this goes. It seems to expand the downtown exclusion zone for skateboards from the sidewalk to the street, and this may not be popular. It is humorous - not in a good way - that this would eliminate the possibility of skating to the Marion Square skatepark. Perhaps others have read it more closely or been more involved in the process?
A curious note about "high-rise" development looks interesting, but the report is not complete yet, so this is just a placeholder in the agenda.
The $712,000 infusion of funds into the downtown parking district.
Staff continues to recommend no housing tax incentives for the Marquis nursing home and clinic facility on the Boise property. This is clearly the right stance, as the incentives were designed to support residential, not clinical, facilities - so hopefully Council will not get side-tracked over silly claims about not being "pro-business" or "pro-jobs." (Previous Council action here. Main notes on the Boise project here.)
|Unimproved path connection has been magnet for litter and graffiti|
|Bark landscaping and doorless faces make this a Potemkin Village!|