On Monday Council will likely reaffirm our commitment to free downtown parking and the polluting car trips it induces.
|Free parking promo - November 2020|
The Parking District is not Self-Funding
You may remember earlier this year a memo from the Downtown Advisory Board that argued it was time to transition to a right-priced parking system for downtown. This is a perennial theme for DAB.
|Maybe next year|
Apparently we are not there yet.
But we should be there, because we can't wait for a thing like this to become popular. Very few want to pay for parking, but it is something that is necessary to implement.
People ask why Salemites don't use the bus more, and are quick to blame Cherriots for poor levels of service.
But instead we should ask about the elaborate and interlocking system of subsidy we use to prop up driving and cars as the preferred mobility choice.
When you get free parking but have wait at a bus stop and then pay a bus fare, that's an inducement to drive! When we widen roads for "congestion relief" but insist buses must wait in traffic and do not build housing close to transit, we induce driving trips.
The question to understand isn't "why isn't the bus more popular?" The question is "how do we subsidize and induce driving, guaranteeing it is the popular choice?" We are making a whole lot of policy choices that steer people to drive, and it is time to change or end them.
Moving to a paid parking system downtown is one important step.
Our Climate Emergency Calls for Less Driving
|Front page, Saturday|
|Interior page, Friday|
Asking Nicely for Less Driving Hasn't Worked
We have seen, whether it was "stay at home" orders, park closures, mask mandates, or free vaccination programs, when asked substantial numbers of people still chose not to do the right thing. There is no great consensus, no overwhelming popularity on these things. Too many are not interested or are defiant.
|This was just the start...March 2020|
Since the late 1970s we have had nearly two generations of ineffective policy to "reduce our reliance on single-occupancy vehicles." Just asking people not to drive, asking people to take the bus, is not going to work unless the other incentives are aligned to make not-driving the more attractive choice.
|Stronger incentives are necessary|
This is why our Climate Action Plan cannot rely on carrots only, and must include pricing and other action that will nudge even people who disagree with or dislike the policy choice.
A plan cannot count on good intentions and people of good will. It must work for everybody.
Ending the subsidy of free parking and implementing right-priced parking so that the user pays is an important step in this direction.
Other Reasons for Right-Priced Parking
|We should lead with parking reform|
Additionally, paid parking is consistent with the recommendations from the Congestion Relief Task Force. We keep circling round and round the matter!
A new city culture of paid parking will point to a better balance on lots. Some businesses need parking mainly during the day; others need it mainly in the evening. Instead of mandating two lots, one lot used cooperatively could meet both needs, and a paid system manages this more equitably. A paid system brings supply and demand into balance. That frees us to use surplus parking for other, more important goods like new housing.
A system of paid parking downtown is consistent with calls to end parking requirements for housing near Cherriots' high frequency routes. Our parking reform should be comprehensive.
|"Always free and easy parking" in 1978 - via the Mill|
|A nugatory expanse and self-consuming fantasy|
Altogether we should terminate our cultural norm and expectation for free parking.
And downtown should be downtown, not a bad copy of a mall.
There are so many reasons Council should move to a paid parking system downtown.