Will a Fee Hike Fix City’s Street Parking Problems?

Let’s face this – the parking problems on our residential streets are real. I often hear complaints from my neighbors saying they cannot park their cars in front of their own houses  – no matter how many valid parking permits they have; their parking spaces are often taken by someone else. Not very long ago, I met a neighbor (in Daniel Park area), who said he works in the evening shift; after he comes back from work around midnight, he often needs to drive around the neighborhood to find an empty spot to park his car.

The City knows about the issue, and thankfully they’re trying to address the problem.

Ok, sort of. Their answers to fix the problem is to raise the parking permit fee. In the FY2011 budget, the City raised parking fee from $5 to $10. I took a poll on the fee hike around that time and found most residents against such a hike, even though the amount of hike isn’t so huge. (Some cities charge a lot more than $10.)

The City wants to go even further beyond a flat $10 per car fee. In last week’s meeting, the City Council discussed a proposal to institute a gradual hike in parking fee.  What they want to have is a more “progressive” fee model. In this model, people who have more cars on the street have to pay more – for example, to charge a lower amount (say $5) for the first one or two cars, and then charge $10 or $20 for additional permits after that.

For a City that is cash strapped due to decreasing sources of revenues, such a revenue generating idea is certainly enticing, but the question is – will such a fee hike fix the root cause of the problem? – the problem of overcrowded street parking?

I doubt it will.

I think it’s fair to say that when we see so may cars in front of some households, those houses are most likely rental properties. I’d say a very few houses we’ll find are not rental, yet they have many cars. A hike in parking fee, gradual or not, will not stop the renters from parking their cars on our streets. If there are more than one renter living in a house and if they are not related to each other, they will most likely try to get a parking pass even it costs them $50 (per year). Each renter is a family of his/her own and thus keeping and parking a car in front of his place would be an essential thing for him.

A better way to fix the overcrowding of our streets would be to look at the parking capacity of streets. The City keeps data showing how many cars can be parked on our streets and thus should assign parking permits accordingly. Our streets are shared resources and thus if someone needs more than standard number of spaces, he or she will most likely address that problem through other means – such as building a driveway inside his or her house.

A related but essential cause of parking overcrowding lies in the fact that many of city’s residential renal houses are overcrowded with renters. Many landlords rent their properties without letting the City know about their business – and this is illegal. Even more, some of these houses have more than allowed number of renters. When a house has more renters than they City allows it to have, these overcrowded houses put a burden on overcrowded street parking. Thus in such cases, a strong code enforcement, not a parking enforcement,  can only address such problem better.

I know none of the two methods I suggested is interesting, when it comes to generating more revenues for the City, but if we want to honestly fix today’s overcrowded parking problems, a hike in fee shouldn’t be the only choice.

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