A New Guide Could Help Your Community Fix Its Parking Policies

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Parking mandates and subsidies are among the most destructive local policies for the productivity and resilience of our places. These laws saddle both private landowners and the public with unnecessary costs, preclude other uses of precious land, hinder walkability, and amount to a gargantuan subsidy for driving and car dependency. They need to go.

But a political challenge rears its head when a city proposes charging for on-street parking that was once free. That challenge is that those who are used to using the “free” parking in a specific area are likely to be risk-averse and opposed to the change. This often includes business owners afraid of losing customers who cannot park conveniently, and nearby residents afraid that spillover customer parking will fill up their own streets. Many a parking reform proposal has foundered on the rocks of this kind of opposition.

Note that paid parking can in fact benefit even these local constituents: For example, businesses might enjoy the faster turnover of prime parking spaces right in front of the store that market-rate pricing promotes, and their customers might enjoy the reduced hassle of circling on congested streets looking for a space. But the optics problem persists. Nobody likes being asked to pay for something they once got for free, whether the “free” status quo was truly free (or fair). One proposal to resolve this source of conflict is a Parking Benefit District.

A Parking Benefit District (PBD) is a special government entity that collects revenue from metered on-street (or otherwise public) parking in a specific geographic area, and instead of putting it into a general fund, earmarks that revenue specifically for improvements within the same geographic area. For example, these funds could support streetscape improvements such as better lighting, street trees, and bus shelters. Now, the stakeholders in a particular neighborhood are getting clear value in exchange for what they may otherwise perceive as a sacrifice.

As parking reform pioneer Donald Shoup describes it, a PBD “offer[s] each neighborhood a package that includes both priced parking and better public services. Everyone who lives, works, visits, or owns property in a Parking Benefit District can then see their meter money at work.”

A New Guide from the Parking Reform Network

Our friends and collaborators at the Parking Reform Network have produced a new guide to Parking Benefit Districts intended to aid local advocates and policy makers in implementing this type of policy. You can read it here: “Parking Benefit Districts: A Guide for Activists.”

According to the Parking Reform Network:

The guide features case studies on five American cities with existing parking benefit districts, specific advice for talking about parking management with key stakeholders, and an in-depth consideration of how PBDs can be better designed to promote equity. It also includes a comprehensive resource appendix with implementation reports, example outreach materials, and code language.

Because it’s written for advocates, the guide is not just technical advice. It contains all the information—examples, options, talking points regarding benefits and common objections—that you need to make the case to your own city council, Business Improvement District, or what have you to take the leap and push for this common-sense parking reform.

Check out the Parking Benefit Districts guide here.

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