Paid Parking Propaganda

Parking isn’t free. It’s a tough pill to swallow that someone, somewhere pays for the parking on our streets

Paid Parking Propaganda
Photo by Krzysztof Kotkowicz / Unsplash

Parking isn’t free.

It’s a tough pill to swallow that someone, somewhere pays for the parking on our streets. If you look closely into your city’s revenue sources, you may already be contributing to the maintenance associated with on-street parking while some municipalities choose to spend those funds on their schools or other projects. Donald Shoup, American engineer and professor in urban planning wrote quite an extensive book covering just that, appropriately titled, The High Cost of Free Parking.

Parking lots owned by businesses or commercial real estate groups are often required by their banks to build a specific amount of parking spaces. Lots come with an initial cost, upkeep costs and a spend amount. Each parking spot is expected to generate x amount of revenue dollars for a business or landlord down to the hour.

Lately I’ve been seeing many urbanists push paid parking as a way to force potential shoppers to use public transportation, micro-mobility options or simply walk. I believe this is a not only an unrealistic solution but also promotes a profit over people mentality. If we look at our current infrastructure in most American cities, how do we make it more palatable for someone new to urban commuting without their vehicle?

It’s important as urbanists to constantly recall the day to day sacrifices we make to better our habits and be the change we want to see. The goal shouldn’t be to compare our situation to others but to listen then help communicate their needs to our city leaders. 

This is not only effective listening but it also accelerates the pivotal change our cities desperately need to save our planet and be better stewards of our resources for the generations to come. Maybe you can wait an hour for a bus with no shelter or seat but someone else simply isn’t there yet. Let’s be sponges of our communities and share these stories where they have yet to be heard.

Here's three cheap and effective ways to transition everyday city residents from their vehicles away from free parking and into more conscious, healthier means of running errands and interacting

Make A Tour Out Of It

Plan a tour with a route that links similar places of interest. This could be tacos to ice cream. You can toss some history and future development projects in there but the focus should be around how fun it is to be around other people. Public transit and walkable infrastructure encourages the interactions we people we naturally crave. While our social meters certainly differ, being tucked away in a car for most of our commutes

Car-Free Festivals & Pop Up Pocket Parks

Partner with local retailers, neighborhood associations and city officials to create what this space could be used for if it wasn't used to store cars. One of my favorite experiences with my wife so far was heading down to Charlotte's SHOUT! Festival and being kids again on the seesaw. SHOUT! is mostly anchored by local talent, and elevated by artists and installations from around the globe.

When SHOUT! isn't taking place, this street reverts to regular car traffic. However, during the festival, residents usually pay to park, explore, and opt to leave their cars behind. It's a seed that goes a long way with consistency and repetition.

Work With Transit Agency For Free Ride Day(s)

If your current bus agency doesn't offer a free bus day, collaborate with them to see if it's an option to warm residents up to alternatives. This free ride day should be during warmer seasons. Work with local media companies to get the word out ahead of town and host educational sessions beforehand to show potential first-time bus riders how they'd look up their routes and board and deboard the bus. Small steps like this help encourage others to take the bus without the cost burden associated with fare. All in all, riders could see the potential savings compared to parking their car for a limited amount of time.

Making the case for more paid parking starts with effective baby steps to integrate the joys of considering alternatives that give a sense of true freedom. When there's an event with paid parking nearby, my wife and I will opt to park further away to bring out the stroller and explore on our way. It's important we meet people where they are especially when it comes to paid parking as it's quite easy to deter those who don't have the additional income to spend on paid parking.

There are times when I feel as an urbanist of color, it's important to reiterate that equity should be in all we do. How can we make sure that individuals who have just started receiving a fair salary aren't discouraged by having to bear the expense of paid parking in the city? What can be done to make sure those displaced from city amenities or public transit access aren't punished for having to use their car as a primary resource?

These are just some of the questions that we must ask ourselves to make city living inclusive for all.

We'll keep the dad jokes to a minimum. No spam, ever.