Business Tells Annapolis: Parking Should Be Free, We're Off To Bowie ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Business Tells Annapolis: Parking Should Be Free, We're Off To Bowie

The Capital reports that a 500-employee office decided against relocating to Annapolis because it was unhappy paying for parking. Boo hoo. Why should a business expect something for nothing? Why do some believe that parking is "free"? CP continues to question the notion that it is acceptable to hide, externalize or otherwise absorb the cost of parking into other things.

We need to reframe the argument here, which The Capital is unable or unwilling to do. It seems that the "problem" is not enough parking and therefore we "need more parking" but if we begin by saying the "problem" is too many cars, we can really address the solutions. Otherwise, the only solution is to build more parking spaces and free spaces at that--which is soooo wrroooonnnngggg!

CP turns reader's attention to the groundbreaking research done by planner Donald Shoup which has been published into a critically acclaimed book called "The High Cost of Free Parking." See: This is what parking guru Shoup wrote in The New York Times last year:

"What causes this astonishing waste? As is often the case, the prices are wrong. A national study of downtown parking found that the average price of curb parking is only 20 percent that of parking in a garage, giving drivers a strong incentive to cruise. As George Costanza once said on “Seinfeld”: “My father never paid for parking, my mother, my brother, nobody. ... It’s like going to a prostitute. Why should I pay when, if I apply myself, maybe I could get it for free?”

Like George Costanza, drivers often compare parking at the curb to parking in a garage and decide that the price of garage parking is too high. But the truth is that the price of curb parking is too low. Underpriced curb spaces are like rent-controlled apartments: hard to find and, once you do, crazy to give up. This increases the time costs (and therefore the congestion and pollution costs) of cruising."

So dear reader, please see how The Capital incorrectly frames this conflict and then ask yourself, are our expensive cars the problem--or is it the lack of free parking spaces? Then ask yourself, what will our city be like if we simply build more and more parking spaces? If you can only see parking garages, why would you visit?


John said...

It is disappointing for sure that MedAssurant is taking it to Bowie, but when you have a company with 500 people and no real effective mass transit solutions, parking does become an issue.

Your people need to be able to get to work. If they cannot bus or train to work, they likely are looking to drive.

There is no good solution here in this case. There is more land and available parking in Bowie. We just do not have it here and we are going to need to adjust.

I am not sure where you have worked in the past, but if your employer all of a sudden told you they were moving to a new location and it would cost you $10 per working day to park(without any increase in salary)...what would you do?

Not sure there was anything we could have done for this. Even with the current garages and lots, it is not enough to handle 500 cars. With Park Place and the Severn bank project, that area is incredibly overbuilt as it is!

Paul Foer said...

John: You absolutely have good points and in no way have I ignored them as I have developed my thoughts about this. However, business has got to understand that there are many ways to look at this and that it has to be part of the solution. Business have been providing "free" parking and parking incentives for a long time and that has got to end. There are transit solutions available and many other options as well. But the bottom line is, why should the end user, ie. the consumer not pay for parking? But even so, it costs tens of thousands of dollars to build a space plus $ to stripe it, clean it, light it, patrol it, manage it etc., etc. As soon as we stop hiding these costs, subsidizing and externalizing them, we can begin to level the playing field and allow for real solutions to take over, that is to say solutions that enhance and beautify and attract people to our urban areas rather than waste a lot of otherwise valuable real estate so a car can sit all day long and produce nothing!
Google, Microsoft and other companies are "paving the way" by developing their own transportation solutions for employees and it pays off! Our state and federal gov't provides tax incentives for transit passes as well.

Anonymous said...

All interesting. Fascinating even. No, I was wrong...just interesting. Instead of jumping into the fray of suburban drivers versus people who live downtown already and can walk to their jobs at the non-profit, I'd just like to point out that a large number of the monthly parking spaces at all of the city garages are held by both city and county government. Look it's technically public record, although it may be hard to acquire. Maybe if our government employees were forced to find parking like us regular folk, there would be a new sense of urgency to find a solutions to our commuting woes. And DON'T get me started on Forest Drive. Mainly because I don't have anything witty prepared at this moment.

Tim Hamilton

Paul Foer said...

Tim: The issue is not a lack of spaces or whether or not spaces are being used by government employees. We have opened THREE new garages in recent years, two of which are underutilized. There are plenty of parking spaces--too many in fact. There are also spaces at the stadium with frequent FREE shuttle service. The issue is priority and the future look and feel of downtown, not about whether or not we have enough space for cars to wastefully sit all day.

blogger templates | Make Money Online