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This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

A Parking Tax (And Property Tax Reduction)

One of the things I've brought to all of the mayoral candidates as a proposal has been a parking tax linked to property tax reduction. On street spaces should be metered, recovering revenue the city spends on streets, and parking lots should have a per-space tax. In Pittsburgh, the tax on parking is 40% of value, and it collects more money than resident income taxes for the city, and has resulted in good land use in the downtown.

Donald Shoup writes that the best price for an on-street parking spot is that which will get the spots well used, but leave some open--two or three spots per block is an 80-85% occupancy. There are few places that we have that type of occupancy even with free parking, although in some areas of the city like Thayer or Westminster, the city has or is soon going to be using metering to deal with demand.

When you don't have enough demand for your product, in a marketplace you try to adapt your product to other uses. So the city should experiment with removing some parking spots in order to create space for transit lanes and bike lanes, and in order to get the remaining spots to some very minimal price (maybe as low as $0.50 an hour). Other spots that are in high demand should be charged more money. We have a strong need to use parking lanes on some streets for non-car uses anyway, because in most places we have medium width streets that neither have the calm of colonial settlements nor the expansiveness of Midwestern or West Coast stroads.

Surface lots should be charged a higher tax than metered parking, because we don't want surface lots.

The tax cuts for homeowners and business owners should be in whatever proportion the city is able to collect money from parking. Part of the reason I think tax cuts make sense instead of funding a useful service like schools is that I'm concerned that we'll have politicians trying to create parking in order to charge for it and apply it to educational needs, which in the long-term would be craziness, but in the short-term might make sense to some people. I think if we put a reduction on property taxes in relation to a parking tax, then what will more likely happen is that people will be incentivized to develop buildings on their lots. Having an overall tax cut instead of tax stabilization only for new buildings makes more sense to me too, because it means that long-term residents and businesses aren't subsidizing the newcomers.

I hope people will contact the various campaigns to ask them to support a measure like this. Some of the campaigns have indicated to me privately that they think they could back this, but the more people they hear from on this issue, the more likely that promise is likely to come true.

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