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What You Don't Hear About Parking Meters

I had a good conversation with the Thayer Historic District today. The organization overlaps but is separate from the Thayer Merchants' Association, which has been-- like many merchants' associations in the city-- loudly complaining about parking meters. I wanted to let the Thayer people know that I think parking meters are a good idea, that I shop on Thayer a lot, and that even though I don't make a point to complain about my issues with Thayer (no bike infrastructure leading up to it, Thayer should be pedestrianized, etc.) that I wanted them registered, since I know that people who complain about parking are a constant overwhelming presence.

What the Historic District rep said was surprising to me. As it turns out, their organization had been supportive of meters, but now feels pretty dim on them. Why?

The reason is that the city promised that part of the meter money would be returned to the merchants, but in fact none of the money is being returned to the merchants.

Thayer merchants are also upset because they were told that all the districts would be metered, but they are one of only a few being metered.

When you take these criticisms into account, it's a very different picture than what you hear more prominently about parking meters. As it turns out, parking meters aren't so bad, it's just the people who are being metered want some of the money (preferably all, above the cost of metering itself). People also don't want to feel singled out. Totally reasonable complaints.

With city councilors like Seth Yurdin pushing against new parking meters, this is important information. I tweeted yesterday about Yurdin's position, after reading about it in his online newsletter. He said:
I have continued to advocate against proposals to install parking meters in our small commercial areas.  Following overwhelming objection from merchants and residents alike, the Mayor's office and Parking Administration have announced that they will not be installing meters this spring.
Yurdin immediatley prickled at my tweet's characterization of his position: 

When it's clear that the biggest issues for ordinary neighborhood organizations and their elected representatives are using meters for a revenue suck, why doesn't Mayor Elorza's administration rectify this? Instead of lowering the car tax for all cars fancy and clunky, the mayor could have allocated funding back to merchants' associations from the meters (as promised). That would create good will, which in turn would allow for a different political climate in which meters could be accepted in other merchant districts.

The ball is in the mayor's court. I'm glad that the mayor has worked to add meters in the past, but his administration's handling of the revenue has made it hard for people like me to continue advocating for parking meters. We need better leadership on this issue.

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1 comment:

  1. FYI, the mayor explicitly stated at our neighborhood assn meeting earlier this week that the meters are being used as a revenue source to help balance the budget. I appreciated the clarity on this because they had been sold as demand management and for other purposes earlier this spring. It's possible there's a middle ground here that both provides some revenue to the city, pays some back to the merchants (or preferably, to the neighborhood associations for streetscape improvement), and avoids the externality effects you talk about here.

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