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Brown Daily Parking Rates Encourage Driving

I haven't been writing much because I'm in grad school-- it turns out that has made me even busier than I expected.

One big complaint I've heard while at grad school is that people have to move their cars multiple times per day not to get 2-hour parking tickets. I found this one to be a real head-scratcher, and so I checked the parking rates page to see what I could find.

I heard this complaint a lot that people couldn't get Brown parking passes, and so had to operate as if they didn't work/go to school there. Politifact James rates this a "half-true."

So, take a look at the temporary daytime rate, and then compare that to the various rates for yearly parking. The yearly rates are a much better deal. Even a yearly pass for 24-hour parking, which is the most expensive, would only cost about 80 days worth of daily parking passes (at $15 a day).

Why does this matter?

Driving is the dominant way of getting around in the United States, and people choose it as a default. It takes a leap of faith to change one's habits even a little bit. So making it expensive to park one day and ride a bike or take a bus another day punishes flexibility. It also assures that seasonal or adjunct faculty will ignore the system entirely and try to fit into 2-hour parking. I know numerous people who just make it their habit to leave in a hurry and move their car, multiple times a day, rather than deal with the parking pass system.*

Regular readers will know this, but just to repeat: paid parking is a good thing, and Brown does better at parking policy than any other university in the state. But it should change this daily/yearly gap.

One of the most successful things that Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did to reduce employee drive-alone commuting was to institute flexible parking fees, so that employees could choose to take the bus to work most days, and bring a car on a day they might have to run off to do an errand not accessible by transit. Check it out.

People hate paying for parking-- and they're wrong. Paying for parking may suck, but not paying for parking means that (often poorer) non-drivers pay instead-- through rent, higher prices on food, or lower wages.  Most trips in the U.S. are short, so parking also is a larger share of the cost of driving for those trips than fuel, making free parking one of the biggest transportation-related causes of climate change. 

Brown shouldn't give any ground to demands to give away parking for free. But even for those of us who are happy warriors against car culture, there is wisdom to be found in the voices of befuddled drivers. 

*It's off-topic, but think about how this perversely proves how there is no shortage of parking spaces around Providence, even on the East Side during a Brown workday. Employees not only have one spot available to them, but several, and can switch from spot to spot in order to get around paying for a parking permit. It's a pain in the butt and I don't envy them, but it does show that we're not parked out. Shame that Brown decided to tear down seven houses to add a surface lot to Brook Street.

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