Although Ned Oliver's article raises one of the perennial and most persistent topics of urban life, the discussion of parking in the Fan fails to address a fundamental question: "Why is free, municipality-provided, automobile parking treated as an unalienable right?" Parking spaces in the public right-of-way are owned by … the public. Why does the individual homeowner have a greater right to the parking space in front of his or her house than any other taxpayer?
The real answer to the parking issue in the Fan (and elsewhere) is to allow the market to establish the value of the parking in the public realm. If you are a homeowner in the Fan, how much is it worth to you to have a parking space available for your use directly in front of your house at all times? What sort of fee would you be willing to pay to the city to have that space reserved? OK, now imagine that same space reserved for your use somewhere on the same block or within a certain block radius. Would you be willing to pay the same amount? Probably not.
My point is that the parking spaces on the street have a real value that can be established along a continuum, and when placed in the context of other choices in terms of real cost, interesting things start to happen. What sort of choices do we make as individuals and communities in this context? At what point does the value and cost of parking start to tip the scales toward public transportation? How about short-term pay-for-parking zones near Fan businesses that encourage customer access? Free parking is not a right and, for that matter, is not really "free" — the costs are borne by all. Let's allow the value of parking to establish its use.
Andrew Moore, AIA
President, Board of Directors
Partnership for Smarter Growth