In his latest blog post, city councilman Mark Olbert says nothing is really free, and that includes "free" parking.
The issue of free parking incites others, including parking lots taking up valuable space that could be used for taxpaying homes or businesses. If the city is losing money there, how does it make up the difference?
“Free” parking means every member of the community pays, whether they use the resource or not, and regardless of how often they use it," Olbert says in the blog post. "The “community pays” model may make sense if many or most residents benefit from the “free” parking, and the value is difficult to assess on a person-by-person basis. That’s the argument behind community-financed local roads, and it’s why you never see people arguing to turn local streets into toll roads. On the other hand, having the community pay gives a freebie to non-residents, who don’t pay the price of impacted public services since they don’t live here."
The other option, of course, would be parking paid for, or rented by, the person using the space. This pay method seems somewhat unpopular on the surface, but would it be saving you more in the long wrong?
"Fortunately, there are many payment models from which to chose. Besides “free”, there’s direct payment by everyone “renting” a space (i.e., parking meters or paid lots)," said Olbert. "Waiving some or all of the fee if you shop in the service area, and assessing the merchants a fee, or having them chip in for the parking lot, is another. An idea I came up with, which I’m vetting with counsel, would have the City sell/give residents and employees of local businesses an annual sticker that lets them avoid “feeding the meter”. After all, unlike visitors, we already pay for the service in the ways I mentioned earlier. Many of these approaches can of course be mixed together, in different proportions."
We'll leave it for you to decide. Is free parking really free? Is it worth it? What do you think? Tell us in the comments!