Every building a mini Parking Benefit District

January's episode of Reinventing Parking introduced six surprising parking reform ideas. 

This post explains the second idea, "Should we turn every decent-sized building and its parking into a mini Parking Benefit District?" 

This is a lightly edited transcript of that part of the episode, which starts at the 8:35 point.

Listen with the player below. Or subscribe to the audio podcast. This is the official podcast of the Parking Reform Network.

Every building a mini Parking Benefit District

This idea is a bit more audacious than most others in the episode.

Towards parking fee positivity!

Most parking in most cities is free. And it is no secret that we parking reformers would like that to change. Yes, we can be irritating that way. 

But directly calling for more off-street parking to be priced is not a prominent part of our parking reform agenda. 

Sometimes I wonder if we should be more direct about parking fees, even if people will hate us for it! 

It might seem wacky or extreme, but if we believe paid parking is actually much better (for society as a whole) than free-of-charge parking, then shouldn't we try to make paid parking happen more?

I had a little daydream that we could change public opinion about paid parking. 

In this fantasy we would unironically push the idea of Parking Fee Positivity, like the twitter personality, James Medlock, popularized the notion of Tax Positivity. OK, maybe a little ironically. 

But like taxes, parking fees are unpopular but necessary. No-one likes paying them but they enable good things.

What about the problem that motorists and most parking owners would hate such an agenda?

Anyway, getting back to the policy idea … 

I was looking for a direct but politically possible way to expand off-street parking fees into areas where most parking is currently free of charge. 

But there is zero chance of any government just telling every owner of parking that they must now charge parking fees. 

Everyone would hate that, parking owners and motorists especially. Even if the legislation passed, it would be hard to get any cooperation. 

The idea: Off-street Parking Benefit Funds that must be paid for from parking fees

So what if the government mandated or strongly encourage all establishments with a decent sized parking facility that is free-of-charge to set up a fund that would pay for popular things? 

The fund would have an important condition: the money must come from parking fees. 

This would essentially turn buildings and their previously free-of-charge parking into mini Parking Benefit Districts. So let’s call these funds “Off-Street Parking Benefit Funds”. 

With this idea, we are hoping to get the owners of free-of-charge parking facilities to charge for their parking while giving the other key stakeholders associated with each building (such as residents, employees, or shopkeepers) reasons to like the parking fees. Why? Because they fund something helpful.

The idea is to encourage more buildings, in more places, to charge fees for their own parking.

Some details to think through

Of course, there are a lot of kinks to iron out. 

For example, what should Parking Benefit Fund money be used for? Anything really, but we certainly don’t want them to just refund motorists their parking fees. We want the funds to help all residents or all employees and so on. 

It would probably be best to have representative committees decide, which is the recommendation for on-street Parking Benefit Districts too. 

Does it seem rough that this idea would get parking owners charging parking fees, only for that revenue to disappear again into the Parking Benefit Fund? But remember, parking owners with free-of-charge parking were getting no parking revenue before this anyway. 

What do you think? 

Could this idea or something similar be adopted and help extend the benefits of parking fees and unbundling to more places?

Or is there some fatal flaw that I’ve missed? 

Am I naive to even imagine anything like this might be possible?  

Listen to the audio episode here: 


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