Parking pay station sprawl

At the Uptown Alliance meeting last Thursday, March 9, guest speaker Mary Catherine Snyder, senior transportation planner for SDOT, spoke on the installation of parking pay stations in Uptown.

Before the meeting, I asked her why stations allow the purchase of a maximum two hours parking time. The limit hurts movie theaters; two hours is not sufficient to view a one-hour, 40-minute film and walk to and from your car; if you're not quick, you may get a $38 ticket. She responded there are parking lots. I said yes and they're more expensive, and why should street parking be unusable by movie patrons to the detriment of the theaters? Does the city want that result, or not care?

The pay station fees are a tax. When government takes money from citizens, no matter what it is called, it is a tax. Two guiding principles of taxation are: (1) it should be levied on those able to pay; (2) it should be levied on those benefiting from it. Those principles weren't set forth by Karl Marx; I learned them in my tax course, working on my accounting degree at the University of Illinois.

During the meeting, a woman in the back stated she can't afford to pay $3 to $6 for parking if the stations are installed in Uptown. She will have to discontinue shopping there. Clearly the pay stations violate the principle of levying the tax on those able to pay. The only tax that doesn't violate the principle is a graduated income tax. All other taxes unfairly burden the poor. (Bill Gates should pay more tax than the woman in the back because he can afford to.)

So, who will, and will not, benefit from the parking pay station fees? One woman stated that businesspeople she knows like the idea. Turnover in parkers increases shopper turnover and business profits. Customers will benefit, being more likely to find a parking space, but will be hurt because the stations are a nuisance, adding stress to shopping. The movie theater, the Uptown, will be hurt because patrons will have less parking available and may go elsewhere.

So who should pay? Can pay stations fees be paid equitably? With the present plan, businesses pay nothing, so of course they like it. Businesses and customers should share the cost. The hourly fee to parkers should be reduced from $1.50 to $.75. Each business, located on a block where stations are installed, should pay the difference approximately $7.50 per day, six days a week, or $2,346 per year. The tax would be added to a business license fee. Part of the revenue should be used to reimburse the movie theaters for lost income.

I suspect that under this shared-cost plan, businesses would no longer favor installation of the stations. I suspect the difference between them and the guy on the corner is the tin cup. Either will take a handout if he can get it. And Mayor Nickels and the well-intentioned, misguided Ms. Snyder should take a course in tax theory.

The most eloquent statement ever made on the subject of parking meters wasn't verbal. It can be viewed in the first five minutes of the film "Cool Hand Luke." You watch Paul Newman following the example set by our founding fathers at the Boston Tea Party.[[In-content Ad]]