I’m not a huge fan of an independent Parking Authority, but one good thing about it is that it’s pretty well insulated from electoral politics, and so it can make policy decisions based on sound economics and not politics.
One area where the Bethlehem Parking Authority needs to take advantage of this insulation from politics is on the issue of turnover. In a compact downtown, parking policy should encourage high turnover. Full stop. That’s the only way to get enough customers to all the businesses.
Business owners sometimes don’t understand the economics of this, and push for low-turnover policies that are politically popular with their customers, but just dead wrong on the economics.
BPA and Bethlehem politicians need to ignore the political pressure for low turnover and keep pushing forward with high-turnover policies. But they also need to step up the push to maximize parking *convenience* with easier payment methods and variable pricing.
This plan described in Lynn Olanoff’s article that would let people re-up their time from their cell phones is an excellent idea in that vein:
The Bethlehem Parking Authority on Friday plans to roll out its new mobile technology program.
Smartphone users will be able to download an app from ParkNOW! and pay directly from their phones. The program allows users to start and stop their meters through their phone so they only pay for the time they’re parked, authority Executive Director Tom Hartley said.
The app works on both electronic and traditional meters and will be available at the city’s parking garages in a few months, he said. Regular cellphone owners can use the program by dialing the ParkNOW! number posted on the meter, Hartley said.
The program will be demonstrated at both First Friday this week on South Side and Friday’s Bethlehem Rooftop Beach Party at the North Street Garage, Hartley said. The authority will be giving away cards with $1 or $5 worth of parking to encourage people to use the program, he said. The authority also plans to give free parking to program users during all First Fridays, he said