Archives for November 19, 2012

Price Controls on Parking

A simple way to understand why local governments shouldn’t underprice parking, is to think about what would happen if local governments were in charge of setting gas prices.

Everybody likes low gas prices and not high gas prices, so a $2 price ceiling for gas would enjoy lots of political support. And it would totally work -the price of gas definitely would not go above $2.

So why don’t any politicians propose capping gas prices? Because everybody knows that price caps would lead to gas shortages and long lines at the pump.

It’s the same with parking. When the demand for parking spaces peaks, and the meter price can’t go higher, you get long lines (traffic congestion) as people circle round and round looking for spaces. Here is a fascinating paper from Donald Shoup looking at the relationship between traffic congestion and parking prices.

This ought  to be pretty intuitive, but for some reason parking is an issue where many usually-sensible people have developed very strange views  on the economics, or want to dismiss insights from economics in favor of “cultural” arguments. In reality, there’s a rich literature studying behavioral responses to parking price changes in many different kinds of cities and the effect is the same – higher turnover and greater convenience finding spaces.

The position that’s totally lacking any empirical support is the notion that low prices mean more customers for downtown businesses.

Lehigh Tea People Want to Pull Same Budget Stunt Next Year Too

Colin McEvoy quotes Lisa Scheller, who apparently thinks lopping a random $5 million from the Lehigh County budget every year is a good idea:

“He got to that $3.5 million in a week; to find the other $1.5 million in the next year is doable,” she said. “If we don’t do the $5 million in cuts this year, that’s just another $1.5 million that has to be found in addition to the $5 million we need to find next year.”

Lee Atwater Explains Every Republican Campaign Since 1964

Lee Atwater:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

If You Build Them, They Will Rent

Looks like more developers are starting to heed the Lesson of 2012 – if you build high quality apartments in the Lehigh Valley’s 3 cities, they get gobbled up right away.

Proposal to turn old Allentown hat factory into artists’ lofts gets preliminary approval

Upscale Apartments Coming to Allentown Arena Zone

History’s Headlines: The Livingston – once ‘the nicest apartment house in Allentown’ – set for a facelift

Bethlehem’s Walnut Street parking garage could get 10 stories of apartments

The idea to put 10 stories of apartments on top of the parking garage in Bethlehem is my favorite. More residential in the real downtown area would obviously be great for business, and it’s awesome to see people actually trying to take full advantage of the huge zoning envelope in the CB zone. It’s a scandal that so many key downtown land parcels are devoted to parking garages that don’t even have any street-facing retail. Just a lot of long blank walls where there could be more shops. Hopefully this project turns out to be buildable.