Archives for December 4, 2012

Parking Policy Is About Allocating Scarce Space

David Alpert and Bruce DePuyt explain the parking economics in a less clunky way than I usually do:

DePuyt phrased the issue well early in the discussion: the simple challenge is that not everyone can park in a place like downtown. Some people need to drive, but everyone can’t, so the basic policy debate is how to allocate limited spaces among different people in the “fairest” way, whatever that is (special set-asides for groups like residents or those with disabilities, market forces, and/or our current policy, allocating based on who will tolerate the most circling to find a spot or who gets lucky).

If DC changes its policies in this realm, it’s not about “discouraging” people from driving; as a number of you pointed out in the comments on some recent articles, it’s DC’s growth, not a government conspiracy, that’s making parking scarcer. All the government can do is change the way it manages the available space, for better or worse.

They’re talking about DC, but the same lesson applies to downtowns everywhere – the fairest way to allocate scarce parking spaces is by willingness to pay, not tolerance for circling. The economic logic does not change when the clock strikes 6. If your downtown area is busy at night too, then you need to keep charging for curb parking at night. I promise you that nothing changes about the economics on Sunday mornings either. Whatever time of the day it is, if it’s busy then you need to charge for parking.

Mike Turzai Complains About Transit Waste Standing in Front of Highway Widening Boondoggle

Mike Turzai’s idea to split the transportation funding bill out into separate bills for roads and transit sounds like trouble. It’s not that it couldn’t be done right – for instance, I could get behind a bill that reduces the state contribution but gives metros more tools to fund transit out of a regional tax base. The fact that transit funding seems to be permanently endangered in Harrisburg seems to me like a good reason to reduce metros’ dependence on state money.

Back in political reality, what’s more likely to happen is that House Republicans take most of the transportation revenue for the highway bill, and use the transit bill to starve transit even more without giving metros the tools they need to raise more revenue regionally.

What was really amazing about this article though is where Mike Turzai is when he’s making this statement:

“We want it focused on roads and bridges,” he said. “So many reforms have to be  brought to mass transit that it needs to be disentangled. They need to be  separate pieces.”

He’s saying this at a ribbon cutting for a fucking highway widening project!

Turz, dude, highway widening doesn’t work. There’s no evidence that it reduces congestion, and it’s crazy expensive.

It’s certainly true that the state’s mass transit systems require reforms beyond the immediate funding challenges. But the same is true for state spending on roads and highways, which are even more insulated from economic and cost considerations. The widened road Mike Turzai is standing in front of is a prime example of the sort of wasteful project that should never receive state money.

Tom Corbett’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission advocated abandoning Ed Rendell’s “fix it first” approach and pulled all kinds of boondoggles like this back onto the agenda. Another example is the hilarious plan to widen Route 22 in the Lehigh Valley, which is projected to cost as much as $320 million.

If this is the kind of stuff that the TFAC is recommending for funding, then lawmakers definitely do not need to find $2.5 billion for transportation.

Not a Real Counteroffer

The Economist is not impressed with John Boehner’s plan to increase revenues with magic:

Meanwhile, Mr Boehner’s proposal would raise revenues by $800m over ten years by closing loopholes rather than raising rates, and cut $1.2 trillion in spending. Some $600 billion would be cut out of Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare; $300 billion would come from mandatory spending, and $300 billion from discretionary spending. Seems like there’s room for negotiation there! But of course the devil’s in the details. So, as for Mr Boehner’s specific tax increase proposals…

Under the Republican offer, tax revenue would rise by $800 billion over 10 years, through closing loopholes and ending or curtailing deductions and tax credits. Mr. Boehner did not specify on Monday which tax breaks would be curtailed.

Right. Never mind. Check this space again when Mr Boehner explains how he expects to get $800 billion in deduction limits over ten years without creating tax humps, and then makes it clear to the American people that what he wants is to slash the charitable giving and home-mortgage interest deductions. That will at least be an interesting political spectacle.

Republicans aren’t going to negotiate in good faith on this, just like with the debt ceiling. Obama needs to wait until after January 1 to deal with these people, when we’ll have a new revenue baseline and the only debate will be over how much to cut taxes.