Mike Krill’s Dumb Parking Ideas

I was saving this for a column, but it’s starting to get a little dusty so let’s do it on the blog.

Mike Krill has some strange ideas about parking that make me think he doesn’t understand the basics of supply and demand. Let’s take it point by point from Tom Coombe’s article:

Standing near the corner of March and McCartney streets on College Hill, Krill told reporters the study should include all city neighborhoods, and that two of Easton’s biggest employers — Lafayette College and Northampton County — should help foot the bill.

Fair enough. It would be useful to have a full inventory of all the parking spaces in the city. But should Northampton County also have to pay for parking studies in all its constituent municipalities? Or just the County seat?

“The burden shouldn’t be put on the victims to solve the parking issue,” Krill said. “The burden should be on the people causing the issue.”

I would say that it doesn’t make any sense to look at this issue in terms of “victims” and villains. The worst thing that can happen to the “victims” is that they have to park further away and walk further than they were hoping to. Worse things have happened. If there are villains, they are the people who drive into the city at times of peak parking demand, presumably for activities that attract a lot of people like the Farmer’s Market or their jobs. Hardly a villainous activity.

He said the city needs to take other steps to improve parking, such as keeping people from converting single-family homes into multi-family units, and creating more free parking spots Downtown, such as a possible lease with the Quality Inn.

Ok this is the really dumb one. I get that there are good reasons to discourage single-family to multi-family conversions, but parking isn’t one of them. Reducing population density is not a sustainable way to address parking. And I don’t mean “sustainable” in a hippie way, I mean it cannot be sustained. You can’t apply that policy citywide. Easton’s only hope for growth is expanding its supply of dense multi-family housing.

“Free parking” at the Quality Inn is the one that really sticks in my craw. There is no such thing as free parking. Unpriced parking spaces just lower the cost of car trips, making parking and congestion problems worse. There is no solution to Easton’s parking issues that involves reducing the price of parking. If there is a salveagable idea in here, it’s that it doesn’t make sense for businesses to have their own private parking lots. All parking spaces should be shared and metered.

Krill said the city needs to avoid seeking “the most expensive way to solve our parking problem,” referring to the new parking deck planned for the city’s intermodal center on South Third Street.

Mayor Sal Panto said structural parking is a better solution because it takes up less real estate. Not doing anything with the Third Street property would create 250 spaces; the intermodal, he said, gives Easton 100 more.

If Krill doesn’t think parking spaces cost “$30,000 a space” what does he think they cost? Because that seems to be pretty close to what parking spaces actually cost. The right question to ask isn’t why the garage spaces cost that much, but why surface parking spaces don’t. Donald Shoup shows in The High Cost of Free Parking that every parking space costs *at least* $127 a month. If spaces are priced lower than that, who is paying the rest?

Sal Panto is right about this. Structural parking economizes land, freeing up space for productive uses that actually contribute to the tax base rather than subtract from it.

Krill credited Lafayette for putting a new parking deck on Sullivan Road, but said the college still needs to do more to provide parking for students and staff members.

Panto dismissed this argument, saying that College Hill didn’t have a parking problem. He said the school had addressed the issue by setting up a two-hour parking program.

What the college still needs to do is find a way to reduce the number of students who bring cars to campus, through some combination of pricing, a car sharing program, and improvements to public transportation. They should think about auctioning off a limited supply of parking passes for incoming students.

Since Easton is compact, and can’t afford to absorb a ton of new drivers, any parking solution is necessarily going to be mostly about demand management. But Mr. Krill seems not to have considered this. He just wants to keep adding parking supply regardless of the effects. Or more likely, he just hasn’t bothered to think very hard about the effects.

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