Sell It All

Parking lease schemes are horrible, but there’s nothing wrong with selling parking assets. Parking’s not a public good, so there’s no reason for a city to directly own and operate parking lots or garages.

Since downtown land is scarce in the LV’s older core cities, it would be much better to leave it to the market to decide how much downtown land should get used for parking and how much should be used for houses and commercial space. Cities should continue to operate curb parking meters, since the streets are publicly owned.

I bring this up because in the case of downtown Allentown, I think you want as little land as possible in the NIZ taken up by idle vehicles. Every square foot of space that’s dedicated to housing idle vehicles can’t be used to house an office worker whose state taxes will go to ANIZDA. Obviously some of the NIZ land needs to be used for parked cars, but it’s important for city officials to view this as an opportunity cost. They need to consider that somebody else might have a higher-impact plan for the site than parking.

So I strongly approve of Allentown selling the old Colonial Theater lot on the open market, and I think they should also buy up all the Parking Authority’s surface parking lots, flip them to developers and parking businesses, and pare back the Parking Authority’s role to managing curb meter pricing and enforcement.

There’s nothing wrong with a one-time cash infusion if the city shouldn’t be in this business in the first place. And the Parking Authority is totally off-budget since it’s technically a separate government, so no need to worry about blowing a hole in the city budget.

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