On the op-ed page of the New York Times, parking guru Donald Shoup argues that there are numerous problems with underpriced curb-side parking.
Parking is underpriced if there is greater than 85% occupancy at any given time. (And, prices should be variable and demand based.)
If prices are too low and occupancy too high:
- Those who get spaces get them too cheap and stay too long, leaving money on the table and reducing parking availability for others
- Those without spaces cruise for open spaces, creating congestion and excess pollution
The balance between the varying demand for parking and the fixed supply of curb spaces is the Goldilocks Principle of parking prices: the price is too high if too many spaces are vacant, and too low if no spaces are vacant. But when only a few spaces are vacant, the price is just right, and everyone will see that curb parking is both well used and readily available.
Demand-based pricing is not only not anti-business, it's pro-business. Rates set for 85% occupancy means that plenty of people are parking -- and shopping. It means that prime spaces are most likely going to be used by customers, not employees. And, it means that shoppers will have spaces available when they arrive.
Plus, the revenue from higher rates can be plowed into cleaning, maintenance, landscaping, &c. in the business district.
In Newton, higher-priced parking has its own special concerns. If you raise prices in a commercial zone, you run the risk of pushing parking into the neighboring residential areas.
But, there are tools available to mitigate that problem, like resident parking and short-term parking rules.
Streetsblog has an interesting interview with Shoup.