Monday, April 23, 2007

Traffic targets

Parking fees are good public policy because they directly impose on motorists a charge for choosing to drive.

That's why parking meters make sense for public parking spaces, especially when they are variably priced to yield 85% occupancy.

But, what do you about parking on private property? How do you require private landowners to charge for parking? How do you set (and, if necessary, adjust) the price so that it discourages parking, but not altogether? A property owner isn't going to want to charge for parking if he can help it. And, one can only imagine the bureaucracy necessary to figure out what fees the city is going to require a property owner to charge and then to manage requests for adjustments. Yikes.

I've been trying to figure out you could align a property owner's interest so that he'd charge a reasonable parking fee of his own volition.

Tonight at the public hearing on the proposed Planned Business Development, it all came together. Phil Herr recommended that any special permit be predicated on anticipated traffic volume and that traffic volumes be intermittently checked to see that the development is not generating traffic in excess of the special permit levels.

If the traffic volume goes up, it would be incumbent on the property owner to throttle it back. Mr. Herr suggested that one way to do that would be to adjust uses. Tenants turnover. When there is turnover, require that the replacement be a lower traffic-generating use.

As Mr. Herr conceded, this strategy has its limitations. There's only so much reduction in volume you'll accomplish.

But, parking pricing could have a more direct effect. If traffic volume goes up, adjust parking prices until the traffic volume goes back down below the special permit level.

Such a regime brings the property owner's interest in line with good policy. The property owner won't want to exceed his special permit volume, so he'll price parking to most precisely meet the right number. A limit on traffic volume gives the property owner extra incentive to promote alternative transport. It's where he'll generate new customers. And, one imagines, you could earmark some of the funds from parking for transit improvements.

Eureka!

1 comment:

Charlie D. said...

In East Cambridge, when the Cambridgeside Galleria was being developed, the city negotiated with the developer to have fewer parking spaces built in the garage and had the developer agree to provide a free bus shuttle between the Kendall T station and the Galleria. As you also may know, the Galleria charges motorists to park in the garage as well. I'm not sure if that was part of the negotiation or not, but it makes perfect sense. Driving in is discouraged through parking pricing, and access to public transit nearby is free (walking to Lechmere station or taking the free shuttle to Kendall).