Daily News Highlights How City Blew Opportunity When Raising Meter Costs

4_29_09_meter.jpgPhoto: Nahh/Flickr

In the late fall of 2008 and early in 2009, the City Council and Mayor Villaraigosa decided to fill a hole in the city’s budget by raising the cost of parking curbside at city-owned parking meters. The wildly unpopular move is estimated to generate $18 million dollars for the city, but the backlash from constituents has turned several Councilman who voted for the raise into "low-cost-parking" advocates including Tom LaBonge and Dennis Zine.

To help justify their plan, they tried to push the idea that they were following a Smart Growth model based on the teachings of UCLA Economics Professor and Parking Guru Donald Shoup.  Shoup has explained how street parking is undervalued throughout America and by capturing those revenues and putting it back into the communities from which it comes cities can begin to remake themselves.

The City of Los Angeles seems to have forgotten that last part, and now is facing a political backlash because the meter hike they pushed through is being rightly viewed as increased fees with all the negative things that come with them and no benefit seen in the community. 

While increasing meter rates isn’t a bad idea by itself; the political reality is that people don’t like to pay more money without seeing something in return.  In this case, Los Angeles blew a chance to build a political alliance for increasing meter fees and politicians burned by this experience are going to be less likely to take a stand in the future.  That’s not Don Shoup’s vision.

In short, by not using the parking fees to improve transportation or reinvesting in the community, the city neglected to develop a group of people that push for meter increases because of what can be done with those dollars, so when newspapers write stories on the increases it’s not at all surprising that a reporter can’t find a person willing to explain why raising rates isn’t a bad idea.  Take today’s Daily News:

Business owners, shoppers and restaurant and
theater patrons throughout the San Fernando Valley are up in arms about
the increased parking meter rates that have been introduced over the
past year – and demanding something be done about it.

Councilman Dennis Zine agrees and has asked officials to
re-evaluate the rate hike, which was intended to raise an extra
$18 million for cash-strapped city coffers. He believes the rate
increase may have been counterproductive.

Even as activists around the city prepare to make a point that as a society we’re wasting open space in the name of cheap parking during Park(ing) Day in just 10 days, the city bungled raising meter rates so badly that it created a backlash against any future meter raises, even those that might be usable for Livable Streets means.