Hot on the heels of our note yesterday about bad parking blocking emergency vehicles, our news partners at the Seattle Times have a front-page story about how busy the city’s parking enforcement officers are, writing $18.4 million in tickets last year:
The violators are many. When they see her approach, they beg, cajole, argue. Anything to worm out of that $39 fine.
“I’m just doing my job,” she tells people. “There’s a number you can call to contest the citation.”
Parking enforcement is the scourge of all dense urban areas. Last year, Seattle’s parking-enforcement officers wrote up 508,675 tickets. That’s about one a minute.
The Seattle Crime maps tell the local tale, showing that most tickets in the Central District happen around Swedish and along the neighborhood’s arterials:
But is parking enforcement “the scourge of all dense urban areas” as the Time’s article suggests? I guess that depends on whether there’s a bunch of hospital employees taking up parking in front of your house, or someone blocking your driveway, or someone camped out all day in a spot in a business district.
And after all, parking is a scarce resource. Doesn’t basic economics suggest that anything in short supply should have a price attached to it? If anything, on-street parking is probably currently undervalued all around the city.
There’s a researcher at UCLA, Donald Shoup, who studies these questions. From his website ( http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/): “Donald Shoup has extensively studied parking as a key link between transportation and land use, with important consequences for cities, the economy, and the environment. His influential book, The High Cost of Free Parking, is leading a growing number of cities to charge fair market prices for curb parking, dedicate the resulting revenue to finance public services in the metered districts, and reduce or remove off-street parking requirements.”
And the New York Times just printed a story a few weeks ago about Professor Shoup’s work: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/business/economy/15view.ht
Pretty interesting stuff, as we here in Seattle consider changes to townhouse zoning, for instance, or requirements for businesses to provide parking for employees or customers.