Would Baltimore Be Better Off with More Expensive Parking Rates?

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Hey Baltimore, how does less traffic, more open parking spots, greater transit use, and greater tax revenue sound? Well, according to this article in The Atlantic Cities, the only thing standing between us and that urban utopia is our parking rates. They’re just too darn low.

Eric Jaffe examines the effects of SFpark, “San Francisco’s world-class effort to match the price of parking with real-time demand.” Through SFpark, the price of street parking changes dynamically to keep 20-40 percent of parking spots clear until 6 p.m. (when the meters are no longer in effect). The program has reduced congestion by making it mostly unnecessary to circle a city block 1,000 times looking for a non-existent parking spot.

In general, large cities with higher parking rates see more public transit use. In fact, if you want residents to ditch the car, expensive parking is a far greater inducement than investing in a high quality transit system alone.

Another weird effect of using high parking rates to reduce traffic, according to Jaffe, is that a certain amount of city land currently designated for parking could be used for other purposes — most of which would end up generating more tax revenue for the city.

For Jaffe, the issue of social equity is only mentioned as an afterthought, but really it’s a crucial concern and not easily solved. Not to mention that our public transit system leaves a lot to be desired. But yeah, not having to circle for a spot sounds nice.

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  1. Our parking rates are also radically inconsistent. In Harbor East you can park at a meter that takes credit cards for like $4.00 an hour or at an old-fashioned meter for $1 an hour or for free for 3 hours on
    Eastern Avenue. Or park in the Whole Foods garage, buy one thing at Whole Foods and get “free” parking for 2 hours.

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