Local Politics: Parking woes likely far from over

Rob Moore

When I moved into my apartment on High Street in the Brewery District last year, I met a neighbor who had lived there for many years. He moved out a few months ago to a new place, saying that he didn't want to leave, but that parking had started to get out of control so he wanted to move elsewhere.

That's in the Brewery District. Those of you who live in Victorian Village, Italian Village and the campus area have seen even worse parking shortages.

Parking shortages are a typical Econ 101 problem: When there is a scarce resource, people will either trade the resource for other resources or there will be shortages. While meters and, to a certain extent, parking passes create a market mechanism for distribution of parking places, much of Columbus' parking is free, and free products go off the shelves quickly.

The costs associated with violations of parking laws also tend to fall more heavily on poorer residents. Parking violation fees are regressive and poor residents often have less ability to pay, causing them to rack up compounding debt. Poorer residents also tend to have less social capital, making it harder for them to avoid being assessed fines in the first place.

Parking in Columbus is owned by both private companies and the public. One way that the city ensures parking supply is through parking requirements for business and residential construction. That being said, these requirements are often waived in the interest of density and economic development.

Many of Columbus' dense neighborhoods were developed before adoption of the car, and are made up of former single-family houses that are now duplexes or small apartment buildings. Thus, much of the parking in these neighborhoods is publicly owned and distributed through metered parking, long-term parking passes or timed parking designed to encourage sharing of parking spaces.

In order to deal with Columbus' parking shortages, City Council voted last week to tighten regulations on 72-hour parking, create more designated spaces for car sharing and authorize “parking benefits districts” which would allocate meter revenue into neighborhood transportation needs.

A crucial part of Columbus' long-term strategy to manage public parking is to encourage alternative modes of transportation. Car sharing can work in tandem with biking, walking and busing to ease the demand for parking in different neighborhoods,though Car2Go's recent announcement that it was ending service in the city onThursday, May 31, means car sharing in the futurewill likely be limited to Uber and Lyft.

A tool that has been used in some cities to regulate parking is “variable rate parking meters.” These meters increase or decrease the cost of parking depending on how many people are parked on a given street. Thus, the same amount of parking will be likely to be available irrespective of the time of day, and extra revenues generated through the metering system can be used for city services or alternative transportation infrastructure.

Hopefully City Council's new regulations will result in a better parking system. If not, the city will need to lean on more aggressive pricing of parking and more investment in bus/bike/infrastructure in order to reduce block circling for its residents.