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Breakfast links: Decongesting our politics and our roads

Chicago parking meters. Photo by ehfisher.
Barry back in the news: Arrested for stalking. Marion Barry is mostly irrelevant to Washingtonians' actual lives, but his constant appearances in the news just give ammunition to the gradually dying meme that DC government is crooked. (Washington City Paper)

We're still riding, still need Metro: Commuters still feel safe on Metro, and have continued riding it despite the crash. The spike in traffic recently shows how important Metro is to the region. The Gazette also picks up the theme that the Purple Line would have helped by creating an alternative after the crash. (Gazette, Cavan)

Bus locations copyright NextBus?: Manifest Density is trying to build apps combining GTFS and NextBus data, but the two datasets don't match up well at all. Worse yet, NextBus is at least claiming that it holds the copyright to the raw data on where each bus is located. Does this relate to one SF iPhone app developer's woes?

Chicago parked itself into a corner: Chicago may have raised its parking rates too high when it privatized its meters. Now, many blocks are under-utilized. Unfortunately, Chicago would have to pay money back to the private company. Performance parking isn't just about raising meter rates; it's about setting them at the right level. Chicago's deal tied the city's hands. (Chicago Sun-Times)

It's working for Philly: In Philadelphia, meanwhile, a recent rise in meter rates suddenly meant people could find spaces in Center City. Now that the rates are fostering the right amount of turnover (about 83% occupancy), the Parking Authority has decided not to raise it any further, and will lower the rates in some more outlying blocks which have become a little too empty. (Philadephia Inquirer, Michael P)

Paging Jim Graham: According to Charles Komanoff, each car driving into Manhattan each day "causes about $160 of negative externalities to everybody else." A congestion charge and taxi surcharge could fix this, speed traffic, and allow New York City to make all buses free, all the time, he argues. (Felix Salmon)

Paging Barbara Mikulski: Serious environmentalists know suburban sprawl is a problem. Unfortunately, many wealthy, liberal communities like Berkeley, California and neighboring areas of northern Oakland are still full of those "environmentalists" who believe saving the planet means keeping their downtown areas very low density. (East Bay Express via The Overhead Wire)

Just National?: The chairman of MWAA might have suggested changing the name of National Airport back to "National Airport." (DCist)

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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"dying meme" that dc gov is crooked? Dude, it's still waaaaay crooked. Maybe it is not AS crooked as it once was, but let's be honest, that gov is full of crookedness.

by SA on Jul 6, 2009 8:40 am • linkreport

They should change the name of National Airport to George Washington National Airport to prevent future mischief.

by kenf on Jul 6, 2009 8:43 am • linkreport

I don't fully get the Chicago parking problem. If the rates are too high, doesn't the concessionaire have an incentive to agree to a lower rate schedule? Are they at the revenue/profit maximizing price right now?

by ah on Jul 6, 2009 9:34 am • linkreport

Yeah, Marion Barry isn't the ammunition these days, it's Harriet Walters et al.

by ah on Jul 6, 2009 9:36 am • linkreport

It's great to hear that a major east coast city adopted many of Shoup's ideas about parking pricing. Judging by the article, it appears they have been successful.

by Cavan on Jul 6, 2009 10:15 am • linkreport

I'm the author of that Manifest Density post -- and wow, thanks for pointing me toward the news of Routesy getting a takedown notice from NextBus. That's certainly discouraging. I sent an email to WMATA about this issue last week, but so far haven't heard anything back from them. My plans were quite similar to Steven Peterson's -- right down to the price point and the willingness to distribute the app for free, if necessary. Now it sounds like I may have to take a more considered approach to the matter.

I imagine there are probably some transit-friendly lawyers reading this -- if any of you have opinions about NextBus's ability to claim copyright on arrival time estimates, I'd love to hear about them either here or in a comment at my blog (if you're prefer to email me, leave a comment on my site and I'll get in touch). I'm not looking for proper legal advice, of course, but rather just an indication of how (and whether) to go about seeking out that advice.

by Tom on Jul 6, 2009 10:21 am • linkreport

The staggering thing about Komanoff's estimate of $160 cost to everyone else for each auto driven in Manhattan is it's only the direct business costs. It doesn't even include the enormous health care costs to the public from the pollution. Nor does it include our diminished life expectancy or even the increased costs of road maintenance and policing.

When the true social costs of increased vehicle access are so staggering, it's odd that the first reason those advocating increased auto access usually give is "economic revitalization".

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 6, 2009 11:26 am • linkreport

Tom C., right on, and it's not just healthcare costs from pollution that are unneccessarily increased from the autos driven. There is ample evidence correlating miles driven/day with risk for diabetes and obesity. It's not just ecologocal data either. Its the costs of these conditions that is breaking the medicare/aid bank.

by Bianchi on Jul 6, 2009 11:40 am • linkreport

That $160 cost is highly variable. The more operative assumption is the $48.89 as the average value of 1 hour of saved vehicle time.

I'd be curious as to what the assumptions were that went into that $48.89 value.

Also, it's obvious that this value is specific for Manhattan south of 60th St. So the average value of an hour of saved vehicle time on Capitol Hill or Foggy Bottom or 14th St is likely to be far different.

by Froggie on Jul 6, 2009 11:53 am • linkreport

@ Marion Barry: Barry is the symbol for everything that is wrong with DC. Corruption, drugs, you name it, he represents it. He is a strong reminder that there still is a lot wrong here. For starters the fact that he keeps being re-elected. And yes, he is larger than life. Just like Strom Thurmond did not represent all of SC, and just like Robert Byrd does not represent everybody (anybody) in WV.

@ Chicago parking: This whole ordeal is another great reminder that there are government tasks that should never be outsourced. Collecting money is one of them. It always ends poorly. BTW, this is also why the HOT-lanes will be a fiasco.

by Jasper on Jul 6, 2009 12:04 pm • linkreport

The idea of parking being "underutilized" (with some areas "too empty" of cars) goes to show that performance parking isn't the solution to all questions about parking. There's an independent question of how much parking you want in a certain area. Performance parking doesn't make cars disappear, it just makes it easier to find a parking spot (trading increased convenience for higher costs to park). If your goal is to reduce car traffic overall in a given area, performance parking doesn't affect that -- in fact, making it easier to find a place to park may encourage some people to drive.

To head off the inevitable bellyaching, I'm not suggesting anyone's goal should be to remove cars from all areas -- just that there may be some areas where this is the case. In those areas, parking is parking, whether performance or not.

by Gavin Baker on Jul 6, 2009 1:07 pm • linkreport

Gavin, I think the larger goal of performance parking is simply to ensure that price is factored into the equation. Too often, the discussion focuses on supply and demand while assuming a price of 'zero.'

When talking about on-street spaces, however, supply is usually fairly fixed. Hence, performance parking is a question of price.

by Alex B. on Jul 6, 2009 1:15 pm • linkreport

The problem with performance parking is that it isn't about the parking; it is about extracting money from the public. Usually the only ones with cojones to suggest it are semi-corrupt private entities, as politicians know they would get voted out of office if they proposed the idea themselves.

by chARlie on Jul 6, 2009 3:03 pm • linkreport

@Gavin: The spaces were underutilized because the high price was scaring potential users away. The point isn't to make the cars disappear, it's to make empty spaces appear so that cars that are driving around try to find them don't have to drive very far

Performance parking would reduce traffic in areas where a lot of cars are driving around trying to find a space. Like you said, it might increase the amount of cars traveling to get places, but it would reduce traffic at those places.

I'm still waiting for someone to come up with a better way to allocate scarce on-street parking other than performance parking. Anything else just seems like arbitrary decisionmaking without any data. Doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

@chARlie: The real performance parking proposals I've seen involve spending the money locally on improving things like lighting, sidewalks, cleanliness, street trees and signage. That spending improves conditions for the very people that are parking and end up being very popular among businesses, drivers and non-drivers alike. I'd hardly call that "extracting money". The alternative is to undercharge and just have people drive around until they find a space. Is that better somehow?

Tommy Wells is an example of a politician who proposed and passed the idea of performance parking through the DC council. In Redwood City, CA, the idea passed unanimously through the city council, after receiving great support from downtown businesses. These are only a couple of examples that I can recall off the top of my head.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 6, 2009 3:53 pm • linkreport

I didn't say the point was (or should be) to make cars disappear. In some places you have cars, you have existing parking spaces to allocate, you want to do that that in the most efficient way. Performance parking is the solution.

My point is that performance parking isn't the solution to every question. Sometimes you may not want cars. Sometimes you may be better off reclaiming parking spaces to another use, like a bike lane, wider sidewalk, bus lane, taxi stand, loading zone, turn lane, etc.

In other words: "We have too many open parking spots: reduce the prices" is not adequate logic. Performance parking only works when you want someone to park there in the first place. (I'm not saying that's not the case for the specific situations linked here.)

by Gavin Baker on Jul 6, 2009 4:02 pm • linkreport

Gavin, that's not what happened in Philly, however. You're not giving the logical progression enough credit. They had fully occupied spaces, then they raised the rates. Now, some areas are unoccupied. Hence, the indication is that the optimal price is lower than the current level, but higher than the over-occupied rates before the hike.

by Alex B. on Jul 6, 2009 4:16 pm • linkreport

To repeat:
(I'm not saying that's not the case for the specific situations linked here.)

by Gavin Baker on Jul 6, 2009 4:22 pm • linkreport

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