« What does it mean to be "as old as I feel"? | Main | I become a columnist: Salem Weekly today, New York Times tomorrow? »

May 28, 2013


Thanks for this post Brian. I think your comments about the lack of trust in Salem city government are right on.

Carole Smith, who is leading the initiative drive mentioned in this post to stop parking meters in downtown Salem, tried to leave a comment, but had a problem doing so.

Below is the gist of what Carole said was in the comment, conveyed to me by email. I pretty much agree with her. I don't trust the City either. I also see this as a revenue problem that the City is wrongly trying to solve via parking meters.

I just wanted to point out in this post that other cities with more competent municipal leadership apparently have been able to use parking meter revenue to improve their downtown areas -- and with the support of downtown businesses.
"We do not have a parking problem in downtown Salem. We have a revenue problem because of irresponsible budgeting by the city. Parking meters are a parking management tool. Don't waste time talking up a solution to a problem we don't have.

The city is NOT going to give money to help downtown if they put in parking meters. The city just took away all our money so they could spend it themselves. What are you thinking?

But, again, this isn't a parking problem. it's a revenue problem. Lets talk about solving that problem - that is why we are doing an initiative petition. To force the city into identifying the correct problem, so we can implement a successful solution."

So are Carole Smith , the Salem Downtown Partnership, and Cherry City Pits the same thing?

I have stated before that there are 789 spaces downtown where the occupancy rate is over 90%, so that is not totally accurate.

The petition will only make the parking situation downtown worse. By limiting the solutions on the table, the city will be pushed to charge for the garages. Right now, at peak hours we have roughly 1000 out of 2000 spots occupied in the garages and 700 out of 1000 spots occupied on the street. Meter the garages and parkers will move out of the garages and on to the street and no one will be able to find a free space.

Then you will have taken a small parking problem and turned it into a big one. If the petition is successful, meters won't be available to deal with it.

Cherry City has stated openly "we wish we needed meters." If the downtown ever is a regional draw, meters will be neccessary to manage the extra traffic that it will generate. Its hard to square these contradictory views.

Yes, lets solve the problem. So far the anti-meter folks have just tried to deny that a revenue problem exists. When they are working so hard to deny there is a problem how can you claim to be working toward a solution? The petition only makes things worse.

The proposal as it stands right now is not a good one. I chatted with Chuck Bennett and the mayor about this at the DemoForum and they are open to improving it or listening to other suggestions. But the anti-meter folks don't sound to me like they are ready to negotiate in good faith.

Curt, you're wrong about anti-meter people not recognizing there is a parking structure revenue problem. In my update to this post I quote Carole Smith:

"We do not have a parking problem in downtown Salem. We have a revenue problem because of irresponsible budgeting by the city. Parking meters are a parking management tool. Don't waste time talking up a solution to a problem we don't have."

She's right.

The City is only viewing meters as a way to fill the hole in a supposed capital/operating budget for the parking structures. This is a lousy reason to install parking meters. Very short-sighted. Very un-systems approach.

(I spent two years in a Systems Science Ph.D. program and like to say "systems approach" now and then.)

The goal should be: a vibrant, attractive, dynamic downtown area that attracts visitors and supports small businesses. The City of Salem is fond of picking solutions, then looking for a problem to justify the pick -- think Third Bridge. Also, parking meters. Bad planning approach.

Then they should put a solution on the table.

Curt, the people who consider something a problem are the ones who should suggest a solution to it. But the first question always should be: is there really a problem? If so, how big is it? What are its dimensions?

There's good evidence, as Carole Smith points out, that the City has mismanaged parking revenues. It doesn't charge some entities, like the Conference Center, for parking. It should. Maybe it should charge large businesses like Penney's more. Maybe much more.

When the problem is accurately defined, solutions will be more obvious. Taking the City's supposed problem at face value isn't wise. We've seen that with the Third Bridge. The City conjured up a problem, and now is locked into a single solution: new bridge.

Same with the US Bank trees. The City and the bank conjured up a problem, then got locked into a single solution: remove.

The City isn't serious about looking at parking openly, honestly, and flexibly. If it was, it would have solicited lots of opinions from downtown business owners and other experts on Salem's core. Instead, the City settled on a solution before really understanding either the problem, or what the goals for downtown should be.

"When the problem is accurately defined, solutions will be more obvious"

The City defines it as a revenue problem.

Carole defines it as a revenue problem.

I define it as a revenue problem.

Moving on...

"solutions will be obvious"

Q. Who should pay for parking?
A. Parkers

Curt, regarding parkers paying for parking...

Most things in life aren't paid fully by the people using them. Auto drivers don't pay the full cost of roads, fossil fuel pollution, and such. Those costs are subsidized, including as "externalities."

The parents of children attending public school don't pay the full cost of their kids' education. I don't have any young children. So why am I paying for schools through my taxes?

Oh, because it makes sense for me to do so.

So it isn't obvious that "parkers" should pay for parking. Who made that unbreakable commandment? In that case, let's have bicycle riders pay the full cost of bike lanes, cancer victims the full cost of their cancer treatment, and students the full cost of their education.

Again, usually it makes sense to spread costs equitably among different sectors of society, when the service provided is of mutual benefit. We humans aren't isolated individualistic beings; we care for each other, and are pleased to do so.

So I don't get how "downtown parkers should pay for downtown parking" became enshrined as a new City of Salem assumption. If free onstreet parking benefits downtown, and a vibrant downtown is desired by Salem-area residents, then the cost of parking should be shared fairly widely.

Plus, currently not all parkers are paying for parking. Users of the parking structures are getting a free ride. And as noted before, seemingly also numerous other entities and groups are also (such as the Convention Center).

You said it was obvious not me.

Parkers should pay for parking because the external costs they impose on the rest of us far exceed the benefit we get from making it free to the parker. Those costs include pollution, congestion, crashes, flooding, obesity, depression, higher housing costs, and higher prices paid for goods and services and a degraded built environement.

That is why subsidizing parking is bad land use policy.

Free parking has not made downtown more vibrant so why should I assume it does. Who made that commandment?

These are not commandments, they are policy choices. The bible on parking policy is "The High Cost Of Free Parking" by Donald Shoup.

Curt, think more scientifically. What evidence do you have that free parking hasn't made downtown Salem more vibrant? This is just your opinion.

It also is your opinion that somehow people parking downtown for a few hours and walking around the downtown core is more detrimental to the environment that people driving to the horror that is Keizer Station, with its many barren asphalt acres of free parking.

Research has shown that dense downtown areas are the most energy efficient of any housing/business development. Downtowns should be stimulated, not choked by needless barriers to visitation.

Describe to me the causal logic of how parking meters being installed in onstreet downtown parking is going to produce a more economically and culturally vibrant downtown core. Not in generalities -- in specific cause and effect steps. 1, 2, 3, 4...

This will be a good exercise for you, a check on whether you really have a sound understanding of the issue. I'm not saying you don't. I just haven't heard from you believable specific cause and effect chains of logic that will lead to a stronger downtown Salem.

Previously you and I agreed that the City is proposing meters because of a revenue problem. You want all parking costs in downtown to be met by downtown visitors. I responded that the benefits of a strong downtown core merit some parking costs being paid more broadly.

Now you have shifted gears. You are arguing that free parking encourages driving, pollution, and such. So I gather you believe that it would be beneficial to have fewer people visit downtown in their cars.

My view is that parking meters are not going to drive people to use bicycles or to walk to get to downtown. It will drive them to suburban big box stores; or it will drive them to visit downtown less.

Again: if this is a revenue problem, then let's focus on revenue. If the goal is something else, let's talk specifically about something else. I just haven't heard a coherent argument from the City, or from you, about why parking meters are necessary in downtown.

Or why this won't hurt downtown businesses, if the revenue from meters goes to support parking structures -- not to make downtown more attractive to visitors.

Very interesting discussion, indeed! Brian, I encourage you to read the documents listed in this post to get an understanding of how meters can improve a downtown. Definitely before taking on the 500+ pages of the parking bible by Shoup that Curt refers to (required reading for any city planner, in my opinion).

You would most liekly still have free or really cheap parking, but you would price the areas where demand levels exceed 85% so that some of the people hogging the more desirable spaces will move to the free, less desirable spaces...which could be a garage space.

You only need to change the behavior or 10-15% of the drivers to see an improvement in on-street parking congestion. So it's not about making everyone ride a bike or take a bus. It's minor shifts on the fringe. And there are people who would rather pay more and have a more convenient space, spend less time looking for parking, and not have to walk. You should give them that option.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Strange Up Salem

Welcome to HinesSight

  • Salem Political Snark
    My local political rants are now made on this badass blog. Check it out. Dirty politics, outrageous actions, sleaze, backroom deals — we’re on it. 

  • Twitter with me
    Join Twitter and follow my tweets about whatever.
  • Church of the Churchless
    Visit my other weblog, Church of the Churchless, where the gospel of spiritual independence is preached.

  • Welcome to HinesSight. If this is your first visit, click on "About this site--start here" in the Categories section below.