More on transit and taxes

We had another Propel Pittsburgh meeting last night, finally forming the committees and getting down to the business of discussing ideas and moving towards actually doing something. More on that to come from the Mayor’s office eventually, so I’ll leave it aside for now.

An interesting idea sprang up on the way back home, as I was talking things over with a fellow commissioner who I know from grad school at CMU. He pointed out that we have a fundamental problem with pricing parking, especially downtown and Oakland. At the current price, demand is way over supply in the daytime, but plummets at night (hence the presence of “$5 after 5” rates).

The idea is this: why not capture that price inefficiency and put it to work for the city? In other words, raise the parking tax back up — but only during normal working hours. At night, let it stay at current rates or cut it further. Charge people for using up a scarce public resource, incentivizing them to carpool and/or use transit. This would also have the nice side effect of boosting transit ridership, helping PAT find its own way out of the hole (maybe even without the drinks tax, though I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting).

3 Comments so far

  1. Chal (unregistered) on December 20th, 2007 @ 11:39 pm

    As a PGH native who has lived in NYC for 27 years and Los Angeles for the past four years, the thing that strikes me about parking downtown is that it’s more expensive to park there than in most of Los Angeles, and also more difficult if not impossible to find some sort of free parking– something that is always possible in LA, believe it or not.

    I can’t speak to the parking situation in NYC because I never owned a car when I lived there. Mass transit is fantastic there.

    I’m all for lowering parking rates and improving mass transit (good luck) but it seems to me that there has to be something that justifies going there regularly in the first place. Until then, it will just be a parking facility for sports events and occasional concerts and theater productions.

    It’s sad to see what has become of PGH’s downtown.

  2. John Morris (unregistered) on December 21st, 2007 @ 11:45 am

    That’s the kind of thing we need to think about– getting the pricing right. Anything you do to pull back peak demand will help.That’s the damaging demand that forces one to build things that are not used much the rest of the time and just sit there as ugly holes in the city.

  3. Char (unregistered) on December 23rd, 2007 @ 9:42 am

    We can’t raise the parking tax up because we must keep on the Act 47 plan and the Act 47 plan says its gotta go down. Remember? Luke/Motznik tried that already, the state told them it was an Act 47 violation, told them the state would withhold all other state monies from Pgh as punishement, and that was that.

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