Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ask The Green Miles: More Parking Fees in Arlington

A friend writes:
You're more politically plugged in than I am, do you support this? Arlington County Board is thinking about extending hours [with payment required] on parking meters and possibly garages. "The proposed Parking and Curb Space Management Element is scheduled to be reviewed by the Transportation Commission and the Planning Commission at their meetings on October 29, and November 2, 2009, respectively, prior to the County Board hearing on November 14, 2009."
Do I support charging a small amount for parking on nights and weekends? Sure. No reason a community should charge for something during the day, then give it away at night. I'd be more concerned with making sure that all meters take credit cards or allow you to pay by cell phone. I don't want to get a $30 ticket because I couldn't find any quarters at 3am.

My bigger question is this -- has anything that's less of a big deal generated more controversy than Arlington's various proposals to charge a buck or two for parking here and there? I mean, look at this breathless editorial from the Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey:
[F]orcing those in Clarendon or other commercial areas to pay for meters well into the evening, or on Sundays, is counterproductive and will place those areas at a severe competitive disadvantage. In the long run, it will reduce the county government’s revenue, not increase it.
There is only one problem with that argument: Logic. As I once asked at What's Up Arlington, would any husband really turn to his wife and say, "Honey, I was going to take you to Restaurant 3 for our anniversary tonight, but it's $2 for parking now, so we're having Hungry Man TV dinners instead. Hope you like salisbury steak"?

Say it costs $2 to park in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor for the evening. Does a free alternative really exist? Pay $2 in gas to drive to Alexandria? Pay $4 in gas to drive out to Fairfax? Drive into DC and pay $8 for parking or spend 30 minutes driving around hoping to find a free spot?

Let's face it -- this debate is less about economics than it is about psychology. People hate being asked to pay for something they used to get for free.
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