Good News: Demand-based Parking Can Be Adjusted Based On… Demand!

Parking Lot Rising

Parking Garage, photo by flickr user Jasonmp

Econ 101 tells us that underpriced goods will be over-consumed. Hence, if all parking is free in a busy neighborhood, then free spaces will be scarce.  Conversely, if all parking is very expensive, then spaces will be plentiful but people will be overspending on parking. So you have to hit the sweet spot, which is one reason why the city has decided to adjust rates in the International District.

As Erica Barnett notes, the city is constantly adjusting rates in every neighborhood.  No doubt they will do it again in the future.  Despite the Times’ effort to portray this as a McGinn “blink”, this is a good thing. Matt G did a post back in March with plenty of graphs on parking utilization in the ID and other neighborhoods if you want to deep-dive on this subject.

Here’s local restauranteur Tom Douglas, as quoted in the Times:

“It costs more to park in front of Wild Ginger than the Dahlia Lounge and more to park in front of the Dahlia Lounge than Tai Tung (in the International District). It’s nonsense and it’s self-defeating,” Douglas said.

We don’t know if there’s more to that quote that clarifies why Mr. Douglas thinks setting prices according to demand is “nonsense.” Nevertheless, parking outside Dahlia Lounge costs $2.50 per hour.  The Mixed baby lettuces with lemon, parmesan, goat cheese crostini on the dinner menu will set you back $9.  Just to keep things in perspective.

Comments

  1. fletc3her says

    It would be interesting to do variable pricing where the parking got more expensive in a given zone as the number of parked cars increased. Charge a minimum if the streets are empty, but a premium for the last spot on the block (or rather as the count of outstanding stickers reaches the theoretical capacity of the zone).

  2. Eric says

    San Francisco-style automatic demand-based pricing for street parking accomplishes the same goal without giving opponents the opportunity to claim the city is “blinking”.

    • Alex Broner says

      I support this, however it does take more money to start up because of the cost of deploying the sensors, something which was more difficult to do in the depth of the recession. Now that the economy is improving the city should strongly consider adopting this.

  3. RapidRider says

    So even though he’s clearly no more informed on urban transportation than a Yakima representative, Tom Douglas chooses to leverage his ego and make him self look like a fool. Not surprising. Unfortunately, “celebrities” like him are the ones that people hear and read about, so their misinformed facts carry on and hurt our city in the long run.

  4. poseur says

    Unrelated: Seeing the “Sinking Ship” parking garage always makes me sad – especially when seeing what used to be there.

    • Lightning says

      So true. Ugliest structure in the city. A travesty. 60′s think. I hope it will be eventually razed and replaced with….with anything else.

      • CharlotteRoyal says

        Call the Wah-mbulance!

        It’s been there quite a while now, hasn’t it? …like 50 years? The hotel was heavily damaged in the 1949 earthquake and fell into disrepair. Back then, no one wanted to throw any money at it. People wanted to live outside of town.

        I think it’s a cool structure. …just like the viaduct. The viaduct could have been saved. After seawall improvements, it could have been artistically improved with LED-effect lighting.

        I think the ugliest structures in the city are the wastes of money this city calls art along Western or the gum wall. The gaudy McMansions or God-awful colored 1940s homes in Capital Hill or anywhere across town (you’ve all seen them) rank up there too. Who colors a home neon yellow or hot blue?

      • Colin says

        Come now Charlotte, the old hotel was hardly a lost cause when it was demolished. The only damage it received in the earthquake was the failure of the parapet wall above the roof line. The entire cornice was removed as a result, like in so many other Pioneer Square buildings. Just because it looked ratty, doesn’t mean a fresh coat of paint and a new cornice couldn’t have helped it back up.

      • CharlotteRoyal says

        Any way you cut it, unreinforced masonry structures are a major hazard in earthquake prone areas. Look at what just happened in Christchurch, New Zealand.

  5. says

    Tom Douglas isn’t a very good restauranteer if he didn’t notice that neighborhood economy is different around restaurants in different area. He has a problem with parking costs differing between Wild Ginger, Dahlia Lounge, and Tai Tung, but surely he must realize that the rent for these restaurants are different too! Variable pricing based on demand is the norm in most things; I doubt he would characterize the rent disparities as “self defeating!”

    • Eric H says

      Given how loudly restaurant owners howl about parking prices, I suspect they’re more concerned about how much they’re paying to park their own cars.

      When I drive to a restaurant I often have parents in tow, and I’d much rather find a space quickly than waste 20 minutes cruising, only to find a space 4 blocks away.

      • Breadbaker says

        The environment would also prefer you not to be cruising for 20 minutes.

        I remember hating that Times headline about a “blink”. What the city did (and what the city said it did) was to study an issue after getting data from doing it one way, and to adjust the rules to fit the data. That isn’t blinking, that’s governing properly.

      • David L says

        See asdf’s comment below. The restaurant owners are paranoid and irrational about parking cost because their customers are too.

    • Scott Stidell says

      …and it’s FREE to park in front of Rover’s (if you can find a space)! MWAHAHAHA point to Thierry Rautureau!

  6. Ryan on Summit says

    It’s hard for me to believe the Times would have written that headline if it was the Burgess administration that had lowered parking rates.

  7. asdf says

    This is another example about the crazy psychology of parking. People behave as if each dollar spent on parking is worth a lot more than each dollar spent at the restaurant itself. Rationally, when you’re running up a $40+ restaurant bill, what does an extra $2.50 on parking mean, really?

    • David L says

      Agreed. And it doesn’t stop at $40, at all. Back in my hotelier days, I saw people run up four-figure hotel bills, including hundreds on room service liquor, and yet complain about paying $15 for parking. Somehow people have absorbed the idea that free parking is a birthright.

      • Bernie says

        $40 is closer to the average tip than the average bill. I have a hard time weighing in here because I agree with almost everything said. Search back through the Seattle Sometimes comments about charging for P&R lots. To paraphrase, “You subsidize my commute and now you want me to pay for parking TOO!” Why is there any free on street parking anywhere? Why can’t transit agencies stop whining about revenue sources and just start charging market rate for the parking assets they already own. No law against it. Is there something in the Bill of Rights about free parking to maintain a well regulated militia that I missed?

  8. Nicholas R says

    It costs more to eat at the Dahlia Lounge than Wild Ginger and more to eat at Wild Ginger than Tai Tung (in the International District). It’s nonsense and it’s self-defeating. I think Tom should lower all of his prices to be in line with Tai Tung in the name of fairness and common sense.

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