The Virtues of a Parking Tax – But What Kind?

Via Planetizen:

Atlanta is considering a parking tax, with the conversation driven in part by this academic paper (PDF, 3.2M). The tax would help deal with a backlog of transportation projects, including an incomplete sidewalk network (sound familiar?) and potentially be used to match Federal dollars.

The paper includes a very interesting discussion of the relative merits of a transactional tax (a percentage of the parking rate charged, San Francisco charges 25%, Pittsburgh 50%!) versus a per-space tax. While both are almost certainly passed on to the parker, the latter is a pretty strong signal to property owners to consider uses for their real estate other than parking, since the tax has to be paid whether or not a market for the space exists, or is strong enough to cover the tax.

Another interesting aspect is the suggestion of a tiered tax approach with the highest rates at the city center, diminishing as you transition outward, in order to avoid shifting of parking demand to lower-taxed areas nearby.

7 Comments

7 Responses to The Virtues of a Parking Tax – But What Kind?

  1. dwainedibbly
    August 21, 2013 at 5:40 pm Link

    If nothing else, it would drive people to use on-street parking, which the city can meter. Get them either way!

  2. Garlynn
    August 21, 2013 at 6:26 pm Link

    I’m all in favor of a per-space tax. Varying the tax by zone of the city makes a certain amount of sense, but even a flat per-space tax would be fine IF coupled with a switch from parking minimums to parking maximums (i.e. the elimination of parking requirements). Then, individual businesses & developers could decide what the value of parking was — the market would thus set the level of parking provided.

    Of course, the issue of on-street parking would need to be addressed somehow, too… outside of metered zones, perhaps residents could purchase an annual parking pass that would allow them to park in any non-metered zone; visitors could purchase their pass in much the same way that visitors to, say, London’s cordon pricing zone pay their cordon charge.

    Just brainstorming…

  3. Ron Swaren
    August 21, 2013 at 10:13 pm Link

    I’ll bet their are myriad ways that construction costs could be reduced on infrastructure projects. A “get them either way” attitude is only a short sighted solution. A lot of the reason why the CRC project got so bloated in cost was the laborious way it would have been built.

    Is someone watching the public purse, or are we just going along with the latest trends in graft?

  4. bjcefola
    August 21, 2013 at 11:37 pm Link

    I like the angle that it would function as a visitor tax, drawing revenue from those who use city amenities but who wouldn’t otherwise support city services. That’s not as big a problem here as it is in Atlanta but still worth thinking about.

    And as a revenue generator I’d take it over a utility fee any day.

  5. EngineerScotty
    August 22, 2013 at 12:39 am Link

    Should such a proposal offer a discount for structured parking (underground or elevated garages) as opposed to surface lots, particularly if the roofs of such things are used for purposes other than storing cars? Surface (or rooftop) parking lots have the nasty characteristic of making it easy for rainwater to mix with automobile fluids, something which is not beneficial to the environment in the least…

  6. dwainedibbly
    August 22, 2013 at 4:43 am Link

    Surface lots also result in less walkable areas by creating “dead zones”. I would tax surface lots as much or maybe even more than garages.

  7. Chris I
    August 22, 2013 at 8:05 am Link

    I’m not sure if I agree with the idea of a parking tax. The goal is to add density to the city, so what is the difference between a vacant lot and a parking lot? Why not just raise the minimum taxation for all lots? That would add incentive for development of empty lots, parking lots, strip malls, etc.

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