Editorial: York City's parking problem
Business owners will say it. Residents will say it. Officials will say it.
York City has a parking problem.
"The perception is there’s not lots of parking" in York City, Pam Zerba, chair of the York City General Authority, said last week.
So the General Authority, which controls the parking meters and garages in the city, is paying Desman Design Management, a parking consultant based in Virginia, $85,000 to study the situation and make recommendations.
But we can give one recommendation right now: Make it cheaper to park in a garage than at a meter.
Let's follow the path of a Yorker who wants to go try lunch at a new restaurant in the downtown area, say, in the first block of North George Street.
The metered spaces in front of the restaurant cost $1 an hour, which is more than the free parking you get at any restaurant on Route 30, but Joe Yorker is looking for something different, and it's the city, so he knows he'll have to pay for parking.
All the meters on the east side of George Street are taken, but there's a spot open on the west side. But Joe can't turn left on Philadelphia Street, he has to go to North Street, turn right, turn right on Queen, right on Philadelphia, then left on George. By the time he gets back, that space is gone.
Joe turns left on Market to see if there are any spaces there. None on the street, but there's a parking garage — for $2.50 an hour. Ha! Joe's not falling for that. He keeps going.
The next open metered spot he finds on Market is past Queen Street, 2½ blocks from the restaurant he wants to try. But at least it's a metered spot, and that's not that far to walk. He drops $1.50 in the meter, just to be safe (you know the meter police are there the second the meter expires) and heads to lunch.
Joe has probably spent about 10 minutes driving around looking for a place to park and then walking to the restaurant. Luckily he doesn't have to punch a time clock when he gets back to the office, or else he wouldn't have time to eat.
You see the problem here: People aren't going to pay more to park in a garage, no matter how convenient it is, if they can drive around and find a meter that costs less.
Parking for an entire day has the same problem. Eight hours in a garage costs $20. Eight hours at a meter costs $8. Sure, you're supposed to only park at a meter for two hours, but if you're coming out to feed the meter anyway, you can move the car if you have to.
Last year, the General Authority had a proposal to increase meters to $1.50 an hour while decreasing prices at garages, but that was withdrawn when the city council questioned the economic impact of lowering garage prices to the point that they would be cheaper than meters.
But that's realistically the only way you're going to get drivers to park in a garage: Make it both cheaper and more convenient than parking at a meter.
Until that happens, all the studies in the world won't make Joe Yorker pay more to park at a garage when he can drive around for a while and park at a meter for less.
And if he can't find a meter, well, there are all those restaurants with free parking up on Route 30.