So you’ve driven to where you need to go, now you just have to find a place to park. In some areas, that’s easier said than done. Since the people of Los Angeles rely on cars, for better or worse, to get from place to place, the city should make it easier to park once we get there. Often times that is not the case. So here are a few ideas on how to improve parking.
I recently decided to get a cheap hot dog at Skooby’s and take a walk along Hollywood Boulevard to kill some time on a nice sunny afternoon. I usually can find a free place to park on Selma Ave when I’m in the area, but on this day I could not. Then I noticed all of these empty meter spots on the side streets between Selma and Hollywood. I decided to bite the bullet and park there, until I saw the meters were $2 per hour. Suddenly my cheap hot dog was not going to be so cheap after all. I ended up going home.
The fact that all of the meter spots were empty told me one thing — people are not coming to the area to shop, perhaps because they know they would have to pay to park. I know the city raised prices on meters to take in more money, but I think that is short-sighted. If businesses lose customers, sales and income tax to the city are lower, not to mention employees who may lose their jobs — all of which costs the city more money than it is making in parking meters.
I think the city should lower the cost of parking, perhaps even taking meters away in some areas. Easier parking means more business, in my opinion.
However, there is an opposing view. The Los Angeles Times recently profiled a man named Donald Shoup, who is known as the “prophet of parking.” His seminal 2005 book “The High Cost of Free Parking” claims cheap or free parking is behind many of the ills facing cities. The Timeswrites of Shoup’s theory:
When street parking is free or inexpensive — as in many cities — demand exceeds supply, and people spend time and fuel cruising for scarce spaces. Cheap street parking thus increases congestion by encouraging people to drive rather than walk, pedal or take public transit.
Shoup obviously knows way more about this subject than I do. I’m sure he would identify with a quote from a classic “The Odd Couple” episode, “Hey, parking’s my life!” But in a city like Los Angeles where public transportation really isn’t an option for most people, it’s either drive or not go at all. And if people don’t go, business suffers, and then the city suffers.
We’ve all seen signs like this:
So, can I park here? I think I can!
There are confusing, seemingly contradictory signs all over the city. Each block seems to have its own varying parking restriction. Just like meters, these restrictions hinder parking, thus hurt business and cause general frustration. So here’s my plan — get rid of all parking restrictions. Let people park wherever they want, whenever they want.
There are some blocks that need restrictions to help residents park, which should be the main concern of transportation officials. For example, blocks where there are a lot of apartment buildings need street parking for residents. I have no problem with having nighttime restrictions for residents only.
But that’s about it.
A good example of restrictions gone awry are the blocks around 3rd Street west of Fairfax. Many of these blocks are no parking any time, except for residents. A friend who used to live on one of these blocks told me the restrictions are needed at night, when the street filled up with people coming home from work. But daytime? Take a look at this photo:
The street is empty. Would it be so bad if people shopping on 3rd Street or at The Farmers Market/The Grove parked there? Yes, The Farmers Market/The Grove might lose a few dollars in parking revenue. But maybe people might take a stroll on 3rd Street and visit some of the businesses there on the way back to their cars. Would residents (most of whom on this particular block have driveways) be hurt at all? No.
Conversely, the blocks around Melrose between La Brea and Fairfax are mostly permit parking after 8pm. The majority of those blocks contain single-family houses, and people park in their driveways, so the streets are pretty much empty of parked cars. Would it be so bad for people going out on Melrose to park there?
This would be a major undertaking. City officials would have to literally go block-by-block, deciding if restrictions are warranted. I think in most cases they would not. I think easing these restrictions and making it easier for people to park would be beneficial to the city’s finances, not to mention making Angelenos less frustrated and a bit happier.