Getting It Backward
Today is the Saint Louis Cardinals’ home opener, and — like all good Saint Louisans — I am excited about the beginning of what looks to be a great season. Because Saint Louis is such a great baseball town, today will be a huge celebration downtown, which is as it should be. In an attempt to make the atmosphere even more festive, the mayor’s office declared that the parking meters near Busch Stadium will be turned off for two hours before and after the game.
Naturally, this helps those few people who are lucky enough to snag a temporarily unmetered space, but shutting off the meters is actually detrimental to everyone else involved. Parking spots are a scarce resource, and they are rarely scarcer in downtown Saint Louis than on opening day. By eliminating the fees for parking on the street, the city encourages more people to drive downtown instead of carpooling or taking mass transportation. This imposes extra costs on everyone, because travel will take longer with the extra traffic. With demand for parking skyrocketing today, the city should raise parking fees to encourage people to conserve scarce parking spaces.
Unfortunately, this solution would be extremely difficult to implement in Saint Louis for an event like opening day, because the city parking meters only allow people to pay for two hours maximum. No one is going to pay for two hours before the baseball game and then return to their car to pay for another two in the middle of the sixth inning. Until the city upgrades its parking meters, it will have to forgo the efficient allocation of parking spaces (and the concomitant revenue) during big events.