Pay And Park And Pay For The Streetcar
We have written about the immense cost of the $500 million streetcar expansion plan in Kansas City. Planners have designated a transportation development district (TDD) to pay for the streetcar, which will implement a 1 percent sales tax in most of downtown Kansas City and property assessments for properties situated close to the streetcar line.
Streetcar proponents argue that this is a valid way of funding the streetcar. Businesses will see more customers and property values will increase near the streetcar line, so the TDD simply solves a collective action problem through its taxing district. However, what is less defensible is a special new tax on pay parking spots in the streetcar’s TDD.
According to exhibit 14 presented at the recent streetcar TDD hearing, the streetcar TDD will assess $54.75 per surface pay parking space. That new tax would affect up to 4,000 downtown parking spaces. With this tax, those who have chosen not to ride the streetcar get to pay extra precisely because they are not benefiting from it. Far from solving a collective action problem, this tax penalizes the lifestyle of some to pay for the lifestyle of others.
Furthermore, a tax of $54.75 per year on each parking space is likely to drive up the cost of parking and will be a disincentive for businesses to build more paid parking in the city. While that might be part of a long-term strategy for some rail supporters, purposely making it more difficult to park in order to increase public transportation usage might negatively impact residents and businesses.
Kansas City has already decided that those not residing in the TDD will pay for the streetcar through special assessments on city-owned property that the taxpayers must cover. Furthermore, all Kansas City residents will pay for the streetcar through the mass transit sales tax (a portion of which can be diverted to the streetcar) and capital improvement taxes used for streetcar planning. In addition, there still is a $30 million budget gap in the TDD’s funding plan that someone will have to cover.
Now, if residents make the decision to drive — and not ride the streetcar — downtown, they will have to pay for the privilege of not riding the streetcar.