Parking Meter Blues
Kansas City residents are resisting a proposed increase in the numbers and operational hours of downtown parking meters.
As much as I want to admonish them with a tenable free-market argument in favor of meters, I can’t help but allow our shared hatred of urban inconvenience to unite us. I regularly insult the dedicated individuals who have taught me neoliberal economics by expending excessive resources to avoid meters out of shortsighted laziness and an immediate unwillingness to part with the contents of my coin tray.
But Kansas City may offer conditions that complement my irrational distaste for meters. Although I have absolutely no knowledge of Kansas City’s downtown geography, I gather that like my native St. Louis revitalization efforts are aimed at drawing in the suburban population. When target customers are offered similar services closer to home and without the costs of going downtown (explicit and implicit), lawmakers should be careful when imposing additional burdens on urban businesses. Concerned business owners reasonably speculate that the selective
implementation of new meters might create an incentive for city-goers to choose
economically inefficient alternatives along streets that offer free
parking. Especially in condensed urban areas, disparities in the application of avoidable burdens will produce inefficiency and hassle. However, blanketing an entire area with parking meters is probably not the solution to attracting suburban customers.
David interestingly noted in a previous discussion of the same issue that the University City Loop benefits from its free public parking. The Loop’s successful model may not be suited to the financial hub in central Kansas City, but it might be applicable to surrounding areas, like the Crossroads Arts District, that are being considered for new parking meter placement.