Monday, October 22, 2007

on the parking tax.....

I was asked if I could try and explain the whole parking tax imbroglio Downtown that is now partially blown over. Honestly, whatever the economics of the situation are, this has all passed into an uber political world more than anything else. I do think there is a fundamental issue with the state of the parking market Downtown, which I mentioned in this earlier post. At the core of all this is that the Downtown parking market is very very tight.

Is there anything to add on the current debate over whether the city can/should/must/will/won't enact a decrease in the parking tax? I think there is a bigger picture to all of this. I was looking at this report from Harvard's Rappaport Center earlier this year:

Boston Bound: A Comparison of Boston's Legal Powers with Those of Six Other Major American Cities by Gerald E. Frug and David J. Barron, Harvard Law School.

According to one PR the study general conclusion was that Boston.......
"....lacks the flexibility and authority it needs to compete effectively in the new global knowledge economy, and is not able to fully capitalize on the innovation that it is known for"
If that is true for Boston which has a fairly wide range of power that Pittsburgh does not, what does that say about the City of Pittsburgh which gets embroiled in a political semi-paralysis over whether a parting tax can be cut by 5% points or not.

But here is a great old PAT advertisement (with my 'doctoring' if it isn't obvious) I have posted below that could be relevant:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Political infighting or not, all you need to know abut whether we should be cutting the parking tax is this: we have the highest parking tax in the country. End of story, lower the tax a lot more than 5%.

Monday, October 22, 2007 3:33:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

There are some funny angles to all of this. It’s the highest parking tax ‘rate’.. but by far not the highest parking cost. I mention that even though I am sure someone will infer I am arguing for the tax which I am not, just a statement of fact. In fact, if you take these numbers at face value, the median central business district parking cost of daily parking in Pittsburgh ($14.60/day) is below average for the average of large metro areas. See:

and you can read their methodology but their numbers include all taxes and that was for 2006 when the parking tax rate here was at its highest. We do show up a lot worse in specific categories such as monthly unreserved parking or really bad for monthly reserved parking rates, but why is that? Look at the data that report has on the percentage of parking lots that have waiting lists. In Pittsburgh its 50%, more than double their average and one of the highest on their list (page 4). The point is just that there are some fundamental economics behind the parking costs as much as the relative tax rate. And if you think it’s bad now, wait until PAT raises its fares and pushes more people to drive, how will parking costs respond? If more people live downtown as is the common cause these days, how will that impact parking costs? How about the casino impact when it gets built close to downtown? Even with their new lot, will there not be any spillover of parking demand downtown?

I will point out that there is an interesting contrast with public transit where our basic bus fare is near the highest in the country and soon to be raised to a point where it may be the very top for urban bus service

But again, the discussion over all of this is almost devoid of any discussion over the state of the market for parking downtown. Even before the current jump in the parking tax rate to 50%, the 30% rate was pretty high… yet at the same time, lots remained about as full as practical and the jobs located downtown are as high as they have ever been. Pittsburgh’s downtown remains a unique place in terms of how many jobs have remained in the city’s core and neither parking travails. Even high gas prices and parking costs have not dented the state of downtown employment in any data I’ve seen. It’s a question worth asking why Pittsburgh has been able to retain so many of its urban core jobs when so many other cities have lost those jobs to edge cities. I kind of wonder just how much parking would have to be to either depress the number of people driving (or at least the number driving alone) into Downtown to work, or begin to push employers to look for sites outside of the Golden Triangle.

Monday, October 22, 2007 4:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Check out these two links!
The first one is a link that lets Yins in the Burg check if Yins have speeding tickets (You can even check someone else's info!!!) and the second is an intresting article about flying!

Credit goes to

Monday, October 22, 2007 6:12:00 PM  

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