Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Unsatiated Parking Demand

I have brought up the issue of how tight parking is Downtown more than a few times here. Even with the current price of gas that situation does not seem to me to have abated friends who do park Downtown tell me. That may be second hand anecdotal info, but the Allegheny Conference has another web site up related to the pending Port Authority Strike called: http://www.keeppittsburghmoving.com/ It has a slide on the state of parking Downtown which is pretty amazing. So even with the high parking tax, high gas prices, and difficult to find Downtown parking, there is clearly unsatiated demand for parking Downtown. Take a look:

If remotely correct, those are some pretty amazing stats. 150 open spots out of 21K available spaces is a vacancy rate effectively zero right Downtown. Is frictional vacancy a term? How many parking spots could spatially constrainted Downtown supply before running out of demand?

For those looking for parking price rollbacks when the city's parking tax has to come down further, you may be looking in vain. If that slide is true, I can't quite figure why Downtown parking operators don't raise their prices if their spots are really well over 99% occupied. That puts in a different perspective all those who complain about the high rate of the Pittsburgh parking tax, or parking costs in general. It's one of those fundamental axioms of a free market that things are 'worth' what folks are willing to pay for them. From that data, the completely market driven price for parking in the Golden Triangle must be higher (not lower) than what is being paid currently.... whether the money collected goes to taxes or operators. For O if nobody else, maybe parking taxes are a second cousin of a land tax?

You could say the market would provide more spots if the tax was lower, but you would have to ignore the sheer topography of Downtown which is about as dense as you can get at less than a half square mile. You would have to park cars at Point State Park (yes, I'm sure some would like that) or try something equally creative. There are few realistic options.

I have to wonder if the existence of quasi-regulated prices in the form of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority actually acts to keep prices down. and imagine what demand for parking would be if gas was $1.00 a gallon as it was not very long ago.

The only area that has any measureable vacancies at all is the North Shore, which I suspect includes some relatively distant stadia spots. Anyone want to guess what will happen to those few spots once the NSC and T extensions are completed?

Soo.... maybe its time to bring up the recurrent idea of selling off the Parking Authority. There was a time the city of Pittsburgh effectively sold off its water system to raise cash just to get it through operating expenditures for a few years, an immensely bad idea for the long run. If it makes sense to sell off core infrastructure like the water system (or the PA turnpike as has been floated as an idea), is there any reason something like the parking authority could not be sold off and use the proceeds to pay off some of the city's debt? Maybe just the large attended lots Downtown. The reasons the Parking authority was created in the first place 60 years ago are probably not still in play. Consider also that if a completely market driven price gets driven upwards, even a lower rate of parking tax could possibly bring in more revenue to the city in the end... and then there is this little issue of taking a significant amount of property off the tax exempt list.


Anonymous MH said...

Aren't they about to open a 1,000 space garage downtown?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

yes there is, in the euphemistically named Downtown Transportation center... I had thought that might make an impact, but if things are as tight as they seem, it may not alleviate much. Maybe pull in some folks from the outer lots that clearly can't count on spots close to town.

That and I am still waiting for the Melody temp casino to be floated again. How many parking spaces would that take away, let alone how much more demand for paking would it generate.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 1:54:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Maybe extra money for parking garages could come from putting advertising on the sides. Is it hard to get permission to do that?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 9:17:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

that is too funny.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 9:54:00 AM  

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