Once again, the city is floating the idea of putting parking meters on all commercial streets across the city - including, significantly, downtown Ancaster and Locke Street in southwest Hamilton.
Public subsidies to drive like "free" parking are perverse incentives that distort transportation and land use decisions in grossly inefficient ways.
However, the city needs to implement paid parking properly to get the best net benefit.
Use modern payment systems that allow flexible payment options (apparently the machines the city is considering will do this) and charge a variable rate according to time of day to maintain 15 percent vacancy.
The latter is particularly important, as it ensures that people trying to drive to a destination can always find an available spot and reduces the congestion of people "cruising" for an elusive "free" spot.
This arrangement can increase overall business by encouraging motorists to drive in, get what they need, and drive out to make room for someone else.
According to the Spectator article, the Ancaster BIA unanimously supports paid parking there. This is uncommon, as local business owners are more commonly virulently and uncompromisingly opposed to either the loss of any parking or to the imposition of charges on previously "free" parking.
The best way to overcome this political opposition is for the city to commit that all of the money collected in the parking meters will be given to a local community / business association to reinvest in improving the neighbourhood.
Donald Shoup, the UCLA economist whose exhaustive book The High Cost of Free Parking makes a strong, detailed, evidence-based case for eliminating "free" parking, calls these "parking benefit districts" and argues that they allow those people most affected by parking to decide how best to spend the money collected.
By charging motorists to park, neighbouhoods can generate much-needed revenue to improve local infrastructure while at the same time encouraging more compact land use, alternative transportation (on Locke Street, for example, there are always far more people on the street than there are cars parked along its curbs), and better mixing of building uses in a virtuous cycle of improvement and reinvestment.
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