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Pay-to-park only capitalizes on the problem

Bob Sweigert
Grasshopper Soup

The pay-to-park fiasco in downtown Truckee is still in high gear. I received some brilliant and quite humorous responses to my bellicose column on the topic last week. Thank you.

Apparently no one seemed to mind that I related the pay-to-park scheme to ideas like the Myth of the American Dream and low levels of human consciousness. Although that was not my intention, thanks for indulging my grandiose assertions. I’ll do almost anything to fill column space.

Now I’ll see if I can stay in between the lines and examine the issue based on parking science (the ins-and-outs of parking), and state-of-the-art space technology.

I may be totally ignorant of city planning, but I do know about parking. I was the parking supervisor for Alpine Meadows back in the late ’80s. I proposed a complete change of the ski area’s original parking pattern because it was creating a significant waste of available space. My proposal was accepted.

My estimate of 50 additional cars based on my maverick idea was way off. Instead, we increased the capacity by nearly 200 cars. My assistant and I each received a nice little bonus check for our genius. (A lifetime ski pass would have been a more equitable trade.)

We were just using common sense. Parking at Alpine remained free of course. What I learned is that charging money to park does not create more parking space any more than paying for steak creates more bull.

I’m sorry. I mean no disrespect to the decision makers, but I simply fail to see any logic to the argument made by some that the pay-to-park program in Truckee was designed to directly address the problem. My observations tell me that the only way to do that is to create more space. Charging money does not compound asphalt molecules.

Based on parking science alone it seems obvious to me that the only result of the pay-to-park program is that now we are capitalizing on the problem. Available space remains the same. Where is the logic in that? Am I trapped in a parallel universe? Isn’t life supposed to get easier in an advanced civilization? Somebody please steer me straight.

Pay-to-park cannot even create much of a parking space turnover rate. People can just keep adding money to the meter. Making people pay has little effect, if any, on the amount of time their car occupies a parking space. When demand exceeds supply there’s not much you can do but drive around the block until a space opens up, a new parking lot is provided or a multi-level parking facility is constructed, hopefully before you run out of gas.

Until then, park as far away as you have to and walk. Leave. Change your plans. Those alternatives have always worked for me. No sense crying over spilt milk.

It was noted in one of the responses I received that parking is only a problem during tourist season. That’s true, so why have a pay-to-park system year around? What’s the point, money and a few jobs? That’s a good thing, for somebody. But a free, small-town atmosphere is better for everyone in my opinion. (For what it’s worth.)

My philosophy has always been that some things in life have no business being perfect. We can’t expect to solve all the problems of the community or the world. I’m all for trying, but sometimes you just have to say forget it, this isn’t that big of a deal.

As I said last week, we need to re-examine how and why we make decisions. We should have curbed our sense of civic duty at the outset, or built a new parking facility instead. Maybe it’s not too late (even for my ski pass). Or have we gone too far?

I’m running out of column space. Maybe an in-car parking meter will allow me another few hundred words.


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