Sunday, June 09, 2019

Could smart technology solve city's parking problems?

by Rod Williams - I was not as opposed to the proposal to privatize metro's parking as many other people I ran into who had an opinion on the topic.  I did, however, conclude that the proposal in front of us was rushed and lacked transparency.  I am pleased that it has been deferred.  That is not to conclude, however, that we do not need to do something about parking and that the stutus quo is simply  good enough.

Writing in today's Tennessean, technology writer J. J. Rosen says that with the parking privatization plan  sidelined, that what is being considered now is a public-private partnership where Metro would still be in charge but we would get the benefits of smart meters.  Metro would still determine where meters would go and still set the rates.  A company would pay the upfront cost of smart meters and get a share of the revenue. Parking rates would only go up by about 25¢ an hour, but revenue would increase by 7 and half times.

The reason we need to partner with a private company to do this instead of doing it on our on is that the city is broke. We do not have the debt capacity to sell the bonds to make the upfront investment. I am still not sure that it would not be wise to do a more far-reaching proposal and fully privatize parking, but at a minimum, it seems doing a limited public-private partnership as described above makes sense.

One of the advantages of smart meters is that they can be fed by a phone app or credit card.  Just like you use Uber or Grubhub, the meter cost could be charged to your selected payment method.  I never carry change.  A lot of people don't.  For those who are not comfortable with technology and do carry change, they could still plug the meters with quarters.

Perhaps the main advantage is that smart meters can tell you where an available parking spot is located. Rather than circling block after block looking, you can be directed to a parking space that is open.  Another advantage is that you can re-feed your meter without going to the car.  While, parking tickets would go up under this proposal, fewer parking tickets would be issued because the ease of adding time to the meter would be mean fewer people would overstay the time on the meter.

I know that there is a knee-jerk reaction opposing doing things differently. We must do things differently, however, to improve.  I am convinced that to solve Nashville's traffic and parking issues, we need to embrace technology, innovation and market forces.  Nashville is now a big city and we are continuing to grow.  We could be the model city that does it right.  Instead of being mired in old way of thinking such as fixed routes and mostly empty big buses we could embrace paratransit and technology.  Instead of wanting everything to fit neatly in a box so it can be regulated, we could think outside the box. I know some people know of a cheep or free parking space and they don't won't the world to know about it. That is not reason enough to not try to solve Nashville's parking problems.

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