Atlanta Considering Privatization for Parking Services

I’ve been among the voices calling for more competitive sourcing in Atlanta as it struggles to close a major budget gap (estimates have ranged from $90 to 140 million). Looks like the message is starting to get though:

Atlanta is scheduled to accept bids Wednesday from companies that want to run the city’s parking ticket and meter collection operation, now done by the Public Works Department. As the city grapples with a $140 million projected shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1, some officials say Atlanta should privatize some services. Leonard Gilroy, director of government reform for the Reason Foundation, a California-based nonprofit group that supports free markets, believes privatization is cost-effective. He thinks Atlanta should invite companies to compete against city departments to run services such as trash collection and maintaining city-owned vehicles. Other cities, such as Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix and San Diego, outsource some services under a concept called “managed competition.” “If managed competition were applied in a comprehensive, enterprisewide manner, Atlanta would likely be able to completely close its current budget gap,” argued Gilroy, adjunct scholar at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, an Atlanta-based think tank.

They should consider the model being pioneered right now by Mayor Daley in Chicago–applying the long term concession model (like that being applied to public-private partnership toll roads) to parking services. His administration also entered into a concession last year for the Millenium Parking Garage. Both follow the blockbuster $1.8 billion, 99-year concession for the Chicago Skyway in 2005. More thoughts on using managed competition to solve Atlanta’s budget crunch here.