Ordinarily, killing a government subsidy would be cause for celebration. But don’t rush out to buy party hats for a purported parking privatization proposal in California. A quick summary of Senate Bill 518, introduced into the California General Assembly on February 26, makes it sound like a money-saving, taxpayer-friendly reform: The legislation would “require that state funds not be used, directly or indirectly, to subsidize parking services” after January 1, 2011. Yet a closer look reveals something more sinister.
In fact, the legislation encourages broader actions by anti-car politicians and bureaucrats to banish the automobile from normal travel. It forces landlords to charge separately for parking, requires employers to provide transit passes as an alternative to parking, and gives preferential treatment to mass transit by requiring employers and landlords to charge a minimum parking fee at least as high as the cost of a monthly transit pass. It also urges tight limits on parking in downtowns, shopping districts, and other places that planners believe should be transit-oriented. Local governments and state agencies will use higher mandated parking fees to push people onto buses and trains, even if it lengthens their commutes.
Sam Staley, Ph.D., is director of urban growth and land use policy for Reason Foundation and co-author of Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield). This column first appeared at Reason.com.