Publisher's Note — To Live In A City Is To Park In It

To Live In A City Is To Park In It

By Jody Reese

Parking is the lifeblood of any city.

The lack of it can restrain growth and depress property values. Rents are much higher on buildings that include parking. Businesses leave areas where they don’t have employee and customer parking. When Hippo was located on Elm Street, down the block from City Hall, my employees—who come and go from the office frequently—would waste hundreds of hours a year driving around looking for a parking spot, even with paid-parking spots in the city garage.

Now it appears the city wants to make it a little bit more expensive to work and operate a business downtown. And the loser is all of us.

Currently city lots charge $65 a month (it was around $50 two years ago). The Traffic/Public Safety Committee, headed by Ward 4 Alderwoman Mary Sysyn, is recommending that the city increase that rate to $70 per month.

City government should be going in the opposite direction. Instead of charging more for parking, the city should be building additional lots and charging less to park there.

Yes that is subsidizing parking, just like the city subsidizes parks, streets, hockey arenas, baseball stadiums, hotels and condominiums. All those subsidies make sense. Their goal is to increase the commercial-property tax base so homeowners will have a smaller share of the tax burden.

As it is now, property values along Elm Street are depressed because rents are still in the $9-to-$11-per-square-foot range. With parking, buildings could get $14 to $16 per square foot. That would increase the value of downtown office buildings and enable the city to collect more in taxes.

The traffic committee also recommended increasing the snow-emergency towing fine from $85 to $125. Getting towed during a snow emergency is one of those nasty little Manchester surprises that really brings down the quality of life.

Cars are towed to an impound lot where they are held until a $85-tow fee is paid in cash.  If you can’t claim the vehicle quickly, you are charged more money. Now the traffic committee wants that fee — which is really a fine — to increase to $125.

The problem with the tow fee is that it hits those who can least afford it the hardest. Many times the cost of having a car towed during an emergency is so great that the owner simply abandons the vehicle. In other cities autos are towed to nearby streets, instead of an impound lot, and ticketed. That way motorists can at least find their cars and go to work the next day.

Raising the tow fine confounds an already bad winter-snow-removal system.

—Jody Reese

 
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