Choosing Our Future: Sustainability !

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The Parking in Your Town Series: 3. Parking in your town, The Parking Benefit Neighborhood (PBN)

The Parking In Your Town Series:

  1. On street management
  2. Off street minima
  3. The P.B.N.
  4. The Verge zone
This is Part 3 of a four-part series about car parking, its effects on development and municipal government finance. This section is about giving citizens the subsidiarity to manage both the parking and public realm of the places that they live and do business in.  Something that we consider necessary to quickly recover from the effects of COVID-19. So, let’s dive in!
In Part 1 and 2, we discussed the many ways that the twin policies of poor curb management and parking minimums (minima) causes a multitude of negative effects that our so called “free enterprise” society has to deal with. We talked about the way that both, supplying and not pricing on-street parking as well as minima, undercuts the price that property and business owners can charge to drivers.
We also introduced a way that municipalities could begin thinking about parking that would be to make it more adaptive using the mnemonic RESPOnD:
R = Relax - stop boosting supply by relaxing or removing off-street parking mimima [see Part 2: Off - street Minima]
E = Engage - engage with people to ease their fears and offer them value that  the better managed curb will give them
S = Share - have businesses open more parking to the public
P = Price - at the right rate for each place and time
On = On - street - parking needs strong enforcement
D = Demand - demand management should be employed for transit rich areas (i.e. downtown areas)
In this part, we will be talking about the E and the P of the RESPOnD mnemonic–how to engage citizens to be part of real solutions to the parking problems on their streets. We will introduce the concept of the Parking Benefit Neighborhood (PBN) also known as districts.
We want to state a caveat before we get too far; local governments in British Columbia are forbidden to surrender the authority to make laws that will affect land uses within their jurisdictions, but they are permitted to delegate authority to other groups. The intention here is to let both police and the local government deal with any larger or more damaging situations that may arise in our neighborhoods. This is strictly about managing parking and involving local citizens and businesses in solving local parking issues.
As we explored in part 1 of this series, when local governments do charge for parking and then place that revenue into the general fund, it can be spent on almost anything from council lunches to pothole repair. That induces animosity from property and business owners who feel that they have no control over revenue that is being taken from the meters located adjacent to their properties or establishments.
A solution exists in many places such as Old Pasadina CA, Washington DC, Boulder CO, Seattle WA, and other locations to have local governments encourage residents and businesses to form Parking Benefit Neighborhoods or PBNs 1. In British Columbia, it would be ideal for them to be not-for-profit societies under the Societies Act that are in areas where parking issues have historically existed and should also have some or all of the following attributes:
  • To set the priorities for the spending of funds raised within the defined neighborhood.
  • Have the authority to and actually collect revenue from meters and through auctions, either by the length of vehicle if using plate numbers or of defined spaces, in the municipality in which it is located.
  • Operate on a not-for-profit basis in accordance with the Societies Act.
  • Have its board is made up of property and business owners that live or own businesses in that neighbourhood.
  • Its net revenue must be spent within the confines of that PBN in the public realm.
If our municipalities are forward thinking, they should rethink whether they actually need off-street parking minimums at all (see part 2 Off-street minima) .2;  Our municipalities should also work with PBNs to purchase and install meters and assist with enforcement of these geographic areas through formal agreements whereby the full costs of the meters and the enforcement are paid by the PBN.
We feel that this would ease vehicle owners’ animosity since paying to store private property on public land would be more normalized.  It would also place a revenue stream in the hands of neighborhood groups to use as they see fit to improve the public realm in the places where they live and do business.
As parking in high-demand areas becomes scarcer through redevelopment, we feel that giving subsidiarity to local groups to manage parking in their own areas is the best way to achieve harmony between new residents and the existing neighbors and businesses that will make up these areas.
Eric Diller is the president of Island Transformations Organization. An educational not for profit  in Victoria BC.