At its August 15, 2011 meeting, in 35 minutes the Mayor and Council of the City of Rockville unanimously approved a fifty-year lease of the three Town Square parking garages to Street Retail, Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT)). As Rockville Patch and the Gazette have reported, the lease provides the City with $300,000 in annual rent plus 30 percent of net income and FRIT manages and maintains the garages 24/7 as a “first class public parking garage.” The wayfinding system (red/green lights for each parking space) will stay but FRIT will remove the paying system where you enter your parking space number at a station. FRIT sets all the parking rates (including monthly passes and prepaid cards) and can establish a validated parking system beginning September 1, 2011 for fifty years.
That’s an incredibly long time, especially when I, all the current council members, and perhaps even you won’t be living when this agreement comes to an end. I guess you don’t always get to see things in life to their natural conclusion (my home mortgage?) but in major situations like this, I’d like to consider the impact not only on the next City Council but the next generation of city residents. Although we’re all familiar with time and we measure it precisely down to the second, it’s surprisingly fungible. An hour waiting at the DMV seems so much longer than an hour watching a good movie. So we know that this lease will end in 2061, but what would that look like? To explore this idea, I’ve assembled a timeline looking both forward and back fifty years: Continue reading →
In case you didn’t catch the August 14 edition of the New York Times, it includes an economic evaluation on parking which might bring a different perspective on our perennial debate on Town Center parking. In “Free Parking Comes at a Price,” Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, suggests that while many people see a free parking space as an entitlement, it’s actually a subsidy that wastes space and money:
Many suburbanites take free parking for granted, whether it’s in the lot of a big-box store or at home in the driveway. Yet the presence of so many parking spaces is an artifact of regulation and serves as a powerful subsidy to cars and car trips. Legally mandated parking lowers the market price of parking spaces, often to zero. Zoning and development restrictions often require a large number of parking spaces attached to a store or a smaller number of spaces attached to a house or apartment block.
If developers were allowed to face directly the high land costs of providing so much parking, the number of spaces would be a result of a careful economic calculation rather than a matter of satisfying a legal requirement. Parking would be scarcer, and more likely to have a price — or a higher one than it does now — and people would be more careful about when and where they drove.
He goes on to note that a parking space may cost more than the vehicle that’s parked in it, especially when you consider a car’s rapid depreciation. So I decided to do some quick calculations based on our situation for the three city parking garages in the Town Center based on the City’s FY2011 budget: Continue reading →