Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Park Little Doggy

It was in the news today that parking meter prices in Chicago are going up again. I say "news" but it isn't actually a new piece of information, it has been known for a long time what the parking meter increases will be each year through 2013, after which they will go up based on inflation. So it is not like there was a surprise announcement yesterday, it's just that the Chicago media is now talking about it as part of their year-end coverage to go along with all of their top ten (whatever) lists.

But the drivers are bitching nonetheless.

I've seen posts from several of my Chicago Facebook friends complaining about the hike, acting as if it is some sort of human rights violation to be charged five bucks an hour to park in the Loop and a buck-fifty in the neighborhoods.

I'm going to leave aside the issue of selling the parking meter rights to a private company for an upfront lump payment to the city. It was (another) wrong-headed move by Daley that will cost the city billions of dollars over the life of the 75-year contract while lining the pockets of a corporation that probably lined Daley's pockets and those of his crony pals. I do hope it is overturned in court.

But what most drivers in Chicago complain about is the cost of parking to them personally, not the cost of this deal to the city. To them I say:

Get over yourselves. Stop your whining you ungrateful brat. Damn, this country is practically paved over from coast to coast to make life as easy as possible for your pollution machine and it is still not enough for you. Do you realize how good you've got it and how cheap your driving costs really are?

First let's look at why high parking rates are good public policy. Talk to any person who specializes in city planning or traffic and they will tell you that high on-street parking rates decrease traffic congestion (something else you hate, even though you are the cause) and improve air quality. It's true. When meter rates are low compared to garage rates in the same neighborhood, drivers will circle around many times, slowly, looking for a spot on the street. This ties up traffic and puts more carbon in the air. More drivers would just pull in to a garage if they didn't see a street spot right away.

If anything, Chicago meter rates - as well as those of every other city in the U.S. - are still way too low. They should be raised to be higher than the average garage spot in the neighborhood.

It is not only by market rate comparisons that parking is too cheap. It takes money, taxpayer money, to maintain and repair those spots where cars park on the street. Even at $5/hour you are getting a good deal, and that free spot by your apartment is a FANTASTIC deal. Not only should meter rates be extremely higher than they are now, there should be no such thing as a free street spot.

You drivers are some of the most subsidized people in America and you still can't stop complaining about everything. Nine out of every ten transportation dollars in this country goes to you and your wasteful mode of transport. Your parking is subsidized by taxpayer dollars. Your fuel is amazingly cheap compared to the real cost - most oil companies don't pay any taxes and are even given tax subsidies, along with the billions of dollars it cost in military, diplomatic and espionage spending to keep American oil interests protected overseas to keep it flowing without interruption. And almost none of that shows up on your fuel tax, which is a pittance. If you were paying the real cost of your gasoline you'd be paying more than ten bucks a gallon. Instead, people like me who don't even own a car have to chip in so your lazy ass doesn't have to walk to the grocery store.

All this money invested in an amazingly inefficient mode of transportation. Meanwhile, transit systems get what amounts to chump change to operate on and are the first budgets to get slashed when there are money problems. The Chicago "L" has basically no more track miles - and less stations - than it had 60 years ago, despite the addition of the southwest-serving Orange Line in 1993.

You get cheap parking, and you complain. You have cheap fuel, and you complain. You complain about the traffic, which you cause. You complain about getting a ticket for parking illegally. You complain about the red light cameras, I guess because you think you should be allowed to run red lights with impunity. You complain about getting speeding tickets when you are, you know, speeding. (But I was only going ten over!)

You complain about the condition of the streets. You complain about the construction zones when they are fixing those streets. (And if you think the streets are bad in Chicago, you really haven't spent enough time on the woefully under-maintained sidewalks or ridden a bike on what laughingly passes for bike lanes).

You complain about the lack of snow removal from the streets. (Again, compare the streets to the sidewalks after it snows and then tell me which one gets more attention) You complain about the snow plows in your way.

Everything is done to make your life as easy as possible and all you do is bitch, bitch, bitch.

All the while you are polluting the air I breath. So to you I say:

Shut the fuck up already.

And get off you damn cell phone and keep your eyes on the road.