The appears to have invoked a brief round of NIMPSism (Not In My Parking Spot-ism). It turns out that a few of the bike sharing stations were placed in (former) on-street parking spaces, and this . It appears that the author – Arlington GOP communications director Jeff Miller - prefers that the public subsidize his favored mode of private transportation instead of public bike sharing. Because Capital Bikeshare and all things related to it are like catnip to locally-focused sites, Mr. Miller’s unhappiness got plenty of coverage. Which is probably good, as it would be great to get a conversation going about the actual costs and economics of public parking.
What Mr. Miller seems to be utterly unaware of is that on-street parking on a public street is actually publicly subsidized parking for private vehicles. Meter rates aren’t set by any real market mechanism. Further, unless Arlington County went ahead and sold all of its streets to a private company (don’t get any ideas, Governor McDonnell), on-street parking will almost always remain the private use of a public good. So, given that most uses are going to inherently involve a subsidy of some sort, shouldn’t we decide what uses are optimal and thus most deserving of the subsidy? Of course we should. And we have.
Arlington County has – as the result of a very long and involved public process – adopted a “Master Transportation Plan” that clearly sets forward the principles by which Arlington County approaches transportation issues. This plan addresses all manner of transportation decisions, big and small. This includes on-street parking. From the Master Transportation Plan’s Parking Element:
“There is no such thing as “free” parking. Considerable resources are needed to provide the land, materials and labor required to construct, maintain and manage parking spaces. The proportionate assignment of some of those costs to the users of parking and curb space helps promote travel choice and the conservation of resources. Conversely, when the costs of parking are not easily apparent or borne by non‐users, the demand for parking is artificially increased and resources are wasted.”
Much in the same way that curbside space is set aside for bus stops, loading zones and taxi stands because they primarily serve multiple users instead of single occupant cars, bike sharing stations represent increased transportation service over cars. Twelve Capital Bikeshare bikes can fit in the space previously reserved for three cars, representing a roughly four-fold capacity increase. That's an actual transportation capacity increase without the enormous expense of paving new roads. Imagine that!
If that’s not enough to get the NIMPSies onboard, it bears pointing out that the more people that use Capital Bikeshare to visit Rosslyn, the fewer people the NIMPSies have to compete with for parking spots. Winners all around, no?
Arlington's Master Transportation Plan should be required reading before anyone complains about transportation issues in Arlington.
The economics of providing bike parking are a pretty popular topic, of late.
No discussion of bike parking is complete without an exhortation to please use a u-lock. And not on a pole where you can easily lift the lock over the top (you'd be surprised).