On Street Bike Parking? Bring It On.

Streets are for people going places, not for favoring preferred modes of transportation. This seems to confuse some Arlingtonians.

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).

Carl April 27, 2011 at 12:29 PM
This dispute is hilarious. Parking spaces in Arlington are nearly twice as big as parking spaces in DC. The quantity of spaces near the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor could be increased by a good 30-40% by making the spaces a reasonable size.
Geof Gee April 27, 2011 at 03:34 PM
"Free Parking" and the subsidy that governments often give to drivers was recently the subject of a long running debate by D. Shoup and R. O'Toole. http://tinyurl.com/5sqpwrr I think that there are reasons to be skeptical about CaBi in Arlington. However, in light of the cost of other projects and maintenance associated with transportation, it appears to me that CaBi is a relatively cheap experiment.
GK April 27, 2011 at 09:50 PM
There are two issues that come to my mind: 1. CapBi is for their bikes, and their bikes alone leaving people with their own bike mostly to fend for themselves. Proper, safe, and secure bike parking is not always easy to find, especially if you don't want your ride ground against everyone else who parks next to you. 2. People do drive... and the county leaders are nuts and out of touch if they think that everyone is going to walk, bike, and take a bus. For many areas of the county it isn't practical (anyone remember what its like to walk around in the summer around here?). For many of our citizens it isn't either being up there in years. Cars are not inherently bad, as the county would have you believe... but the reliance on oil is. If cars were cleaner to maintain and drive this issue might not be as big a deal.
Mark Blacknell April 28, 2011 at 12:36 AM
GK - Capital Bikeshare is but one of many piece of a transportation puzzle. No one has (or will) suggest that we focus solely on parking for Capital Bikeshare bikes. Arlington County staff, often in cooperations with local businesses and developers, regularly work on adding bike parking capacity. We've seen the benefits of that all up and down the RB corridor, and will begin to see more of it along Columbia Pike soon. Finally - no County leaders think "everyone is going to walk, bike, and take a bus" or that cars are "inherently bad." Not one. It's a tiresome trope that seems to be most often used as a way to avoid dealing with the facts of the situation. Does the County promote alternative means of transportation? Absolutely. Does the County still spend the vast majority of its transportation budget meeting the needs of cars? Absolutely. It doesn't do anyone any good to promote this imaginary "war on cars" thing that seems to be popular among the loud & anon online crowd in Arlington.


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