Let the Parker Pay
Imagine a different Steinbach. Imagine a Steinbach with a parking policy and a culture that expects the driver to pay for the space to park his car! I don’t mean a token parking fee, I mean a substantial parking fee, intended to discourage people from bringing the car. Furthermore, imagine this parking policy had been in effect prior to the construction of the Clearspring Mall. What would our city look like?
The city I see would be much more compact. Consider all the space in Steinbach currently given to the automobile – the extra wide streets, all the large parking lots, the driveways – I don’t have the data, but I think at least 30% of Steinbach is under asphalt to accommodate the automobile. Much of that asphalt would not be there. The city would be less sprawling because businesses would want to build closer to where the people live.
In the city I see people would be walking and biking much more. This would have several further effects. People walking more would be healthier people. People walking more would be friendlier, more relaxed people. The city would be friendlier.
Taxes would be lower. Today much of our tax money goes into street maintenance. With less car traffic, street maintenance would cost less. Taxes would also be lower because the city is more compact. The more compact the city, the lower the infrastructure cost is per resident.
Many of us have visited a European city and marveled at how pleasant the city felt – primarily because the city was not dominated by the car. I am convinced a city less dominated by car travel would be more desirable to live in.
Furthermore, no parking is free. Maintaining a parking spot requires effort and resources, so even if I am not charged when I park my car, the parking is not free. Someone is paying. To build a street wide enough to accommodate a parking lane costs money; it costs money to construct parking space for space for a hospital, a church, a factory or a business. And if it costs money, even if the parking is “free”, somebody is paying for it.
And the planet would thank us. Our carbon footprint would be much reduced. Here is a win-win situation. Our city would be more friendly, more livable, and our environmental footprint would be reduced.
Forty years ago Steinbach city planners did not see the need for a real cost parking policy. Few people at that time saw the need and wisdom of real cost parking. The result is urban sprawl all over the world. You might say that moving to a real cost parking policy makes no sense now, seeing how our city has already developed.
But this kind of thinking dooms us to living in a city with too much sprawl, a city unnecessarily dependant on automobiles forever. We need to correct our parking policy now, so we can have the kind of city we want in fifty years. By then gasoline prices will be such that the automobile will be totally inappropriate for many applications.