By Dom Nozzi
February 9, 2016
“Spillover” parking, where a nearby business, shop, school, or park draws so many cars that on-street parking spaces in a neighborhood are used by such visitors, is a problem in a great many neighborhoods around the nation — including Boulder, Colorado. The tool that Boulder has employed since the 1990s is one that is commonly used to by a great many cities to address spillover parking: neighborhood parking permits (NPP).
However, the Neighborhood Parking Permit program is clumsy, complicated, convoluted, crude, and makes it too easy for people to cheat (by, for example, selling their permits). The program has created on-going headaches for neighborhoods, staff, and elected officials.
A great many parking problems neighborhoods experience can be much better solved by using what Donald Shoup calls “Parking Benefit Districts.” Parking is metered with hanging tags or in-vehicle meters and the revenue is used in the neighborhood where it is generated to provide neighborhood benefits such as landscaping or sidewalk repair (rather than funneling the revenue into the General Fund).
Benefit districts would result in reducing many housing and development problems in Boulder by minimizing neighborhood opposition to development (caused by fear of spillover parking and too many cars). There would be less opposition – opposition that is fierce in Boulder, despite a universal recognition of an affordable housing crisis in Boulder — to Accessory Dwelling Units, compact development, or increased occupancy limits.
The City would also have less need to require developers to provide excessive amounts of off-street parking. Parking would become more convenient in neighborhoods and nonresident commuters would be paying for neighborhood improvements.
NPP has worked well in a few Boulder neighborhoods, but going forward, Boulder should move toward Benefit Districts.