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Introducing the Parking Reform Mayoral Candidate

Meet Bill Peduto, a leading mayoral candidate in Pittsburgh who is also a serious urbanist, according to our sources in Pennsylvania.

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Jon Geeting at Network blog Keystone Politics recently caught Mr. Peduto -- who'll be running in the Democratic primary in May -- endorsing performance parking. Peduto, right there on his website, in a section called "making parking smarter," explains: "We can utilize free-market-based pricing technologies to provide the parking spaces needed and incentivize behavioral changes that will benefit everyone."

For Geeting, the platform was pure poetry:

The basic idea is this: in most neighborhoods, at most times of the day, there’s no parking problem. Many spaces are open, and everybody who wants a parking space can find one.

But then there are a few periods in the day, typically downtown or in neighborhoods with a commercial retail strip, when demand for curb parking peaks, and not everybody who wants a space can find one.

It doesn’t make any sense to charge the same price for curb parking in both of these situations.

Cities usually try to come up with a happy medium – an average price for peaks and troughs – but that ends up overpricing parking most of the time, and underpricing it during the peaks.

New electronic meters allow you to price parking depending on the time of day, or even better, depending on how many curb spaces are open. City Council could vote on a vacancy rate instead of a price for parking – say, 85% occupancy or 1-2 spaces open on each block – and let the meters change the prices so as to always keep a few spaces open.

During the busiest times, people who want to park right in the busiest area would pay a bit more for the convenience, and people who prefer to pay less would park a bit further away and walk a couple blocks to their destination.

This would get the city away from the mistaken idea that parking pricing is about revenue, and move towards the correct idea that parking pricing is about managing demand for parking.

Why does this feel so refreshing? Sounds like exactly the kind of pragmatic problem-solving we should expect from our elected leaders.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Cyclelicio.us reveals that fully 69 percent of car trips are under two miles. Advocacy Advance reports on a big push for bike and pedestrian improvements in Tulsa. And Baltimore Velo shares an amusing flier for "Drive to Work Week."

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