The Benefits of Parking Benefit Districts: Public and Personal

As parking reform pioneer, Donald Shoup, describes it, a PBD is an area where the local governing body “spend[s] meter revenue for public services in the metered area. These cities offer each neighborhood a package that includes both priced parking and better public services. Everyone who lives, works, visits, or owns property in a Parking Benefit District can then see their meter money at work.”

What is a Parking Benefit District? Excerpt from Parking Benefit Districts: a Guide for Activists.

PRN has just released its Parking Benefit Districts: A Guide for Activists website, a project that Tony Jordan, Jane Wilberding, and I have been working on for a year and a half. It is meant to:

  • Inform current and soon to be parking reformers about the possibilities that parking benefit districts (PBDs) could offer their community.
  • Highlight where and how this parking management tool has both succeeded and failed.
  • Offer best practices and key elements to consider in one’s own PBD implementation.
  • Examine how to make PBDs, and parking more generally, equitable in its enforcement and allocation of funds.
  • Synthesize resources found in our research that we believe will be helpful for anyone interested in learning more about or creating their own PBD.

The journey to the point of publication has been a long one. When I first agreed to work on this project in December 2020, I had never heard of a PBD and was not particularly interested in parking. I was searching for a role as an urban planner at the time and had met Jane along the way. She offered to help me get some more work experience in the urbanist sphere by working on a research project about parking policy. Unemployed and tired of sending job applications into the abyss, I agreed. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

Within a month, I had caught the parking bug. I couldn’t unsee how much public space was being used to store private vehicles. I was talking to parking experts across the country about minute details of PBD implementation with a vigor that caused my family to start teasing me. As my interest grew, so did the scope of the project. There was always another city to research, official to talk to, or section to add to the guide. I tried designing the website myself, but it became clear that I did not have the ability to execute the vision Tony and I had developed for the guide. The next thing I knew, I was hosting the virtual portion of a fundraiser to raise money to hire a website developer. Not only did we raise the money in a few days, but an attendee posted the call for submissions for the APA’s State of Transportation 2022 in the Zoom call. Working with Jane, we adapted the guide into an article about PBDs which the APA will soon publish.

Through this guide, I’ve been inducted into the world of parking reform. I’ve connected with dozens of people across the country, published an article, and have become either the most interesting or most boring guest at a dinner party, depending on the company. Obviously, I hope that the guide is used to implement PBDs and inform best practices as intended. But I also hope that it can help others see our urban environment differently, as it has done for me.

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