Parking Tax

 From Atlanta Beltline, Inc’s recent Strategic Implementation Plan:

The most promising source for implementation in Period 1 is a dedicated local sales tax, fee or surcharge, for example, a parking, transaction, or ownership fee. Parking fees have been considered in past planning efforts, including the Atlanta Regional Commission’s report, “Bridging the Gap 2010: Investigating Solutions for Transportation Funding Alternatives in the Atlanta Region.” Parking fees are often used to fund transportation services due to the logical nexus between parking and the transportation network. Two options for parking fees are described below:

Transactional Tax:

This is the most commonly used collection technique in the United States and involves a scenario where a fee would be collected at every transaction made for parking as a percentage of the overall parking cost. This bears a resemblance to a sales tax on parking. However, a major drawback to this method is that there are a number of free parking spaces offered to motorists and commuters in Atlanta, such as parking at workplaces and at private residences—thus mitigating the incentives that a motorist would have for utilizing another mode of transportation. The City of Atlanta has estimated that if a $1 daily surcharge was levied on transactions for 200,000 parking spaces inside of the city (including an indexing the charge to an inflation rate of 1 percent annually), it would generate $75.9 million in its first year of implementation— eventually increasing to $181.1 million annually by 2030.

Ownership Tax:

This collection option refers to taxing an owner of a parking space through yearly billing on a per space basis. Most likely, the owner of the space would pass on the cost to the user thus generating revenue for the owner to pay the tax. The City of Atlanta has estimated that instituting a 10 percent tax rate on 50,000 spaces in the city that average $90 per month, $5.4 million in revenue would be generated in its first year—subsequently increasing to $13.4 million annually by 2030.

The parking tax idea is not a new one. From the Atlanta Regional Commision and City of Atlanta to Georgia Tech grad students, the concept has been widely studied for years.  ARC’s Plan 2040 suggests that a parking tax would stack up well against other potential revenue streams, including 2012’s failed TSPLOST.

Plan 2040 Revenue Stream Comparison

Beyond the dollars and cents, a parking tax is an intriguing policy option because it forces drivers to internalize the costs of auto-centric land use patterns and directs the revenue toward funding the alternative. A parking tax would be a significant step toward realizing the Beltline and the City of Atlanta’s other smart growth objectives. The question is whether we’ll have the leadership to take that step.

Design Matters

Slate.com ran a lengthy review of Charles Montgomery’s new book, “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design.”  The basic premise of the review, and the book, is that sound urban design can improve our quality of life.

The Slate article uses examples from metro Atlanta to illustrate this point, including a particularly striking comparison of two different metro locations. (It is unclear whether the image originally comes from Happy Cities, a book called “Mobilicities,” or some other source.)

street grid

The difference in street grids is visually striking. But this difference has important implications ranging from physical activity (which area is more conducive to walking) to the resiliency of the transportation system (which area could be shut down by a strategically-placed accident?).

This comparison, although just one simplistic example, begins to illustrate why street design matters.

The Beltline in Five Years

Earlier this week, Atlanta Beltline Inc. released a Strategic Implementation Plan for the project.  The Plan lays out the timeline for delivering the trails, parks, and transit that make up the Beltline across three time horizons: Fiscal Years 2014-18; FY19-23; and FY24-30.   When viewed together, the maps of these subject/timeframe pairings provide a snapshot of what the next five years have in store.

FY14-18 Plan for Beltline Parks

FY14-18 Plan for Beltline Parks

FY14-18 Plan for Beltline Trails

FY14-18 Plan for Beltline Trails

FY14-18 Plan for Beltline Transit

FY14-18 Plan for Beltline Transit

The limiting factor in the delivery of these elements will almost certainly be money, and the Plan provides updated estimates for the project’s funding.

Funding

These estimates reveal the percentage of TAD funding to be lower than previously anticipated, with the shortfall shifting to the “unidentified” category.  Further financial caveats are embedded in these numbers, like the need for a long-term source of transit operating funds to qualify for the federal New Starts program (part of the 29% Federal Funds) and the increasingly fierce competition for limited federal funds.

The Strategic Plan’s FY14-18 maps show the Beltline poised to make significant progress over the next five years but its financial estimates indicate that crucial funding hurdles remain.  Identifying an additional source of funding, preferably one that can be used for transit operating costs, is crucial to see the Beltline through to reality in the next sixteen years.

 

 

Headed in the Right Direction, Slowly

U.S. PIRG has released a new report on commuting trends, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities.” The report compares commuting data for most major U.S. cities and finds that:

  • The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle—either alone or in a carpool—declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011;
  • The average number of miles driven per resident fell in almost three-quarters of America’s largest urbanized areas for which up-to-date data was available;
  • The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas, and the proportion of households with two cars or more cars decreased in 86 out of the 100 of these areas;
  • The proportion of residents bicycling to work increased in 85 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas; and
  • The number of passenger-miles traveled per capita on transit increased in 60 out of 98 of America’s large urbanized areas.

These trends generally held true for metro Atlanta, except with regard to per capita VMT.

US_Transp_trans_scrn

Whereas three-quarters of the metro areas saw a decline in VMT, metro Atlanta’s increased by 2%.  This place the region 60th in the country in terms of VMT reduction (or lack thereof).

US_Transp_trans_scrn2

With regard to the other metrics (transit use, reductions in car commuting, increase in bike commuting, percentage telecommuting) metro Atlanta followed the national trends but its improvements were generally more modest than those seen elsewhere.  The one area where the region excelled is in telecommuting: the region saw the 7th largest increase in the proportion of workers working from home of any region in the country.