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date10 Aug 2009 12:11 CDT
placeMilwaukee, WI, USA
tagstransit, mobility, wisconsin, places, parks, resources, people
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Enhance Our Parks, Not Our Parking Lots

I'm concerned about increasing subsidies for automobile travel and use. With bailouts to automobile companies and giveaways designed to mire people in auto-dependence and debt for new car purchases, I'm worried that places for human beings may become even more scarce. So I wrote a letter to my local parks department about my concerns about their free giveaway policies. I urge you to lobby your own representatives at all levels on this issue and help make our parks places for people and nature--not parking lots. You have my permission to adapt this letter to your needs--certainly don't copy and paste it, but add your own points, and let your elected representatives know that it is time to end the dominance of free parking in parks now.


I'm concerned about the policy of offering free parking at County Parks. As you may know, giving away free parking has very high induced costs due to increased cruising for the free spaces, congestion and accidents, traffic enforcement, and the opportunity costs of all that land tied up in surface parking lots. See Professor Donald Shoup's book, The High Cost of Free Parking (American Planning Association, 2005) for scientific research on this matter.

In particular, I have observed the problem of free parking near the Bradford Beach/Northpoint area in Milwaukee County. Your current policies of giving away free surface parking to all takers creates a significant amount of cruising for those free spots, a subsidy to automobile use, and a punishment to those who walk, talk transit, or bicycle to those parks to enjoy them.

I know that the spirit of parks is to provide ways for people to enjoy nature. Therefore, I ask that you no longer give away free surface parking at Milwaukee County parks. Instead, charge market rates for parking. As Dr. Shoup's research shows, fair market rates for parking reduces congestion, provides fees to improve the parks, and no doubt it would clear up the many problems the current policy is creating at Bradford Beach. I'm concerned that Milwaukee County is creating a clear hazard by its free parking giveaway policy, and may be justifiably subject to lawsuits from people killed or injured by the cruising cars.

Market-rate parking would have a significant impact by freeing up the parks for people to enjoy nature, and the people who wish to drive will to them will be able to find parking without cruising. Perhaps surface parking areas could also be reduced or eliminated to increase the enjoyment of people who love nature to go to the many, wonderful County Parks. The Parks are free for everyone to enjoy--but they should not be used to subsidize automobile travel and punish those who walk, take transit, or bicycle.

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