Sunday, April 13, 2008

NO to Parking Authority

Tuesday, April 15, 2008, may well go down in history as one of Phoenixville Borough Council's most infamous days or, on the other hand, it may mark a return to commonsense prevailing at borough hall.

Several items of interest come to a vote at the regular monthly Council meeting, each of which I will address individually.

In no particular order, I'll begin with the Parking Authority ordinance up for review.

At least three or four local blogs have threads on this subject, and the overwhelming majority of opinions are to the negative. Can they all be wrong?

The latest entry to the argument against a Parking Authority in Phoenixville is the excellent piece done by Council Member Jeff Senley. With his permission, I am reproducing it here:

It is good that the parking debate has evolved into intelligent (well, mostly intelligent) discussion as we approach the vote on establishment of a Phoenixville Parking Authority to begin addressing the issue.

I posted the following response this morning to Patricia Matson's recent online and printed article in The Phoenix.

"Hi Patricia:

Thanks for contributing this article to the ongoing discussion on the parking issues we have in town. I share your concern that we need to begin doing something about the problem.

I am confused about one point in your article though; and that is the "local business taxes" you mention. I'm not aware of any tax monies that are collected and given to the Borough from the downtown businesses.

There are some individuals who are indicating that parking is some sort of inalienable right; this just isn't so. These same folks also believe it should be "free".

The only place I'm aware of "Free Parking" is in the board game Monopoly. Even then, you only get such by a lucky roll of the dice.

A very timely article in a peer JR publication earlier this week presents data showing that the construction cost of a parking garage runs around $22,000 a space.

For a 500 space garage at that price, it's a paltry $11,000,000 just to build said facility. This cost doesn't include operations after the facility is open for business (staffing, enforcement, etc.).

Now, let's talk mathematics.

To recoup the initial construction cost (which would need to be financed using a 20-year bond), math shows that each of the 500 parking spaces would need to generate $22,000 in parking revenue over that 20-year period if the bond financing construction was interest-free.

Since, uh, that isn't going to happen, let's assume generously that we get a real bargain and the principal and interest cost is only $30,000 per space in that time period.

If the parking garage is a 24-hour facility, and we assume that all 500 spaces are constantly filled for 20 years, only $.18 an hour would need to be collected to cover the cost of initial construction.

Wow, cheap!

Oh, what's that? You mean we don't have the level of problem where said facility will be completely full 24 hours a day 7 days a week? Oh. Well that changes things a bit.

Will it be full 16 hours a day 7 days a week? Probably not. 12 hours? 8 hours? Rarely, if ever? We don't really know.

So, we must build into that initial cost factor an unpredictable level of usage, particularly if you can park on the street or in some municipal lot for free.

Let's generously assume that the parking garage averages out 100% allocation 8 hours a day over 20 years. That means $.54 an hour would need to be collected to cover the initial construction cost.

Still kinda reasonable, right?

Oh, there's operating costs? Staff to support the parking garage's operation? Well, what does that cost? $100,000 a year, maybe, on average? Factoring that in adds $2,000,000 in cost that must also be recouped, increasing the previously stated hourly average for self-sustainment from $.54 to $.66 per space.

Oh, and uh, we forgot about maintenance costs? Insurance costs? What other costs might there be?

OK OK, so we've gotten in too deep with all this silly mathematical analysis. Let's just settle on $1 an hour and be done with it, and we'll probably have a good shot at covering all the costs we incur, even if the garage isn't 100% occupied an average of 8 hours a day over 20 years.

Right? Good.

Well, kind of.

Well, maybe, but there's another problem.

Now there's the matter of getting investors to float us a 20-year $11,000,000 bond for this garage's construction. Think there's enough solid information to support investment in this opportunity? What would the investor do if we per chance didn't generate the necessary revenue to cover that year's bond payment?

Well there's an easy solution to that one.

Let's just have the Borough financially back the bond with the tax dollars of Borough residents.

"Just in case".

And then we're all set. If we don't generate enough parking revenue in a given year to make the bond payments, we'll just increase our Borough taxes a little more.




That means that residents not only would have paid for the parking garage's construction, but they'll also be paying to use it?

Well, gee. The taxpayers in the North Ward that I represent just won't go for that whole double-charging thing.

Maybe we should entertain other options.

Hey - maybe this is better left to private enterprise. Surely if there's money to be made in this adventure, someone will come in with a proposal to build it and run it for us.

... Wouldn't they?"


Here is my response to Council Member Senley posted to his blog:

Jeff, your analysis of the cost for a parking garage is one of the best pieces of "homework" I've ever seen generated by a Council Member.


I hope you'll print a copy for each member and distribute it either prior to or at Tuesday's meeting.

Placing the borough at great financial risk with an independent enity such as a Parking Authority has been proven in discussion to be a very grave and irresponsible move.

That fact coupled with the information in your extraordinary work will help Council to make the only decision possible.

No Parking Authority.

A majority vote to establish an authority for the purpose of a clearly unsustainable garage is pure insanity.

Thank you, Jeff, for your work.


I don't believe I have much more to add to my remarks at this time except for the following...

Council, Jeff did your homework for you. Applaud him for giving you the tools from which to make an informed decision.

After reading this analysis no one can claim in the future to the statement that they were not aware of the serious ramifications of voting to institute a Parking Authority in Phoenixville.

This is not the time for a Parking Authority.


Vote NO.

No comments: