Advocates of the parking meter hike claim that it will reduce vehicle congestion. As someone who lives and works in the French Quarter, I notice that taxis, delivery vans, motorcyclists, pedicabs, and freight trucks frequently cause most of the downtown traffic delays. Even if the parking meter hike encourages customers and tourists to ditch their cars, taxicabs and Uber drivers are likely to replace those vehicles, fish for new passengers and jam the streets again. Cabs always go where riders and fares are, and the parking meter hike will simply replace one type of congestion with another.
City Hall claims that the parking meter hike is not about money and is more of a public safety initiative to get traffic moving. There are at least three more important priorities for City Hall that would boost road safety more effectively. First, oversized buses and trucks continue to rumble through the narrow streets of the French Quarter, endangering sidewalks, streets, buildings, cars and bystanders. Second, businesses often put trash cans and dumpsters on the public right of way illegally, forcing pedestrians to walk on the street and hazardously share the road with automobiles. Lastly, aggressive panhandlers frequently block sidewalks, harass passers-by and clog intersections.
Finally, the new parking rules are alleged to be “good for business.” Parking lots would reap the biggest windfall from the parking meter hike. Remarkably, the hike would make operating a private parking facility — either as a surface parking lot or a garage with multiple levels of parking — more profitable, and it would slow down the conversion of parking lots to residential and mixed uses. Everyone can agree that New Orleans benefits when parking facilities are replaced with new high-rises full of families and offices. When public parking fees are increased, private parking lot operators benefit for free and can artificially raise prices because the baseline price of their product — parking — has just been increased.
The cost of enforcing the new parking policy is estimated at $1 million. That is $1 million of public funds that would be diverted away from schools, police and emergency rooms. Hiring extra meter maids would do nothing to alleviate the terrifying robberies, rapes, and murders that seemingly occur everyday. The city claims that economists and experts were consulted to craft the new parking rules; why not ask the working people of New Orleans first?