Tygard wants to offer free parking using carbon-offset fund

Monday, January 3, 2011 at 10:05pm

It was only a few weeks ago that the Metro Council enacted a new law that will allow drivers of environmentally friendly vehicles to park free at downtown city meters beginning July 1.

Eventually, the financial incentive could be offered to drivers of all registered Davidson County vehicles. 

At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard, who had criticized the new law as elitist, is pushing a plan that would extend free downtown meter parking to any Nashville driver willing to pay for credits to offset the carbon footprint that her or his particular vehicle emits.

The bill, which the council is set to consider on the second of three votes later this month, is likely to be deferred for a few meetings to continue research, Tygard indicated. The impetus behind the ordinance is to offer the incentive those who don’t drive hybrid, biofuel or electric vehicles, which Tygard and other council members have said are more expensive than traditional automobiles.

“I just wanted to get it on people’s minds that there was a different way to go about the free parking that allowed any citizen and every citizen to participate if they so choose, and it wasn’t tied to some fancy hybrid car,” Tygard said.

The city’s new free parking law, spearheaded by lead sponsor Councilman Jason Holleman, will work as a two-year pilot program, allowing drivers of clean-technology vehicles to park for no cost at any of downtown Nashville’s 700 parking meters. Six percent of all Davidson County automobiles –– about 35,000 cars –– are eligible. 

To take advantage of the plan, Davidson County residents will have to pay an annual $10 processing fee to the Davidson County Clerk’s Office to receive a sticker indicating that their vehicle is authorized to park free.

Tygard, who first mentioned his proposal while addressing Holleman’s bill on the council floor last month, said his plan would rely on a special formula to determine the level of carbon emissions a vehicle produces. He said other cities nationwide have adopted policies similar to the one he’s proposing.

“If you’re willing to contribute into a carbon-offset fund that would more than offset the amount of vehicle emissions you produce, then the idea would be you, too, could qualify for this $10 parking sticker,” Tygard said.

Under the plan, either a nonprofit entity or Metro would oversee the carbon-offset fund, Tygard said. Dollars would be used to pay for things like trees or wetlands mitigation in order to counter vehicular carbon emission in Nashville. 

“It may take 10 trees for you to mitigate the amount of carbon your vehicle produces,” Tygard said, using a hypothetical. “So, [a citizen] contributes $100 that buys 10 $10 trees that will get planted somewhere on public land that will eat up enough carbon that [his or her] vehicle produces.”

Roy Dale, a former Metro councilman who recently launched a carbon-offset fund called Earthcredits, said like-minded groups use their resources to essentially turn carbon into oxygen. Besides trees and vegetation, he said carbon-offset funds sometimes pay for projects involving clean-energy wind farms or capturing gas from landfills.

Dale said his first project with Earthcredits –– which hasn’t taken off just yet –– is the restoration of Ewing Creek’s floodplain in north Nashville through enhanced vegetation and wetlands.

Using a carbon-offset formula found at Carbonfund.org, a 2002 Honda Civic owner who drives 15,000 miles per year would pay a annual offset of $41.58 per year. Using the same formula and yearly mileage, a driver of a 2002 Ford F150 pick-up truck would pay a carbon offset of $73.92 per year.

The formula in Tygard’s bill still isn’t defined. 

As was the case with Holleman’s initiative, part of the inspiration behind Tygard’s bill is Mayor Karl Dean’s Green Ribbon Committee, which recommended the creation of a carbon-offset program.

Holleman called Tygard’s bill an “interesting idea” but said there are a few logistical issues that need to be addressed. 

For starters, Holleman said Tygard’s proposal should ideally be in sync with the newly enacted law so that “one consolidated sticker” is issued for both programs. Under its current language, the Metro Public Works Department would issue the sticker with Tygard’s plan while Holleman’s plan will turn to the Davidson County Clerk’s Office for the same task.

Holleman also said the government must be careful it selects a reliable non-profit if it opts to go that route instead of managing the carbon-offset fund itself.

“I would like to hear from Charlie about how he envisions how we would go about making sure that people really are getting what they pay for from these nonprofits,” he said.

12 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 1/4/11 at 4:05

Sounds like a good way for downtown workers to get reduced and
convenient parking at a much reduced cost to this reader. Can
one park in a slot all day under this scheme? How many of these
revenue giveaways does Holleman have in mind prior to leaving the
council?

By: spooky24 on 1/4/11 at 6:19

Really?

“So, [a citizen] contributes $100 that buys 10 $10 trees that will get planted somewhere on public land that will eat up enough carbon that [his or her] vehicle produces.”

Perhaps he could propose an amendment that says 10 of the cities 4,000 homeless should plant those trees.--You know job creation.

Isn't it funny how :Karl Dean’s Green Ribbon Committee
Sounds like Fair play for Cuba committee

sp

By: girliegirl on 1/4/11 at 7:48

Earthcredits can be found at www.earthcredits.org

By: Nitzche on 1/4/11 at 8:22

God help us!

By: slacker on 1/4/11 at 9:38

Hey Tygard! I've planted a lot of extra trees on my land. Howsabout introducing a bill to reduce my property taxes?

By: tdterry1999 on 1/4/11 at 11:29

Freaking Fools.That is one reason why I moved out of Nashville.

By: JeffF on 1/4/11 at 1:04

We deserve to have our congressional district gerrymandered away from us.

By: tomba1 on 1/4/11 at 1:18

Hey Charlie!

If some can park free, all should be able to park for the same amount of money, regardless of the vehicle. If 6%, or 35,000, cars would be eligible, then why not 100%, or 583,300 vehicles. And with a $2 increase to everyone's car tag cost, the $1.2 million dollars in additional revenue would equate to the current revenue generated by the meters. Then Metro (WE) can reap the benefits of the cost reductions realized by getting rid of all of the meters and not have to deal with them in terms of administration, enforcement, maintenance, or replacement. Once they are gone and we are all paying $2 more for our tags, his honor can then turn them into bicycle lanes and his agenda will be met.

Revenue neutral combined with reduced costs and equitable cost/benefit for all. Those are blasphemous words witihin those council chambers. Charlie! We're not trying to create additional revenue streams by adding additional, unequitable tax/fee burdens on our citizens in these tight times, or are we?

By: capt4chris on 1/4/11 at 1:36

Part of the plan with the hybrids is to help reduce emissions in the downtown area. Trying to offset the effort in another area doesn't conform to the same specific goal IMO.

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 1/4/11 at 1:41

People on the council are insane. Why can't they pay attention to things that really matter?

By: CrimesDown on 1/5/11 at 12:04

Carbon-Offset? Oh God!

Look, I'm no expert, but I know a way that would reduce air pollution more than either of these plans.

Do away with all parking downtown. Make it against the law to drive a private vehicle in downtown Nashville, unless you live downtown. The only way to get downtown would be to ride a bus, cab, train, bicycle, skateboard, roller skates, or walk/run/crawl. Laugh all you want, but you can't tell me it wouldn't make our air healthier to breath. This may sound stupid to some of you, and your right, but it's no more stupid than the other two plans.

What is wrong with you people? Wake up! Open your eyes! Do what you were elected to do! Stop the insanity! Holy crap, give me some asprin!

By: girliegirl on 1/5/11 at 11:02

Well, CrimesDown, the elec vehicles do not pollute, so you would HAVE to include them. And there in lies the hypocrisy because only the elites would have access to downtown via their own vehicles.