Jason Holleman: Green parking ticket

Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 11:45pm
Jason Holleman

Mayor Karl Dean has announced his vision to make Nashville the “Greenest City in the Southeast,” and his Green Ribbon Committee on Environmental Sustainability spent much time and energy putting together a report last year that outlined several strategies to achieve this goal. Among them was the recommendation to “issue window stickers that provide free meter parking for clean-technology vehicles.”

Cities like Albuquerque, N.M., and San Antonio already have such a policy in place. Last month, Councilmen Mike Jameson, Erik Cole and I sponsored a bill to join their ranks, and discussion has begun.

Free Parking for Green Vehicles: Drain on city coffers? Nope. Benefit only for the rich? No way. Hard to enforce? Not really.

County Clerk John Arriola determined that 6 percent of Davidson County vehicles meet the U.S. EPA standards to receive the “Drive Green, Park Free” sticker. Projections for the current fiscal year anticipate that Metro will receive approximately $2 million in revenues from parking meters. Assuming that drivers of fuel-efficient vehicles park at meters at a rate proportional to their share of the registered vehicles in the county (i.e. 6 percent) — which is likely high since many who park at meters come from outside of the county, and since it’s unlikely that 100 percent of eligible vehicle drivers will participate in the program — we would lose approximately $120,000 in meter revenues. However, if we charge $5 per vehicle annually for the stickers, we will pick up as much as $175,000 in new revenue. Anticipating some funds will be dedicated to administrative costs, the city still comes out slightly in the black while moving closer to the green.

So, if green-vehicle drivers will put more money into stickers than they currently put into meters, why would they participate? Wouldn’t you rather pay $5 upfront, one time, instead of shuffling through your console for quarters every time you park? Once armed with a “Drive Green, Park Free” sticker, fuel-efficient vehicle drivers will likely utilize meters more frequently than they do now. We have untapped capacity in many places during most hours of meter operation, so this extra utilization isn’t likely to cause other parkers to be significantly less likely to have a place to park.

Beyond looking at meter-versus-sticker revenues, the cost to the city if we don’t take on programs like green parking has to be considered. Next month, the federal government will begin handing down revised air-quality mandates to municipalities. Due to these new requirements, cities will look further than tighter regulation of large stationary emission sources (e.g. industrial plants) and more toward mobile emission sources (e.g. the family car) to achieve the new clean-air standards.

Some opponents of the bill have charged that it would unfairly benefit affluent drivers who can afford to drive “expensive hybrids.” The proposed legislation doesn’t reward drivers simply for using hybrid technology. Instead, it rewards drivers with vehicles that score a minimum of seven on both greenhouse gas and air pollution controls, and a total combined score of 16 or better on the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide (www.epa.gov/greenvehicles). Eligible vehicles include several affordable gasoline compacts, including the Ford Focus, the VW Beetle and the Honda Accord. Not eligible, meanwhile, are the larger hybrids, like the Hybrid GMC Yukon and the Hybrid Chevrolet Tahoe.

Questions have also been raised about enforcement. Metro Code already prohibits drivers from refilling the meter and leaving a vehicle past the meter maximum. The proposed legislation allows green vehicles to park for the meter maximum, so presumably drivers parking in excess of the meter maximum — sticker or not — would be monitored and penalized within the exact same system.

Details aside, this bill sends a strong message about who we are as a city and how much we value environmental stewardship.

Filed under: City Voices

10 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 9/27/10 at 5:23

Nice try but certainly doesn't change this mind on being nothing
more than I'm special and an "Elistist" piece of legislation.
These $5.00 stickers would turn into park on the meter all
day passes, take up very limited public parking slots, It's
not the job of the Metro Council to assist the Auto Industry
to sell cars of any makeup. A majority of taxpayers will be
assisting the industry enough in the existing tax credits being
extended on these automobiles that most cannot themselves
afford to purchase.

By: producer2 on 9/27/10 at 6:16

Nice job councilmen! We need to keep that forward thinking progress going.

By: budlight on 9/27/10 at 8:00

Wouldn’t you rather pay $5 upfront, one time, instead of shuffling through your console for quarters every time you park? Question posed by Jason Holleman

Well, Jason, if you're rich, you would have a coin keeper and not have to dig around in the console for quarters.

Elitist? probably Unfair? probably Preferential treatment? Definitely Will anyone care in 10 years? Questionable.

By: concernedtaxpayer on 9/27/10 at 10:47

Well, I know where many employees will be parking their cars instead of in parking garages. If someone can save $100 a month parking on the street instead of in a parking garage, why not? I may just have to get another car so I can do the same thing. That would probably save me at least $1,200 in parking each year.

I thought they started charging parking at meters on Saturdays to cover expenses but evidently they are willing for many of these parking spots to be taken up during the week. So what would keep those from other counties buying the stickers too by using a friend's address or a fake address and buying a davidson county tag and one of these stickers? This could turn out to being more costly to taxpayers who actually live in Davidson County.

By: Loner on 9/27/10 at 10:58

It's illegal to refill the parking meter? That doesn't sound fair or smart and it doesn't sound enforceable. As long as the meter is being fed, who cares who is feeding it?

Issuing special permits invites trouble, who is going to time the individual parking events to insure that a maximum time limit has not been exceeded by the permit holders? With meters, violators are easily identifiable.

The idea is well intentioned, but human nature is what it is, elitists owning expensive hybrids and plug-in-electrics will take advantage of the opportunity.

Perhaps, Music City needs more municipal parking garages....instead of building unnecessary Convention Centers and pro-sports facilities, Metro should try to serve the needs of the motoring public and the downtown merchants-businesses, as opposed to catering to the demands of the special interests.

By: JohnGalt on 9/27/10 at 12:59

I thought the original proposal was to allow these "green" autos to park free for a limited number of hours and then pay the going rate after that. The honor system would be used to ensure compliance and none of these earth-loving drivers would abuse the system by parking past the free period.


By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 9/27/10 at 1:25

This kind of time wasting, is why people like these three should not be elected. Surly one of the dumbest ideas of this week. Dean and his minions have the idea that they can spend all of your money and you can't do anything about it. Why doesn't our illustrious council concentrate on things that really mean something to the people of Nashville. It's like they have too much time on their hands and have wandering minds looking for something to do. When one of the idiots comes up with an idea all of the other idiots clammier to jump on the bandwagon also. Same goes for the previous story about "complete streets", Nashville and Green Hills in particular don't need more bicycles on the roads they need to be restricted to secondary roads at best. Giving bicyclists equal rights on the roadways is just asking for fatal accidents. And as far as light rail goes, when it pays for itself or the people of Nashville vote by referendum to approve it's construction then build it, but until it goes successfully on the ballot quit thinking of spending money that we don't have on it!

By: dnewton on 9/28/10 at 2:52

Wouldn't a sticker for free parking or even reduced parking be a subsidy for the automobile? I thought autos get too much in the way of subsidies already?

The purpose of parking meters is to keep the traffic moving and get more use out of the same space. Putting an exception in place makes the parking problem worse probably. Taxes and subsidies should relate directly to the problem that is caused. The gas tax should be used for highways because it is proportional to the use of the highways with minor exceptions.

You might consider giving a subsidy for everyone that goes to the new convention center in a cab. That would keep the parking supply up and it would neutralize the outrageous taxes that were enacted to build the White Elephant.

By: producer2 on 9/28/10 at 2:33

No new taxes on Davidson County citizens were enacted and the MCC will have over 1800 available parking spaces which is about 4 times more than the old parking lot on the site held. Sometimes the real truth hurts....

By: TITAN1 on 9/28/10 at 3:21

producer2, you know you are wasting your time with people with screen names like 'skeptic' and 'concerned tax payer'. They are paranoid and the sky is always falling.