South Florida cities should unbundle free parking benefits

After calling out the City of Fort Lauderdale StreetsSmart: 2015 Transportation Summit for ignoring non-vehicular transportation modes, the City has updated its website to reflect alternative transportation options. Kudos to the City for making the change.City_of_Fort_Lauderdale__FL___Transportation_Summit

While this is a positive development, we have a long way to go in our understanding, appreciation, and normalization of non-vehicular modes of travel in South Florida. The terminology itself indicates how far we have to go: “Alternative” transportation options presumes the primary transportation option is the car. While that may be true in terms of percentage use, in our language we need to be very cognizant of respecting all modes equally.

The event is still giving free parking to all attendees, which subsidizes the driver while leaving the Tri-Rail user or the bus rider out of luck. This is the wrong market signal to send and the leadership to change this condition has to come from the top levels of government. Just adding a subsidy for users who take public transportation would punish the person walking or biking. From a policy standpoint, I’d much prefer we just eliminate any transportation subsidies for these events altogether (“unbundling”) and let people make rational choices for themselves.

I would hope this topic is discussed during the Summit. It’s not Fort Lauderdale’s fault so much as a shift in thinking that needs to happen in our region. Unbundling free parking benefits is one such “Shoupian” tactic that can and should be implemented by local governments throughout South Florida to lead by example.

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