Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Pay-for-parking is the American way

I hate paying to park.

I'd rather park farther away and walk.

When I go to festivals in the area, I always try to find a spot on a street somewhere, even if that street is a very healthy walk from the festival. I usually walk the farthest for Allentown.

On the occasion when I'm lucky enough to go to a Sabres or Bisons game, I'll park in the second ring of parking, where it's half of what it costs to park right next to the arena or stadium. And still that costs as much as $10 sometimes.

It seems to me that paying $10 to rent out a parking space for a few hours is highway robbery.

It's a downright mugging to charge as much as $60 for those same spaces, which is exactly what parking lot owners near HSBC have been charging during the World Junior Hockey Tournament.

People are complaining. And Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown is calling for an investigation into the matter.
As much as I abhor taking advantage of a situation, what they're doing is not only legal, but the basis for our entire economy.

It's a free market system. Private parking lot owners can ask for as much as they like. It only becomes worth the asking price if people pay it. And people are paying by the carload.

We don't think anything of paying double, triple or more for a hotel when we go at “peak times.” We understand that plane tickets cost more during the holidays and gas is always most expensive on Fridays. We know that there's a significant markup on food when we go out to eat. So why is this parking thing such an issue?

The popular thought out there seems to be that it's just not fair to charge people that much, especially if we're trying to entice them to come to our city. Yes, I said “our city.” Buffalo is our city, no matter what your postal code may be.

If you've ever had to park in Manhattan, Toronto, Washington, DC, or any one of a number of other big cities, you'll recall that parking wasn't cheap. It was a downright mugging.

Actually, I literally got robbed once parking in DC, but that's another issue altogether.

Have you ever considered going to one of those cities and then decided not to because parking was too much? I can't imagine too many people would say yes. It's the cost of doing business. It's the cost of going on vacation. And who are we to tell parking lot owners in Buffalo can't make a healthy profit for a couple weeks?

If the argument is that we Western New Yorkers shouldn't have to pay that much to park, your point is completely moot. The NFTA offers a variety of ways to get to HSBC. If you'd rather pay $60 than take Metro Bus or Rail, then you've decided – although maybe begrudgingly – that the $60 is worth it.

Me? I'll just avoid the area altogether until after the World Juniors is over. I couldn't afford the tickets anyway. Which, I might point out, are considerably more expensive than, say, Disney on Ice Tickets. Why? Free market economy. It's just how it works.

Complaining about it could be considered un-American.