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Doing the math on parking costs

By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
August 17, 2003
The amount of money I spend paying parking tickets really gets all over me.
Unless you're downtown by 7:30 a.m. on a weekday, you are faced with two choices: 1) Move your car three times before 5 p.m.; or 2) Resign yourself to at least $12 in parking tickets because the rules are diligently enforced.
It is my contention that the rules are almost impossible to follow and parking tickets inevitable.
And, the truth is that I'm devoting column space to this because I got one of those infuriating notices that reads, "A warrant has or will be issued for your arrest …"
When Meridian adopted a timed parking ordinance, city officials said it was supposed to support downtown business development. There were complaints from downtown merchants that nobody could visit their stores or restaurants because all the parking spots were taken all the time.
I can certainly see where that might be true. I mean, think about a downtown employer the size of The Meridian Star and all the people who work here. Left to our own devices, we might very well swamp the downtown for blocks.
But, the newspaper is also a business that deserves the city's consideration. As a large employer, more than 100 years old, it is an anchor merchant and part of the downtown revitalization you hear so much about.
So, while I can get behind supporting downtown businesses, and the necessary evils that spring from it, I also thought you might like to see some bottom-line math about what the downtown's parking problem costs The Meridian Star not its employees in lost productivity.
The newspaper has more than 60 full-time employees. Making an informal survey of the building, I found that, for about two-thirds of them, the work day begins too late to get a parking space that won't be ticketed.
Call it 40 people.
Now assume that each time they move their cars, they're lucky enough to get a two-hour space. In a standard work day, that's 40 people moving their cars three times a day after their initial arrivals.
Now assume the task only takes 15 minutes.
That's 40 people x three moves per day x 15 minutes per move. For a total of 1,800 minutes, or 30 hours, in any given work day.
In any given work week? 150 hours.
In any given year? 7,800 hours or the equivalent of one full-time employee working eight hours a day for three years, nine months. Or, three full-time employees working for one year, three months.
And, that's ground zero.
In any given year, roughly speaking, the downtown parking problem costs The Meridian Star a loss in productivity equivalent to three employees.
These are low estimates. But, in the interest of fairness, let's factor in an intangible.
In any given day, a certain number of those newspaper employees moving their cars three times a day would have moved them once just in the course of doing business a reporter on the way to an interview, an advertising representative calling on a client, a photographer on the way to take a picture.
So, take the 7,800 hours of lost productivity every year and cut it down by a third.
That's still 5,200 hours. Assign an average hourly wage, and you could compute a conservative damage figure nothing speculative or secondary in dollars and cents.
I wonder which other downtown employers, large and small, are experiencing similar business losses? And for what? It's not like timed parking really solves the problem. Newspaper employees who move their cars three times a day don't move them far … they're still occupying a downtown parking space.
Will the downtown parking garage solve the problem? I guess it depends on how much the city plans to charge people to park there. Nobody has answered that question yet.
Will it be a daily charge or a monthly charge? Will it be more than, or less than, what the average downtown worker would pay in parking tickets during the same time period?
And, finally, could you please cut us all a break in the meantime?