Columbus, OH is a bustling city of nearly a million people. Unfortunately, downtown Columbus lacks parking spaces which negatively impacts workers and businesses in the area. The city government’s solution? Use city money to develop additional parking spaces, garages, etc? Of course not! Why do that when you can instead raise taxes on downtown businesses to provide “free”bus passes for tens of thousands of workers. I wonder how they informed the businesses of their plan?
“Dear Business Owner,
We in the Columbus, OH city government don’t provide enough parking spaces for your employees to come in and park for the day while they work. In order to fix this, we are going to raise taxes on you and then use that money to buy your workers bus passes. This will allow us to “fix” the problem through no real effort of our own. Plus, we’ll be saving the planet by taking all those icky cars off the road. It’s a win-win for us. You? Not so much.
City of Columbus”
Is this a big deal in the grand scheme of things? Probably not. But it does show just how inured we’ve all become to forcing other people to pay for things we think are good ideas. Is it the business owners’ fault that the city doesn’t provide sufficient parking area to meet the demand? Why should business owners be forced to pay for programs that may not even benefit them or their employees?
Because the city government says so. That’s why.
Downtown business interests in Columbus, Ohio, say rents are down and the office vacancy rate is rising—simply because there’s no place to park.
It’s the same complaint that downtown power brokers made during the 1950s, one that helped create the streetscape of U.S. downtowns, which features plenty of street parking, large single-use parking garages, and parking on the lower floors of office buildings and hotels. (Columbus is not exactly a parking desert, but it is also the country’s largest city without rail transit, and 83 percent of downtown employees drive to work alone.)
Last week, the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District opted for a cheaper and more novel solution than creating more parking spaces: Give 43,000 downtown workers free bus passes for 18 months starting next summer. The passes will be funded by a tax on downtown office owners but made possible by COTA, the regional transit agency, which is slashing the annual cost of a bus pass to $40.50 from $744. The hope is that 4,000 to 5,000 workers will sign up.
Is hope a good foundation for public policy and the confiscation of other people’s money?