Kerger: Parking lots — fair profit or gouging?Written by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
On two different evenings recently, area high schools had events in Downtown Toledo. One was a series of performances by students while the other was an effort to raise funds. The events took place in separate venues, but across the street from the same parking lot.
On both nights, the owner of the parking lot, seeing the opportunity for increased income, raised the parking charge to a flat fee of $10. Since regular parking would be no more than half that, he clearly was taking advantage of what he considered to be a captive audience.
What the owner did not focus on was the fact that future event planners might well determine that other venues would be more appropriate, where the people they were inviting did not have to pay $10 just to park. There are a number of venues around the city that could have accommodated these groups and each would have had free parking.
The parking lot owner is not there to serve the public. His is a private business, operated for his own benefit and at his own risk. He has substantial costs, not the least of which is real estate taxes. I am sure the daytime parking is down as well. He has to plow it, pave it and maintain it on his own nickel.
That said, the point is that parking is a problem and if the city is going to rebound, we need to get people Downtown. In a perfect world, parking would be free. But that would leave the question of who maintains the lots. Moreover, without charging for parking, people would avail themselves of the closest spaces, leaving those arriving later a two-mile hike.
For years, urban planners have cited airport parking as the appropriate model. You charge a high price for those who want the most convenience, and offer bargains for those willing to park further away. That is the way it is in Toledo, except when there are special events.
But it seems to me there is a key difference between Mud Hen’s games or those of the Walleye and local high school events. The sports teams are both profit-making ventures, so I think parking lot owners are entitled to make a profit as well.
I’m not suggesting that the owner of the parking lot did anything wrong. But I am saying that this circumstance highlights the parking problem and it seems to me the mayor and his staff ought to address it.
Perhaps offering a tax break to parking lot owners to reduce their prices would help. Or, it might be suggested that they offer special prices for certain events, again with the idea that some form of compensation or tax break could be afforded to lot owners for doing so.
I am sure the University of Toledo has at least one if not more classes that study this topic. By reaching out to the university, the city could obtain some quality free consulting on the issue.
By the way, I know parking is important. Our firm is located on the south edge of the city and our building has its own parking lot, which is free. Our clients appreciate it and so do I.
Rick Kerger is a trial lawyer at Kerger & Hartman LLC in Toledo. Contact him at (419) 255-5990.