David Alpert and Bruce DePuyt explain the parking economics in a less clunky way than I usually do:
DePuyt phrased the issue well early in the discussion: the simple challenge is that not everyone can park in a place like downtown. Some people need to drive, but everyone can’t, so the basic policy debate is how to allocate limited spaces among different people in the “fairest” way, whatever that is (special set-asides for groups like residents or those with disabilities, market forces, and/or our current policy, allocating based on who will tolerate the most circling to find a spot or who gets lucky).
If DC changes its policies in this realm, it’s not about “discouraging” people from driving; as a number of you pointed out in the comments on some recent articles, it’s DC’s growth, not a government conspiracy, that’s making parking scarcer. All the government can do is change the way it manages the available space, for better or worse.
They’re talking about DC, but the same lesson applies to downtowns everywhere – the fairest way to allocate scarce parking spaces is by willingness to pay, not tolerance for circling. The economic logic does not change when the clock strikes 6. If your downtown area is busy at night too, then you need to keep charging for curb parking at night. I promise you that nothing changes about the economics on Sunday mornings either. Whatever time of the day it is, if it’s busy then you need to charge for parking.