(Please check out the precursor to this post, “Philadelphia Traffic Court Corruption: The Problem and the Solution”, before reading this one.)
The monopoly ruling over Philadelphia’s market for parking services, known as the Philadelphia Parking Authority (or “PPA” for short), has been the subject of much controversy over the last several years, due in part to the spotlight cast upon the organization when it was featured as the permanent location for the filming of the popular television series “Parking Wars.” City locals tell stories ranging from examples of extreme oppression by the PPA (such as having a metal “boot” placed on the wheel of a car, making driving impossible) to acts of heroism committed by local “superheroes” who are notorious for illegally removing such contraptions and liberating the public.
Parking Authority enforcers are everywhere: in some areas of downtown Philadelphia, there are as many as one patrolman per city block. For this reason, I have always referred to them as being the “cockroaches of bureaucratic extortion.” They are everywhere, lowly, and persistent. However, when the duties of one’s workday consist solely of pacing consecutively around the same city block for eight hours and the only source of stimulation comes from getting into an altercation with an angry victim of a parking fine, who could blame metermaids for leaping at every chance to issue a ticket that might present itself over the course of a day’s work?
In Keene, New Hampshire (a hotbed of libertarian activism), “robin hooding” is a popular activist past-time. The process involves an activist or two going around the town with a bag of coins, buying more time on the meters of parked cars that are soon-to-be expired. Such activities are done in an effort to prevent the city government from receiving any additional tax revenue than is provided by the meters (revenue that is predominantly taken in the form of fines and parking tickets). However, this practice is nearly-impossible in Philadelphia, where kiosks that print receipts showing the expiration time of the driver’s parking spot have replaced old-fashioned meters. There is no effective way to prevent additional government extortion and fines from happening to the victims of the Parking Authority, and little can be done to help those subjected to its monetary demands.
Recently, I posted an article I wrote about the corruption discovered among the ranks of officials working within the Philadelphia Traffic Court. In it, I explained my perspectives on why I believe a free market solution to the issue of deviance within such legal bodies is the only viable option to combat these injustices and the dangers they present. I believe that the predicament being posed by the monopolistic authority of the PPA can be resolved in a similar manner.
By privatizing parking areas in a competitive marketplace (as well as the systems of justice that enforce them), the frustrations and injustices that result each and every day at the hands of the PPA could be greatly alleviated, if not done away with entirely. Those parking their cars would develop personal business relationships and contractual agreements with those leasing out parking spaces, and as a result, bargains would be struck and interpersonal relationships would form. IOU’s could become a possibility in such an economic environment, as well–for example, if one was short on parking fees, he or she could pay the lot owner back the next day rather than being unable to park (lest such an individual risk an outrageous parking fine). Such an advantage in the marketplace for parking has naturally never been considered by the PPA, or has otherwise been ruled out as a possibility. Such is the price to be paid for the ongoing existence of such a monopoly over any form of service.
New possibilities in pricing, leasing agreements, long-term parking spaces, and instances of forgiveness would arise by doing so. It’s quite possible that such an arrangement would be far more profitable both for those seeking to park and those owning the parking spaces alike. The frustrations and unjust seizure of money and automobile property from the public by the PPA would be abolished, instead leaving room for negotiation, trade, and healthy new interpersonal business relations (as well as the creation of new industries to negotiate such matters, as well as innovations in collection technology). The money saved in this method could then be used more productively than it otherwise would have been if the state had collected it, since people would thereby be paying for exactly those services they desired, receiving them when they wanted them and in the manner in which they wanted them performed. The monetary wastes resulting from taxation would also be eliminated, so that money could be more directly and efficiently applied to worthwhile causes and projects by individuals themselves, rather than squandered in the tedium and expansiveness of bureaucracy.
Why force people to have only one option for a service, when in a free society, the possibilities for achieving a goal (in this case, parking) in the most efficient and preferable way are limitless?