While doing research for something totally unrelated, I came across this paper by Asha Weinstein (.pdf) on parking policy in Boston in the 1920s. One of the things she (?) discusses is the political feasibility of charging for the right to park downtown:
Despite this general consensus, however, there was no shared view on what might constitute effective downtown parking policies. On the one hand, most people supported modest policy changes such as modifying existing regulations, improving motorist compliance with those regulations, or building more off-street parking, but even the strongest advocates of such policies never claimed they would significantly impact congestion. At the other end of the spectrum, a few people called for the drastic options of banning all street parking during business hours, or charging a fee to park on the streets. These proposals were touted as highly effective congestion relief, but they garnered little serious support and generated storms of opposition, and were never treated as serious proposals by the larger community. […]
So you might think to yourself, “Banning parking entirely seems kind of draconian, but pricing parking at least sounds rational.” But you’re not a Bostonian living in 1926:
Even less popular than a parking ban was the idea of a parking fee. In January 1926, this new approach to parking was proposed by a sub-committee of Boston’s Ways and Means Committee and Mayor Nichols. The proposal called for keeping the existing parking regulations, but charging drivers an annual fee of $5 to $10 for the right to park on city streets. The opposition from business and automobile advocacy groups was decisive and adversarial. All the city’s newspapers ran scathing articles. For example, the high-society Transcript immediately published an editorial warning that the proposed fee would be counterproductive as a revenue-generator because it would likely drive business away from the city and thus reduce overall revenues to the city. Even the populist Post ran a cartoon lampooning the “feedom” of the city. The fee proposal soon after disappeared for good.
Which brings me to my bleg (does using the word “bleg” make me a real blogger??): I came across this article in an unsuccessful search for information about the subway vs. elevated train politics and economics of the early 20th century for an article I’d like to write. My general understanding is that the els were built by private companies and the subways were part of the broader trend towards municipalization of transit and general hostility towards private transit firms, but I’m having trouble remembering where (if anywhere) I read this. Does anybody know of any sources that shed more light on this history?
Brian F. Kelcey saysDecember 10, 2010 at 7:32 am
Well, Fogleson’s “Downtown” is one obvious source, and probably the best *general* source on the subject in relation to other trends. I’d be surprised if the El’s weren’t subsidized somehow, but the exact details of any particular deal are buried too far back in memory for me to confirm as much.
Stephen saysDecember 10, 2010 at 7:51 am
I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never even heard of this book, but I’ll be buying it and hopefully reading it soon – thanks for the recommendation!
Alon Levy saysDecember 10, 2010 at 6:31 pm
You can find part of the discussion on subways and municipalization in the Historic American Engineering Record on the NYC Subway. The first two articles in the HAER give a feel for the politics at the time; avoiding the corruption of the private operators was one of many social factors leading New York to build subways.