You should apply to Bloomington’s new Parking Commission

M5 meter with enhanced payment options. (PRNewsFoto/IPS Group, Inc.)

The single-space meter now common in Bloomington’s downtown. (PRNewsFoto/IPS Group, Inc.)

I‘m very pleased to report that last Wednesday the City Council approved my proposal for a Parking Commission by a 7-0-1 vote.

Is this a big deal? It is to me, but I proposed it — virtually all the regulated parking in town is in District 6. Why should you care about it?

Well, it’s not going to change your life anytime soon. But it will make the city’s decisions about parking more rational.

Specifically, Ordinance 16-22 called for a commission to be formed not just to evaluate the performance of all garages, lots, meters, and neighborhood parking zones, but to come up with a comprehensive policy for parking, one that serves the goals of our comprehensive planning document. That document is currently called the “Growth Policies Plan,” or GPP. (It was passed in 1991 and updated in 2002; a third version, simply called a comprehensive master plan, is in the works and may see the light of day in 2017.)

My take is, these days we have science now: namely the work of pioneering UCLA economist Donald Shoup. For too long, though, we’ve been making parking decisions ad hoc. We shouldn’t have meters to make money; we shouldn’t cut meter hours to save people money. We should be regulating parking to shape demand — there should always be a space available for every eight out there, and prices should reflect that demand, anytime, anywhere. We also ought to have solid policy for what we do with the extra money, and that what we do with it is related to implementing the GPP, rather than just to make more parking available.

For more in-depth explanation, you can read the text of my presentation (PDF) or view the slideshow (PDF). You can watch the video of that night’s meeting to see me presenting the ordinance, and see the discussion (which lasted about 50 minutes) starting at about 67 minutes in.

The important thing now, though, is that good people apply to become Parking Commissioners. “Good” to me means someone who likes to think, write, debate, and crunch data. (There’ll be a lot of data: all the performance data from meters and garages, tickets and appeals for starters.) Since you’re reading my blog, I’m hoping that means you, because you’re clearly a discriminating reader.

The new commission openings will be posted soon. Start by viewing the complete listing of boards and commissions, and openings therein. (If you’d like to get a jump on being considered for the new Parking Commission and it isn’t yet an option you can choose, just apply to the Board of Parks Commissioners and explain in the notes fields that your true interest is the Parking Commission. Say that I told you to do this.)

While you’re at it, you might as well apply for other boards if they look interesting to you. You’ll see from the listing page that we have vacancies. Just be sure to give a reason for why you want to be considered for each board that’s tailored to that board, otherwise councilmembers might think you’re just applying scatter-shot.

You’ll be hearing more about the Parking Commission in future posts. Meanwhile, your comments are welcomed below. Please send your questions about Bloomington’s city council, or your own hometown’s local government, to .

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