Free Parking? Only in “Monopoly”

Privatization Watch, which warns against privatizing government services, alerts locals that if Pittsburgh parking garages are leased to a private company the per day parking cost would increase by $4.75 by the end of the year. The blog touts the fact that the city’s downtown government-operated garages are 30% cheaper than private ones.

However, the blog neglects to mention that the city’s Parking Authority has $100 million in outstanding bond debt to pay off. These parking garages are cheaper because they’re subsidized by taxpayers, not because they’re more efficiently run. In the end, government services aren’t cheaper, as the debt incurred is passed on to residents through higher taxes or fees in other services.

Leasing the city’s garages could be a tough sell as the mayor has set a $300 million price tag on them ($100 million for the parking debt and $200 million to keep afloat the city’s pension fund). This would be enough to keep the city from bankrupting.

The reality is, government shouldn’t be involved in yellow page services. Parking garages are just one of many government-operated businesses that should be leased or sold to the private sector. Pennsylvanians can expect to hear more about privatization efforts in the near future as the state tries to rein in its projected $5 billion budget deficit, along with its $3 billion Unemployment Compensation Fund deficit, and a $4 billion pension contribution hike looming in 2012.