On April 15, the group “Citizens for Roads Asphalt and Parking” (C.R.A.P.) is participating in a “National Park-in” to protest the lack of free parking in American Cities. Protest participants will drive to downtowns across the country and park their cars in metered spaces or parking lots without paying. Some may even park in the middle of streets, blocking traffic. “We may get tickets or we may get towed but this is a small price to pay for freedom,” said Bill Peterson of Saint Paul, Minnesota. “Parking in America used to be free. It’s one of our basic rights as Americans and we have to defend it.”
In Washington, DC, Park-in protesters plan to park their cars on the National Mall in an effort to influence members of Congress and President Donald Trump. In a press release on it’s Facebook Page, C.R.A.P. stated, “If President Trump really wants to make America great again, he should sign an executive order making parking free, like it used to be! Cars, freeways and free parking made America great. Every time we meter or take away parking, we diminish our country.”
In recent decades, American cities began charging for parking or increased their meter fees in an effort to recover costs associated with providing physical space to cars. Many cities devote more than half of their real estate to cars and parking. Houston, Texas is said to have nearly 30 parking spaces per resident! Providing all this parking space is a huge drain on city coffers. So many cities started to charge or raised their fees.
Sometimes it’s also done simply to encourage parking turnover for the benefit of local business. “Without meter fees, commuters would park their cars in the spaces in front of my shop all day long while they go to work, making pickups and deliveries difficult for my customers,” said Eric Sloan, owner of Eric’s Cleaners in Chicago. Some cities have even been removing parking entirely, especially surface parking lots, and using the land for apartments, office or retail space. Doing this can help a city recover some of its property tax base and thus improve its schools, services and overall prosperity.
But car owners and many groups like C.R.A.P. see the increased costs of parking very differently. Says Bill Peterson, “I drive into downtown Saint Paul every day and I deserve a free place to park. We all do. Freedom isn’t free. You gotta be willing to fight for it. So I plan to participate in the Great National Park-in on the 15th. I urge everyone who loves freedom to do the same.”