Recently, restaurants have begun expanding their dining areas by annexing public, on-street parking spaces to build little outdoor decks for tables and seats. Will you please comment on the legality (and temerity) of this practice? —Sigrid C.
Your letter, Sigrid, presents a dilemma for card-carrying public-policy intellectuals like me. (Technically, the card I'm holding right now says "Official Boobie Inspector," but whatever.) On the one hand, I'm well aware that of all the ersatz rights claimed by the bourgeoisie, the right to parking is probably the ersatzest. On the other, I believe I deserve to park wherever I want.
Thus, my opinion of the Bureau of Transportation's 100 percent-legal Street Seats program is probably the same as every other Portlander's: It's a fine and forward-thinking initiative that will help pry lazy folks out of their nature-despoiling cars—until they take a space that I want to park in, at which point it will become an assault on human dignity rivaling the Srebrenica massacre.
We consider on-street parking to be a God-given entitlement, like free speech or unlimited refills at Sizzler, but it's actually a massive public subsidy to motorists. A "free" on-street parking space costs a U.S. city around $1,350 annually. Depending on where you live and work, you'll pay anywhere from very little to none of that sum.
"But I need a place to park my car!" you say, in your whiny, Bruised-Credit Steve voice. Well, you need a place to park your fat ass, too, but you don't expect the city to strew the roadside with free cabanas for you to watch Honey Boo Boo in.
Having the government provide free automobile storage makes no more sense than having them provide free housing. (Considerably less, actually.) The whole system should be scrapped in favor of market pricing, congestion fees and free lifetime passes for newspaper columnists.
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