It used to be that Portlanders could lodge their chariots in any of the six city-owned garages, knowing they would pay in 30-minute increments after the first hour. This meant languid Rogue correspondents were free to stop into WW headquarters for an hour to socialize and appropriate office supplies, and if the Hare Krishna guy waylaid them on the route back to the garage, it would only cost another 50 cents above the normal 95-cent hourly rate.
Not anymore. A recent independent audit revealed that the garages could make more money by charging customers for a full hour even whenever they go just a few minutes over. For example, the Southwest 3rd Avenue and Alder Street Smart Park could've raked in another $7,418.25 in November, according to the audit.
On June 1, Smart Park switched to the new regime, and the city wept.
Mary Volm, spokeswoman for the Portland Office of Transportation, insists this isn't really a change. "It's actually the correct advertised rate," she says, "not an increase at all."
Well, yes and no. True, Smart Park never publicized the 30-minute policy. But customers are now clearly paying more when they park for 61 minutes. In fact, according to an internal WW audit, the Rogue Desk has already suffered $4.05 in lost revenue and has had to compensate by taking home more pens.
We know the city needs cash. But there's something fundamentally unfair about charging people for resources they don't use. Plus, the audit also suggested that Smart Park keep the 30-minute rule and just hike the hourly rate by a nickel.
Phone companies bill calls in six-second increments. Lawyers charge by the quarter-hour. Why can't Smart Park keep the 30-minute rule? Better yet, why not--gasp--adopt a 15-minute rule?
Until Smart Park reforms its errant ways, we intend to boycott the garages. In the meantime, can anyone spare a quarter?