Michael Manville and Jonathan Williams turn out to have an academic paper “The Price Doesn’t Matter if You Don’t Have to Pay: Legal Exemption as an Obstacle to Market-Priced Parking” (google doc) looking specifically at the disabled parking pass issue we considered yesterday. Their point is that even beyond the question of “abuse,” the mere existence of large numbers of passes that let people evade the price system serves to undermine the efficacy of demand-responsive parking:
Congestion pricing is an effective way to combat congestion, and market prices for curb parking are an appealing way to implement pricing, because paying to park is more politically acceptable than paying to drive. But pricing is only effective if users have to pay, and market-priced parking is vulnerable to nonpayment. To illustrate this problem, we survey parking meters in Los Angeles. We focus on legal nonpayment, and show that almost 40 percent of vehicles at meters are both not paying and not breaking any laws. The majority of nonpayment comes from vehicles displaying disabled credentials. These credentials undermine the effectiveness of priced parking and appear to invite substantial fraud.
The legitimate interests of walking-impaired people could (and should) be met through disbursing cash money rather than parking privileges. Unfortunately, many aspects of our irrationally tax-averse political culture militate toward preferring doing things “for free”—no matter how costly that may be—rather than bearing explicit costs.