BREAKING: Solyndra Not The Only Loan Ever Made

In my dream world, the ongoing and widespread scandal of government-subsidized parking would generate one one-thousandth the coverage that lending to a solar panel company has:

Last month the City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved loaning the Downtown Pacific Place Garage up to $4 million to help pay for operations through December of next year. It’s the second time the City has stepped in recently to help out the garage it owns. Late last year the Council approved a loan of up to $1.5 million to Pacific Place, the parking facility on 6th and Pine that the City has operated since the late 1990s. The City originally bought the 1,200-stall garage to try to spark Downtown business development. It was able to cover its expenses until 2009. However the economic Downturn has exposed the garage’s financial weaknesses. Despite trying a variety of different things, Pacific Place is about $1.3 million in debt, the City says.

The point isn’t that there shouldn’t be parking garages in urban downtowns. Obviously there should be. But there should be about as many parking garages as people looking to park cars want to pay for. Subsidized parking encourages extra traffic congestion and air pollution. It’s true that the existence of a nearby garage is, under some circumstances, a benefit to adjacent businesses. But this externality can be — and frequently is — fully internalized through parking validation deals. There’s no bona fide public interest in cities providing more parking garages than the market equilibrium generates.