The cost of a parking permit

Want to charge more? Go ahead

By The Mercury

It’s not clear that doubling the cost of student parking permits at Manhattan High School, as was advocated Wednesday night by some board members, will raise enough revenue to bark at. Nor is it clear that a $100 permit, as opposed to the current $50 cost, will deter any teen drivers (probably funded by their parents) from buying the passes. Nor has anyone established that the current $50 price is out of line in either direction with prices charged at other schools.

At the same time, the ability to drive one’s car to high school and park on school property is one of those discretions that the board is completely within its right to regulate, including by price. That being so, the board is free to chart its own course on this question when the debate resumes, probably in early May.

None of the arguments advanced on either side of the debate Wednesday could be described as compelling, a judgment that merely reiterates the discretionary nature of the question.

The strongest argument in favor of raising the cost — and also the strongest argument made by anybody Wednesday — is that the district is already running a school bus system. Parking prices kept below market levels, board member Pete Paukstelis said, dis-incentivize the use of that system.

That argument is a bit misleading since the district makes no more income from the bus system if the seats are full than if they are empty — and since there is no prospect of the latter, the system will be maintained no matter how many or few people ride it.

On the other hand, the arguments of opponents sounded, if anything, weaker. Those arguments boiled down to “fairness” and the district’s monopoly position.  The equity argument ignores the constant inequity in some students being able to afford personal transportation that others cannot. Simply put, cost inequities are always present, and it is not the district’s responsibility to rectify them.

The district’s being able to dictate price due to its monopoly position may impose upon it a requirement to be “reasonable” in pricing options, but there is nothing on the record to assert that $100 is unreasonable. Indeed, as noted by proponents of the change, one may as easily argue the opposite, that an even higher fee, more in line with charges at other parking locations, may be more reasonable.

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