Public workers' cheap parking rates belie stated policy
Increased demand for downtown parking has resulted in parking rates rising to an average of $209 a month.
WHILE the city and state have embraced policies to reduce traffic congestion, both encourage their employees to remain an enormous contributor to crowded rush hours. Private parking rates in Honolulu have soared to more than $200 a month
, but rates for city and state employees remain ridiculously low. Continuation of those cheap rates calls into question the credibility of stated public policy.
Honolulu's unreserved parking fees rose from an average of $190 a month last year to $209, making it the eighth-most-expensive city in the country for commuters to park, according to the 2007 Parking Rate Survey by Colliers International. Rates have risen about 20 percent during the past five years.
State employees on Oahu pay monthly parking fees ranging from $30 to $60, while civil-service employees of the city pay $35 a month, according to spokespeople. Appointed city officials pay $75 a month for reserved stalls. The rates are established not by labor contracts but by administrative action.
As a further incentive for city and state employees to drive their cars to work instead of carpooling or taking the bus, both governments subtract their parking fees from their payroll checks, enabling the employees to avoid paying state and federal taxes on that part of their gross incomes.
By anonymous request, House Speaker Calvin Say introduced a bill in last year's Legislature that would have called for a study of state, county and private parking policies. The proposal quickly died, posing no threat to the public employees whose unions wield strong influence over the state's actual policies.
The Census Bureau reported two years ago that urban Honolulu's population grows by 25 percent during the workday, concluding that 93,300 people commute to work downtown and in Waikiki. Mayor Mufi Hannemann said the numbers "confirm what we've known all along. That is that we have a large number of people heading into urban Honolulu every day and, in our case, many of them come in by car."
A commuter ferry is scheduled to begin operating from Kalaeloa to Aloha Tower this summer, while the city continues to work toward construction of a fixed-guideway transit system between Kapolei and downtown. Those are commendable efforts aimed at luring commuters out of their cars.
Steep parking rates already are an incentive for private-sector workers to take the bus. "Besides gas prices rising and parking going up, it's costing me too much," downtown legal secretary Lisa Gallarde told the Star-Bulletin's Kristen Consillio. "I have to get up much earlier to catch the bus, but that's the sacrifice I've got to make."
More than 8,000 city employees and 35,000 state employees on Oahu are not being pressured to make such a sacrifice. Instead, they are being coddled with cheap parking fees so they can continue driving to their jobs.