Wealth and Want
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In most cities, parking lots are a temporary land use, while the owner of the land is waiting for land values to rise. Having parking available is desirable, but when parking lots predominate instead of parking garages, we use a lot of expensive infrastructure — streets, highways, transportation systems, police, fire, ambulance, schools, libraries, even buses and subways — to support very light use of valuable sites.

Under the regular property tax, the owner of a parking lot pays very little property tax, so he has little incentive to look for ways to use the land more intensively, in ways that would benefit the community and the economy. But when we divorce the tax on land values from the tax on building values, we can increase the millage rate on the land, and decrease or eliminate the millage rate on the buildings. So one of those parking lots might become a parking garage, with taxes imposed on the garage itself, and the other parking lots be developed into office buildings, or condominiums, or retail, all in the center of the business district — providing jobs, housing and shopping where they are accessible to the largest possible number of people, from a 360° radius. This is an efficient market for all of us.

Metered street parking is also important for many kinds of retail businesses that depend on auto traffic. A 10' by 20' parking spot in a busy healthy downtown can produce a huge amount of revenue itself. A free parking spot encourages users to park there all day. A metered spot encourages them to accomplish their errands and free up the spot for someon else to use.

Mason Gaffney: California's Governor-Elect

This substantial leakage of economic base results in multiple declines in state income.  Cities love to commission "economic base" studies, and a small industry of moonlighting economists love to perform them, usually to rationalize subsidizing some transnational conglomerate to put in a branch plant. They use canned "input-output" models to show how every dollar invested generates $2-3 of induced investment locally. Yet no one has seized on this obvious case to show that local property taxes, substituted for absentee rent payments, creates multiple increases in local income. The whole intellectual apparatus is dominated by absentee investors and used for their benefit.

Many rents may be taxed in other ways. Georgists have long noted that parking meters are a way of collecting rent for use of public land, but they are pikers when it comes to estimating the value thereof. Donald Shoup, a UCLA professor, estimates the value of street parking, if properly priced, as enough to replace the entire property tax.

Parking, however, is less than half the story. Vehicles also use public space when they are moving, often bumper-to-bumper in heavy traffic. Bridge, tunnel and ferry tolls reflect this obvious fact, and yet even most Georgists resist the obvious logical extension of the principle: taxes on vehicles and fuels are a kind of rough "land tax on wheels." The revenue potentials are breathtaking. Auto dealers, of course, spearhead the opposition. Observe how many acres each dealership preempts, and you will understand how they make so much money to brainwash the public into rejecting such taxes, along, of course, with conventional property taxes on their land.... read the whole essay

Nic Tideman:  Applications of Land Value Taxation to Problems of Environmental Protection, Congestion, Efficient Resource Use, Population, and Economic Growth
III. Applications to Congestion
The logic of efficient environmental protection applies with few changes to issues of congestion. Parking meters are simple example of the application of land value taxation to solving a problem of congestion. If there is a shortage of parking places (at a zero price) then the introduction of parking meters (charging rent for the use of land) can relieve the shortage. Ideally, the price of a parking meter should vary by time of day to reflect variations in the demand for parking places. The ideal fee would equate supply and demand at each time of day, with lanes of streets devoted to parking only where the revenue generated by the parking fees exceeds the value of the additional lane in speeding traffic. Perhaps in a few years we will have parking meters with prices that vary by time of day. We certainly have the technology. In the meantime, we get by with meters that charge a single price throughout the part of the day when demand is greatest.

Charging rent for parking is only a small step from charging rent for cars that are moving on city streets. The more cars there are on the streets, the slower everyone goes. The marginal cost of having one more car on the streets is the value of the extra travel time that everyone else endures because of the one additional car. In many places, the congestion cost of traffic is less than the cost of administering a system of congestion fees. But this is not the case everywhere. William Vickrey used to say that his estimate of the cost in additional delays of having one more car in midtown Manhattan in the middle of the day was about $20,000 per hour. He would go on to say that this did not imply that people should be charged $20,000 per hour for using the streets of midtown Manhattan. He had estimated marginal cost at the present level of usage. The efficient charge -- perhaps $25 per hour -- would reduce use of the streets so greatly that the marginal congestion cost of street usage would equal the price. Efficient congestion prices for using the streets of Manhattan (or Boston or other large cities) would not merely charge for ordinary usage but would also entail special charges for anyone who double-parked or parked in some other illegal way that created congestion. If we could keep track of the movements of vehicles, then for any vehicle that stood still ahead of backed-up vehicles that wanted to move, there would be a charge for the resulting congestion cost, which would be quite high. Companies making deliveries to downtown areas might decide that it was far better to make deliveries at night than to tie up the streets in the day.

Congestion charges also apply to bottlenecks such as bridges and tunnels. Whenever such a facility has cars backed up seeking to use it, efficiency is improved by applying a toll that reduces demand to capacity. The same output is produced, revenue is generated, and the waste of queuing is avoided.

The efficiency of congestion pricing would also apply to such public facilities as airports and parks. When airlines want to have more take-offs and landings than an airport can accommodate, it is efficient and just to allocate take-off and landing slots by price. Unfortunately, Congress, at the behest of airlines, has prohibited airports from doing this, requiring them instead to allocate take-off and landing slots by non-price means.

In Central Park in New York, there are fewer baseball fields than are demanded at a zero price. There is a private company that has the right and responsibility to organize the leagues that are allowed to use the fields. This company is able to charge fees that implicitly include the scarcity value of the fields. A recognition that the parks are the common heritage of everyone in the city would lead instead to a charge for using the ball fields that equated supply and demand.

There are also applications of congestion prices at an international level. For example, there may be congestion in geosynchronous orbits for satellites. If this should occur, then the just thing to do is to charge market-clearing rents for geo-synchronous orbits and share the proceeds among all nations in proportion to their populations.  ... Read the entire article

Mason Gaffney:  Sounding the Revenue Potential of Land: Fifteen Lost Elements
There is a class of “land-grabbing” capital whose value derives from its ability to preempt common land. 

Owners of surfboards, ATVs, horses, snowmobiles, trail bikes, rifles and the like impose a wide footprint over vast tracts of public and semi-public land without paying rent.
    • Vehicles on public land, whether parked or moving, preempt valuable space and are a means of establishing a kind of mobile tenure. (Donald Shoup reckons that potential revenues from street parking, now free, could raise as much money as the entire property tax now does.)
    • Boaters in large, fast, noisy, polluting vessels on small lakes take over the lakes as if they owned them.
    • Polluters in effect preempt de facto pollution easements over neighboring lands, including the public lands in streets and parks. Read the whole article

Jeff Smith: How Profit Shapes Urban Space
Some owners do keep prime sites covered with parking lots or abandoned buildings while waiting for land values to rise. "Good numbers are hard to come by," notes Bill Batt, former fiscal policy researcher for the New York legislature, "but easily a quarter of a US city is under-utilized." Thus urban cores decay, an entropy that seems natural and inevitable yet is policy-induced.  ...

The world looks different to owners dozing at the wheel, waiting for land values to rise. Title-holders keeping prime downtown sites vastly underutilized "now pay only, say, $25,000 per year in property tax for a half block," figures Dr. Mason Gaffney of the University of California at Riverside. "Post-PTS (property tax shift), these owners of parking lots and abandoned warehouses might have to part with three times that amount each year." At $75,000 per annum, no longer could they afford to let prime sites lie relatively idle. "They'll put their land to uses that generate much more revenue than does an empty building or car-covered lot," adds Gaffney. "They'll get busy building apartments, stores, offices, schools, theaters, mixing all uses together to maximize their return." ...
This property tax shift (PTS) "helps cities recover from auto-dependency," notes Gihring, author of The Journal of the American Planning Association’s first article on revenue reform (1999 Winter). The PTS turns lots for cars into structures for people. By densifying a city, it provides more riders for mass transit, justifying more routes and times. As riding becomes convenient while remaining a bargain, and parking grows inconvenient while rising in cost, more people switch from driving to riding. Less traffic lets cities transform streets for bikes, pedestrians, sidewalk cafes, and street performers.  ...   Read the whole article

Robert V. Andelson  Henry George and the Reconstruction of Capitalism
This would, of course, eliminate all speculative profit in landholding, squeeze the "speculative water" out of land prices, and in effect bring back the frontier by making cheap land readily available to everyone -- at least initially. The result would be to raise the margin of production, increase real wages, and stimulate building and productivity. Eventually, the flourishing economy would cause use value to exceed the former speculative value, but instead of being engrossed by those who make no contribution to the economy, land rent would flow into the public coffers in place of taxes levied upon labor and capital. The land-value charge is really what Walt Rybeck so aptly calls "a super user's fee." For the privilege of exclusive access to and disposition of a site and its natural resources, the owner pays an indemnity to those who are thereby dispossessed -- an indemnity reflecting precisely the market value of his privilege, collected through the tax mechanism and relieving them of the burden of payment for public services. What could be more fair?

Actually, I daresay that each one of you, probably without realizing it, frequently pays something that partakes of the principle of such a "super user's fee" whether you own land or not. Every time you put money in a parking meter, you are purchasing a temporary monopoly of the parking space. Don't ever complain about having to put money in a public parking meter; it's a bargain for you. You're getting a free gift from the community -- the difference between what you pay and what a commercial parking lot in the vicinity would charge!  Read the whole article

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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper