Is Croton’s fee-setting policy based on the philosophy that we will sock train station parkers with all that the traffic can bear? It seems that way. But the inept Schmidt administration may be forgetting Aesop’s fable about the couple who, in search of immediate reward, killed the goose that laid a golden egg. Croton’s shortsighted actions to increase revenue from its down-at-the-heels station parking lot are proving to be downright disastrous.
Whenever parking lot users complain about deteriorating conditions at the lot and the unjustified rate increases, Mayor Schmidt’s insensitive response is the tired old promise to do better, followed by his self-serving, imperious rationalization. “These are the rates we charge,” he intones repeatedly, almost as a mantra. He also is not above mouthing a blatant lie, “We run the parking lot like a business.” What a laugh! Mr. Mayor, do you know any successful business that cuts services and simultaneously raises prices, as Croton does? Mr. Mayor, do you know of any mindful business that ignores the pricing structure used by its competitors, as Croton does? Mr. Mayor, do you know any business that damages or destroys its customers’ property and then denies responsibility, as Croton does?
Pricing any service or commodity can be a ticklish operation in which many factors are at work. Fail to take them into consideration, and one risks killing the goose that lays the golden egg. On an annual basis, residents will now pay $600 a year and nonresidents $1,032 a year. Add these numbers to M.T.A. commuting fares, and residents are paying $3,156 annually to get to work and nonresidents are paying $3,588. As discontent rises, for every discouraged nonresident who no longer parks at Croton’s station parking lot and whose space is then given to a resident, the village stands to lose $432 annually.
Run like a business? Mayor Schmidt has got to be kidding. In Croton, the Mayor and his two newly elected hand puppets named Tom and Sue have a complicated scientific formula: They decide how much will be needed to cover this litigious village’s anticipated legal expenses and adjust parking rates accordingly. On the other hand, at the Cortlandt station (map), parking lot prices are sensibly set on a sliding scale. Pay your Cortlandt parking fee annually instead of quarterly, and you get a 10% discount.
The prospect that a user of the Croton lot could go elsewhere and save money is indeed real. The Mayor has simply neglected to do his homework, so Crotonblog has done it for him. Croton nonresident parkers can switch to Cortlandt and, despite the fact that their monthly commutation train fare will go up $38 because of the change, at the end of a year, those who switched from Croton to Cortlandt will have saved as much as $235.62. And this despite the fact that at Cortlandt parkers also have to pay a sales tax on fees because the lot is run by a private entity! In addition to the dollar savings, parkers at the Cortlandt station lot, which is about to be enlarged, will find it more easily accessible, safer (it adjoins the State Police barracks), and is not flood-prone but dry as a bone.
Nor is the Mayor above telling bald-faced lies to justify Croton’s exorbitant prices. When a lot user compared Croton’s excessive charges with the low prices at other lots along Metro North lines, an ill-informed Mayor countered by saying dismissively, “Oh, those are lots owned by the M.T.A.” The lot user immediately shot down that lie by reading the names of the owners of the lots. They were all municipalities just like Croton. The most telling remark was made by Maria Cudequest to justify Crotons disastrous pricing policy of punitive setting of nonresident rates: ”I don’t intend to subsidize residents who live in communities whose taxes are significantly less than ours.” The irony is that the Mayor apparently does not recognize how damning of his tax policies is that revealing remark—but vigilant Croton voters have taken note of it.
Despite emotional but valid objections from residents and nonresidents alike, Croton’s ham-handed Mayor is about to raise parking rates unconscionably again. Between 1999 and 2007, the residential parking fee went up 37% and the nonresidential fee rose 59%. Both increases are astronomical, especially in the face of declining services. They also reveal a disturbing willingness to consider all parking lot users as cash cows waiting to be milked, not to mention a strong bias against nonresidents that may prove to be disastrous in the end. Unlike Metro North, Croton does not have a monopoly on parking facilities. Mayor Schmidt should therefore not be surprised to discover that many unhappy Croton station parkers have taken their business elsewhere. Emulating the character played by Peter Finch in Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 award-winning movie “Network,” they will all roll down their car windows and shout as they depart, “I’m fed up and I’m not going to take it anymore!”