Driving a car is the ultimate freedom. You decide where you want to go and when you want to be there. The freedom comes at a price, but most people find it well worth paying.

But it all comes crashing down when it’s time to park. The freedom becomes a burden when a driver has to circle a block looking for a space, feed coins into a meter or spies a ticket tucked in a windshield wiper.

This may be why no issue in city life gets more emotional more quickly than parking. Witness events in Portland, where City Manager Mark Rees has proposed adding 50 cents to the hourly rate charged by the garages that are owned and operated by the city, boosting the rate from $1.25 an hour to $1.75.

Even though this new rate would affect only two out of more than a dozen garages in the city, or that the new rate would still be competitive with the least expensive privately managed garages and well below the city’s average rate, local businesses are complaining, saying that this increase will scare customers away from Portland.

There is a kernel of truth in what they say: Some people won’t come into town because they consider it too hard to park. They prefer shopping and eating at the mall (even though they may have to walk just as far from their car to their destination) because free parking is guaranteed.

But this kernel won’t sprout: Those people are not going to come downtown whether the price of a parking space increases by 50 cents or not. It’s not about the actual cost of adding a dollar to what they spend on a restaurant meal or a shopping trip, but the impression they have that parking in Portland is inconvenient.

Keeping the rate at $1.25 in the two garages is not going to make those people feel any better. But this public fight over the rates just fuels the idea that parking in the city is difficult and expensive, and the fact that this argument is in the news will do more to drive people away than a modest price hike would.

A more useful conversation should be how to make Portland easier to navigate without a car, and how city businesses can better leverage the unique strengths the city has to offer over out-of-town competition. A free first hour in the city-owned garages is an idea worth exploring, but also would not likely change the minds of those who incorrectly think that Portland parking is hard to manage.

The city and the business community should keep working together to make the city friendlier to visitors, but both sides should keep the argument from getting too emotional.