Arnold Kling  

Economics of Free Parking

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Daniel B. Klein writes a review of The High Cost of Free Parking, by Donald Shoup.


Shoup shows that the magnitudes are huge. About 87 percent of all trips in the U.S. are made by personal motor vehicles, and parking is free for 99 percent of these trips (p. 590). But free parking is not a spontaneous outcome. The required parking lot at a restaurant usually occupies at least three times as much land as the restaurant itself.

Read the whole thing. Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Adam writes:

That was an excellent review. I am an urban planner that works for a medium-sized municipality in Canada. I am far more market-orientated in my beliefs than most urban planners. It frustrates me when commercial or residential developments in higher-density areas or along roads where transit exists are required to meet what I call 'suburban' parking requirements. The politicians complain that no one uses transit, yet they require developments to provide more parking spaces than they need. Don't they see the connection between the two?

I like the idea of privitazing on-street parking. Most residents or business think they own the street in front of their house, so why not sell them the parking spot in front of their house? Let them decide what to do with it.

spencer writes:

On the other hand the worse example I know of inadequate parking is at the ends of the subway lines out of Boston. At both ends of the Red line, for esample, the parking garages fill up very early in the morning and force many people to drive into Boston rather then use the subway.

Mikko Särelä writes:

spencer, that sounds like either parking inside Boston is subsidized, or that zoning or other problems prevent private parking spaces in the subway line ends. Land has got to be cheaper at the end of the subway line than inside the city, so it should be possible to make parking cheaper there too. Does the city possibly own the land around the subway stations and for some reason not use it for parking structures?

Tilde writes:

In Berkeley, where I grew up, there was something that you might find interesting. Curb areas in different parts of the city would be denoted with different letters, and you had to buy a yearly pass to park in that area of town. As far as I know, there was no limit to how many of each permit could be sold or how many differnt passes one person could buy.

spencer writes:

It is a combination of problems at the end of the subway lines. There is not much land available, and I do not know who owns the empty lot. The managers have taken some steps to expand parking, but they just work for a short time before traffic expands to fill the additional parking.

Really, it was a problem of planing-- or dynamic forecasting. The original parking garage was fine for about 5 years until traffic grew too big for it.

But this is true for just about every transportation project. Planners always seem to underestimate traffic growth and I would love to see someone explain why private planners would do a better job of traffic projection then public planner. Interestingly, in China they are building massive roads to facilitate projected rural-city links that are years into the future. So you you have many virturally unused super highways.

In terms of pricing if you want to play with this issue. If costs $5 to park at the end of the subway line vs $15-$20 downtown and a round-trip subway ticket is $2. So it is much cheaper --and more convient -- to take the subway. But that is a desirable public policy because you want to discourage people from driving into extremely congested downtown Boston. This gets into the London congestion pricing experiment -- it works because there is very good alternative public transportation. If London did not have very good bus and subway systems the congestion pricing scheme probably would have failed.

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