Bryan Caplan  

Paying for Parking

PRINT
Strictly Preferred to the AEA ... Market Failure in HIgher Educa...

I know less about Los Angeles, the city I grew up in, than any other place I've ever lived. Throughout my childhood, my dad's mantra was, "Goddammit, we're not going to downtown L.A.!" I always assumed drive time was the issue, but during my last visit, I made it from my childhood home to Hollywood in 25 minutes.

Puzzling. After a little detective work, I discovered that the real reason my dad refuses to go to downtown L.A. - even the nice parts - is that he hates paying for parking. And surely he's not alone. I bet even a few Econlog readers live by the slogan: Thousands for gas, insurance, and maintainence; not one penny for parking! (But perhaps you prefer George Constanza's slogan; scroll down a few lines here).

The perception of paid parking is that you are being "ripped off." But the economic reality, of course, is that it's a mutually beneficial transaction. You pay a little money, make your life easier, and give firms an incentive to create more parking. What could be less objectionable?

You could argue that there's no way to change people's minds, but I'm not so sure. Perhaps hostility to nominal wage cuts is deeply rooted in our psychology. But hostility to paid parking seems very culturally specific.

For example, my impression is that Europeans are used to paying for parking, and don't have much problem with it. It all comes down to familiarity. Thus, to the long list of economic arguments for paid parking, we can add the psychological benefit of reducing resentment of paid parking.

But admittedly, it's probably too late for my dad. He'll never know the joy of opening night at Grauman's Chinese Theater.

grauman.jpg


Comments and Sharing





COMMENTS (12 to date)
jim writes:

or of seeing any of the beautiful theaters on broadway, which are actually in downtown los angeles (and not hollywood).

Will writes:

Parking fees annoy me simply because I never transact business with cash anymore. Literally every store I shop at accepts my credit or debit card, so cash and coins are only an inconvenience. Whenever I travel to an event that requires public parking, I have to stop at an ATM and get cash, and then stop somewhere and get my cash changed into coins. I would gladly support parking fees if I could simply swipe my credit card. I imagine a lot of other people feel the same way.

If you open a public parking lot in my town with a credit card swipe, I can promise you at least one customer.

dearieme writes:

Hell, I've worked for employers where you have to pay to park. What softies you yanks be.

Raymond Nize writes:

I know less about Los Angeles, the city I grew up in, than any other place I've ever lived. Throughout my childhood, my dad's mantra was, "Goddammit, we're not going to downtown L.A.!" I always assumed drive time was the issue, but during my last visit, I made it from my childhood home to Hollywood in 25 minutes.

The first part of your comment may be a lot more accurate than you suspect. Last time I looked "Downtown L. A." was about 20 minutes from Hollywood. I would never call Hollywood, downtown L. A., anymore than I would call Staten Island, the Bronx.

bartman writes:

Thousands of people in the US have to pay to park at work: people who work at universities.

curious visitor writes:

how about Tokyo? You can't even own a car if you can't prove you have appropriate parking space.

superdestroyer writes:

I think parking (like driving) is a function of where you grew up and where you originally learned to drive.

In the past, more americans learned to drive in small towns (think 1950's). Not only do those people hate to pay for parking, they are the kid who believe that you have to park right in front on the establishment that they are frequenting. They are also the least likely to use valet parking.

Now people who live in the suburbs hate to pay to park to do things like shopping because they are used to parking for free at the mall.

Lord writes:

Parking may be a small expense when you do it once for an event, an annoyance when you are going somewhere to spend money and can always go elsewhere, but horribly expensive if you have to pay for it daily for work, which it is suppose to be since it is convince you to take public transportation.

Half Sigma writes:

People hate paying for parking because they know when they are being ripped off. Parking garages tend to be sneaky in posting the parking rates in order to trick people into paying more than they intended.

Sure parking lots cost money, but so does the rest of the infrastructure of stores. What's next, will they charge you admission to go into Bloomingdales?

Brandon Berg writes:

Sure parking lots cost money, but so does the rest of the infrastructure of stores. What's next, will they charge you admission to go into Bloomingdales?

Given that parking and purchases are independent (non-customers can park, and customers can take the bus), it makes sense to offer parking a la carte rather than bundling it into the prices of the goods. Granted, validating parking tickets with purchases can address the first issue, but it doesn't do anything to ration scarce parking spaces among customers.

Keith writes:

Evidence that "Europeans are used to paying for it" isn't evidence that it is a good thing. They are used to paying 5x our costs for gasoline and electricity too due to 1000% excise taxes. They are used to paying 17% or 19% VAT on every product or service they buy. They are used to paying to use public restrooms in department stores and even in government-provided ones.

Americans, for the most part, come from places where we have lots of space and it doesn't take a lot of capital to build a parking lot. When you've gone decades without paying for it and viewing it as a cost of entry for the store or office to provide it, it is shocking to pay $17 for two hours of parking for sure.

Scarcity "causes" value, whether it is parking, crude oil or diamonds. If your father had grown up in a land were diamonds were like sand, then moved to a place where diamonds were rare, he would be saying "I'm not gonna pay for no goddamn diamonds" in the same tone. Actually, come to think of it, bottled water is the same phenomenon... I hate paying for water. :-)

John writes:

I think we are missing a fundamental point. First, someone with capital has identified a way to serve others by providing convenience for those who would like to pay for it. Second, no one is being coerced or forced to pay for the convenience. In the case of shopping, retailers who don’t provide for parking may find themselves punished by a fickle group of customers who choose to go to a competitor instead. Maybe… Maybe not… Third, some group of customers may elect to purchase this convenience from the parking garage because they value the service. No matter what your thoughts are on paying for parking, no one is going to make you do something that you staunchly refuse to do. I mean we are talking about paying for parking… not paying for social equity.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top