The Dark Side of Free Parking

Nothing in life is free, not even free parking. Not only do drivers burn gallons and time circling for parking spots, but people without cars also pay the price.

University of California, Los Angeles economist Donald Shoup has argued for awhile that arbitrarily set quotasfor parking spacesdrive up costs for essentials like rent and groceries. The Washington Post’s WonkBlog recently explored this, explaining that bloated parking atSeattle apartments raisesrents by almost $250 a month. At the same time in Chicago, a third of apartment parking spaces sit empty at night.

Of course, these minimum parking requirementshurt the poor the most, who are less likely to own cars.

Asreporter Emily Badger explains, the averagecost of constructing oneabove-ground parking space is $24,000 inatypical U.S. city. Regulations require developers of shopping centers, apartments and other buildings to eatthese costs. This often results in “[forcing] people who don’t drive to subsidize those who do.” Groceries, for instance, are more expensive for everyone.

“Cities seem willing to pay any price and bear any burden to assure the survival of free parking. But do people really want free parking more than affordable housing, clean air, walkable neighborhoods, good urban design, and many other public goals?” Shoup writes in ACCESS Magazine.”A city where everyone happily pays for everyone else’s free parking is a fool’s paradise.”

Here are some solutions to the inequality caused byfree parking.

Surge-Pricing for Meters

Side profile of a young man using a parking meter in a parking lot
Photo Credit: Thinkstock

People will find a way to work with limited parking if they have to. And the demandfor parking decreases when people have to pay more for it. While an unpopular move, it seems that not onlyshould businesses charge for parking, but they should charge more.

A study in downtown San Francisco found that by increasing pricesat high-use times of day freed up areas that used to be jammed with cars. Furthermore, drivers were circling for parking half as much.

Lowering Parking Space Requirements

Mother and child (3-4 years) in supermarket car park with shopping, three quarter length
Photo Credit: Thinkstock

We can blame 15 percent of Seattle’s skyrocketing rent on parking, according to a Sightline Institutestudy. The simplest solution to cutting that cost is building less parking in the first place.

We can follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles, which cut its requirements for parking spacesfor housing units from two spaces to one in 1999.

Using Driverless Cars

In the near future, we may be able to turn to the rise ofdriverless carsas a solution to our parking problem.Experts estimatethese robot-operated carscouldcut the need for parking by 90 percent.

Instead of spending 20minutes lookingfor a parking space, people could use aservice similar toUber to pick them up and drop them off more efficiently.

Catering to Sustainable Commuters

FotoFlexer_Photo
Photo Credit: Thinkstock

As Care2 writer Anna B. notes, the average parking space for a car has room for 10 bikes.Our cities’ obsession with parking minimums make clear that car driverstake priority to more sustainable commuters.Plentiful spaces at homes and offices incentivize driving and give people little motivation to change, while spaces to lock up bikes remain sparse.

It’s past time to flip that narrative by increasing availability to bike racks; including more public transit stops close to where people live and work, makingsustainable commuters more likely; and slashing those parking minimums to help the environment and the poor.

In fact, cities likeLondonand Paris haveestablished parking maximums. We should jump on that bandwagon.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

112 comments

Jetana A
Jetana A2 months ago

something to consider, for sure

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Thomas M
Past Member 2 months ago

thank you

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Camilla V
Camilla Vaga2 months ago

thx

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Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine Andersen2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Jack Y
Jack Y2 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y2 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J5 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J5 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Jeanne R
Jeanne Rogersabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne Rogersabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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