Results for “free parking”
41 found

The High Cost of Free Parking, continued

A collection of nearly 50 cars that is parked on the streets is revving-up the tempers of neighbors in an unincorporated community of Covina. According to several neighbors and DMV records, the cars belong to 51 year old Mark Shoff who lives in the 16000 block of Kingside Drive.

Shoff keeps five unregistered vehicles in the driveway of his home and at least 43 over vehicles are parked in the neighborhood's surrounding streets.


Here is more and the hat tip goes to the other Duncan Black.

Kling on free parking

Arnold isn't convinced:

If we abolished free parking, would parking spaces be scarcer? Keep in mind that if the price of parking went up, this would cause movement along the supply curve as well as along the demand curve. Maybe the total number of parking places would decline (it depends on elasticities), but the one result you can predict with certainty is that the number of unused parking places would go up. Is that necessarily welfare-improving?

The key is not to "abolish" free parking, but to a) abolish minimum parking requirements, and b) put prices or higher prices on congested municipal-owned parking spaces.  Both a) and b) will lower the demand for parking and a) will lower the supply of parking, so why should the number of unused parking spaces necessarily go up?  If you treat something as an appropriately scarce resource, it should be used more effectively.

There are plenty of DC restaurants which don't have their own parking lots, but they use paid valet parking and find ingenious ways to store cars more effectively.  The parking fee means that some people walk there or use the Metro, rather than driving and parking.  No one finds this arrangement especially objectionable and while valet parking is at a discount to market still it is priced.  At lunch time valet parking is less likely but still people pay to park, usually in nearby lots.  No one would suggest that these restaurants be forced to put in minimum parking.  Nor would anyone suggest that mandated minimums would be neutral with respect to parking efficiency.

I'm simply asking for the same switch in reverse, namely to do away with minimum parking requirements.  Very likely, such a change will have a bigger impact on future developments than on past developments (it can be hard to reconfigure a parking lot), although some malls might sell off or rent their now-liberated parking spots to other commercial ventures.

Pricing parking on busy residential streets is just common sense S&D and the price should vary with peak times.

Most of all, I am calling for "parking recalculation," so I am surprised Arnold is skeptical.  Maybe he thinks the recalculation won't bring much change (the Wal-Mart in North Dakota may never charge for parking), but in fact we find a wide variety of parking pricing practices around the world and even around the U.S., as laws and institutions and real net prices vary.

You could argue that politics already pushes us to somewhat efficient outcomes for policy, as indeed NYC does usually (though not always) treat parking spaces as more scarce than does Fargo, North Dakota.  Still, there is an obvious chain for political failure.  Development decisions are very often made on a one-by-one, sequential basis.  Other merchants, or nearby homeowners, fear parking overflow and they lobby as if this private cost were actually a social cost.  At each step of development, lots of parties are pushing for minimum parking requirements.  Some "once-and-for-all" parking policy decisions could limit this political incentive. 

Another simple public choice story is this: minimum parking limits the supply of land and boosts the returns to local homeowners.  It raises retail prices but many of the store's customers are from out of town, so that is a vote-winning strategy at the local level, namely scarcer land and higher prices for stores.

People who drive cars also have disproportionately more political power than people who do not, especially in most suburban areas.

Most of the time, legal quantity minimums have real effects on markets and they are not set efficiently at the political level.

Addendum: Here is Arnold's response to Robin, here is Robin on Arnold.  And yet more from Arnold.  And here is an O'Toole comment; for one thing there is free parking in Manhattan, but for another…I never claimed there was.

From the comments: "A note of clarification about free parking in Manhattan. By law meters are prohibited on residential streets. Only on commercial streets and corners are meters allowed. Residential parking permits are also prohibited by the state. This means that in many parts of the island (mostly above 59th street though also in certain areas of lower Manhattan) there is "free" parking at the curb. In these neighborhoods there is substantial cruising for parking. In addition, all of Manhattan was subject to minimum parking requirements until 1982, and now areas north of Central Park (roughly) are subject to minimum parking requirements, as are the other boroughs."

The economics of free parking

Here is my latest NYT column, for the ideas I am indebted to pointers from Daniel Klein, Matt Yglesias, and of course Donald Shoup.

Here is the bottom line:

If developers were allowed to face directly the high land costs of providing so much parking, the number of spaces would be a result of a careful economic calculation rather than a matter of satisfying a legal requirement. Parking would be scarcer, and more likely to have a price – or a higher one than it does now – and people would be more careful about when and where they drove.

The subsidies are largely invisible to drivers who park their cars – and thus free or cheap parking spaces feel like natural outcomes of the market, or perhaps even an entitlement. Yet the law is allocating this land rather than letting market prices adjudicate whether we need more parking, and whether that parking should be free. We end up overusing land for cars – and overusing cars too. You don’t have to hate sprawl, or automobiles, to want to stop subsidizing that way of life.

Here are a few quotations from the article:

“Minimum parking requirements act like a fertility drug for cars.”


As Professor Shoup puts it: “Who pays for free parking? Everyone but the motorist.”


If we don’t give away cars, why give away parking spaces?

What are the biggest problems with the idea?  First, the danger of spillover parking means that a lot of parking has to be properly priced all at once.  If the local K-Mart has a smaller lot, you don't want the customers flooding a neighborhood street and simply shifting the problem.  The proper correction requires a coordinated pricing and enforcement effort, not only to succeed, but also to be sufficiently popular with homeowners.  Fortunately, most of the coordination can be done at the level of the individual town or city.

Second, we don't yet know how many more spaces would be priced in the absence of legal minimum parking requirements, and how many fewer car trips there would be, especially if we are holding the quantity and quality of mass transit constant.  The employer still may wish to subsidize appearance at the workplace.  Alternatively, "parking fees as lump sum tax" is fine by me and it bears an odd but pleasant connection to Georgist ideas.  Another possibility is that a lot of parking is shifted to satellite lots, combined with small buses or shuttles; Tysons Corner Mall already does this at Christmas or consider any number of airports.  That still would improve land use (and welfare), but it remains an open question how much congestion and emissions would get better.

Mark Thoma discusses some distributional issues.  I would note that less land for parking should lower other real estate and retail prices, even if more poor people end up taking the bus.  And the very poorest Americans often don't have cars at all.

End Central Planning for Parking

Donald Shoup’s Letter in support of California’s AB 1401 which deregulates parking is a marvel; funny, incisive, economically informed. Brilliant.

California has been waiting for AB 1401 for a long time. In 2005, the American Planning Association published The High Cost of Free Parking, an 800-page book in which I argued that minimum parking requirements increase housing costs, subsidize cars, worsen traffic congestion, pollute the air and water, damage the economy, degrade urban design, encourage sprawl, reduce walkability, exclude poor people, and accelerate global warming. To my knowledge, no city planner has argued that minimum parking requirements do not cause these harmful effects. Instead, a flood of recent research has shown that minimum parking requirements do produce all these harmful results. We are poisoning our cities with too much parking.

Minimum parking requirements are almost an established religion in city planning. One shouldn’t criticize anyone else’s religion, of course, but I’m a protestant when it comes to parking requirements. City planning needs a reformation, and AB 1401 can help.

City planners are placed in a difficult position when asked to set parking requirements in zoning ordinances. They don’t know the demand for parking at every apartment building, art gallery, bowling alley, dance hall, fitness club, movie theater, pet store, tavern, zoo, or hundreds of other land uses. Planners also do not know how much the required parking spaces cost or how the parking requirements affect the cost of housing and everything else. Nevertheless, planners must set the parking requirements for every land use.

Planning for parking is an ad-hoc talent learned on the job and is more a political activity than a professional skill. Despite a lack of theory and data, planners have managed to set parking requirements for hundreds of land uses in thousands of cities—the Ten Thousand Commandments for off-street parking.

…Cities usually require or restrict parking without considering the middle ground of neither a minimum nor a maximum. This behavior recalls a Soviet maxim: “What is not required must be prohibited.” AB 1401, however, is something new. It does not require or restrict parking, and developers can provide all the parking they think demand justifies.

…Minimum parking requirements work against…transit investments. For example, Los Angeles is building the Purple Line under Wilshire Boulevard, which already boasts the city’s most frequent bus service. Nevertheless, along parts of Wilshire Boulevard the city requires at least 2.5 parking spaces for every dwelling unit, even for the smallest apartments. Twenty public transit lines serve the UCLA campus near Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood, with 119 buses per hour arriving during the morning peak. Nevertheless, across the street from campus, Los Angeles requires 3.5 parking spaces for every apartment that contains more than four rooms.

California has expensive housing for people and free parking for cars.

Read the whole thing.

“Get Out of Jail Free” Cards

In the movies I’ve seen people who try to get out of a traffic ticket by telling the police officer they made a donation to the policeman’s ball, but those were comedies. I had no idea that not only does this exist there are official cards. In fact, the police in New York are livid that the number of cards is being limited:

The city’s police-officers union is cracking down on the number of “get out of jail free” courtesy cards distributed to cops to give to family and friends.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association boss Pat Lynch slashed the maximum number of cards that could be issued to current cops from 30 to 20, and to retirees from 20 to 10, sources told The Post.

The cards are often used to wiggle out of minor trouble such as speeding tickets, the theory being that presenting one suggests you know someone in the NYPD.

The rank and file is livid.

“They are treating active members like s–t, and retired members even worse than s–t,” griped an NYPD cop who retired on disability. “All the cops I spoke to were . . . very disappointed they couldn’t hand them out as Christmas gifts.”

A Christmas gift of institutionalized corruption.

Here’s another article on these cards which just gets all the more stunning.

First, there are tiers of cards. Silver cards are the highest honor given to citizens. It’s almost universally honored by officers, and can also help save money on insurance. Gold PBA cards are only given to police officers and their families. You’d be hard-pressed finding a cop who won’t honor a gold card.

Gold and silver cards! It gets better. You can buy these cards on eBay. Here’s a gold New Jersey card on sale for $114. A silver “family member” shield goes for $299. Some of these are probably fake. The gold and silver are rare but remember, cops get 20 to 30 regular cards so you can see why they might be upset at losing them.

The regular cards have become more common as NYC hires more police. The union may in fact be trying to bump up its monopoly profit by restricting supply.

The cards don’t just go to family members. The rot is deep:

Union officials say the cards are also public relations tools and tokens of appreciation handed out to politicians, judges, lawyers, businessmen, civil service workers and members of the news media.

A retired police officer on Quora explains how the privilege is enforced:

The officer who is presented with one of these cards will normally tell the violator to be more careful, give the card back, and send them on their way.

…The other option is potentially more perilous. The enforcement officer can issue the ticket or make the arrest in spite of the courtesy card. This is called “writing over the card.” There is a chance that the officer who issued the card will understand why the enforcement officer did what he did, and nothing will come of it. However, it is equally possible that the enforcement officer’s zeal will not be appreciated, and the enforcement officer will come to work one day to find his locker has been moved to the parking lot and filled with dog excrement.

He’s not kidding. Here is what seems like a real police officer on a cop chat room (from Mimesis law)

It’s important for me to get in touch with shield [omitted] and ask him why he felt it necessary to say “I’m not even going to look at that” to my PBA card and proceed [sic] to write a speeding ticket on the Bronx River Parkway yesterday afternoon to my fukking WIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ll show him the courtesy he so sorely lacks by not posting his name on a public forum.

Any help would be appreciated.  Please inbox me.

I will find you.

I find these cards especially odious as more and more police are funding themselves through fines and forfeitures. Discriminatory taxation increases the tax rate. It’s one rule for the ruler and another for the ruled.

The cards are not a secret but I agree with my colleague Mark Koyama who remarked:

Sometimes you find out something about the country you live in that makes it appear little better than a corrupt, tinpot, banana republic.

Shout It From the Rooftops: Parking is a Scarce Resource!

Donald Shoup, whose work on parking has been featured on MR on several occasions, is retiring. Patrick Siegman, “the first Shoupista”, has written an appreciation which includes this excellent quote from Shoup’s classic study, Cashing Out Employer-Paid Parking:

Minimum parking requirements in the planning profession are closely analogous to bloodletting in the medical profession. For over two thousand years doctors prescribed bloodletting to cure most diseases, and medical textbooks contained elaborate parking-requirement-like tables telling exactly how much blood should be let from exactly which part of the body, and when, for every disease…

One strong similarity between bloodletting and minimum parking requirements is the general public acquiescence to both practices without any scientific research on their effects…

Another similarity between bloodletting and minimum parking requirements is the harm caused by both practices. In the case of bloodletting, the problem was magnified because physicians didn’t clean their instruments before proceeding to the next patient. In the case of parking requirements, the problem is magnified when planners require far more parking than is demanded even when all parking is free. Recall here that Willson (1992) found that the number of parking spaces required by zoning ordinances was double the peak accumulation of cars parked at suburban office sites in Southern California.

A final similarity between bloodletting and minimum parking requirements is that the practice of bloodletting gradually fell out of use, and minimum parking requirements in zoning ordinances are gradually being replaced by parking caps.

For much of his career, Shoup was a lonely voice shouting in the wilderness but he shouted reason and fact and his work has had increasing influence in recent years.

Addendum: Here is Tyler’s NYT column on Shoup’s work, Free Parking Comes at a Price.

Paying for Parking

Parking is too cheap and the price is too sticky. As Tyler wrote in his NYT column:

If developers were allowed to face directly the high land costs of providing so much parking, the number of spaces would be a result of a careful economic calculation rather than a matter of satisfying a legal requirement. Parking would be scarcer, and more likely to have a price – or a higher one than it does now – and people would be more careful about when and where they drove.

The subsidies are largely invisible to drivers who park their cars – and thus free or cheap parking spaces feel like natural outcomes of the market, or perhaps even an entitlement. Yet the law is allocating this land rather than letting market prices adjudicate whether we need more parking, and whether that parking should be free. We end up overusing land for cars – and overusing cars too. You don’t have to hate sprawl,

Slowly things are beginning to change, however, as this excellent piece on parking in LA and parking scholar Donald Shoup describes:

Shoup is not opposed to all parking lots; he’s against cities requiring parking lots. “Would you require every home to come with a pool or every office to include a dining room because someone might want it?” asks Shoup. “Why not let developers build parking where the market demands it and charge its true value?”

…This spring the DOT plans to introduce an $18.5 million smart wireless meter system based on Shoup’s theories. Called ExpressPark, the 6,000-meter array will be installed on downtown streets and lots, along with sensors buried in the pavement of every parking spot to detect the presence of cars and price accordingly, from as little as 50 cents an hour to $6. Street parking, like pork bellies, will be open to market forces. As blocks fill, prices will rise; when occupancy drops, so will rates. In an area like downtown, ideal for Shoup’s progressive pricing, people will park based on how much they’re willing to pay versus how far they are willing to walk to a destination. In a trendy area like Melrose Avenue’s shopping district, where parking on side streets is forbidden to visitors, Shoup would open those residential blocks to market-priced meters, wooing home owners by guaranteeing that meter profits would be turned over to them in the form of property tax deductions. (That benefit could add up to thousands of dollars a year per household.)

Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood is already experimenting with a version of the system, and so are San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

In D.C. you can now pay many parking meters via cell-phone. I’ve used the system and it works well.

Here are previous MR posts on parking.

Parking fact of the day

On average [in the U.S.] a new parking space has cost 17 percent more than a new car.  Drivers may not realize it, but many parking spaces cost more than the cars parked in them, especially because cars depreciate in value much faster than parking spaces do…the parking supply is worth more than the vehicle stock.

That is from Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking, a detailed, economically insightful, data-rich, and lengthy, impassioned plea for charging people for parking spaces.  Here is Dan Klein’s excellent review of the book.

What is behind the spread of so many mass protests?

One frequent theme is people objecting to a price increase. In Ecuador,  a focal point of the protests has been a demand for restoration of fuel subsidies. Petroleum price subsidies also have been central to the Haitian protests. In Lebanon, citizens have been upset at a new tax levied on the use of WhatsApp, with a social media tax also having been an issue in Uganda. In Sudan cuts to food and fuel subsidies have been a major complaint. In Chile they are protesting subway fare hikes.

The trend is that price increases may continue to become less popular. And, crucially, the internet will help people organize against such changes.

Consider that an old-style labor-oriented protest can be organized through the workplace or plant itself, through on-the-ground techniques that long predate the internet. There is a common locale and set of social networks in place, including perhaps a union. Those who suffer from a price increase, in contrast, typically do not know each other or have common social ties. Just about everyone buys gasoline, either directly or indirectly. The internet, however, makes it possible to mobilize these people into protests with prices as the common theme.

In other words: Protests of workers seem to be becoming less important, and protests of consumers are becoming more important.

You may recall that one of the original demands of the “gilets jaunes” protests in France was for free parking in Disneyland Paris. If you think that sounds a little crazy, you haven’t yet internalized the nature of the new millennium.

In the future, efficiency-enhancing or austerity-induced changes in prices may be much harder to accomplish politically. The new trend is neither central planning nor market liberal reforms, but rather frozen prices, especially when those prices are set in the political realm.

Here is the rest of my latest Bloomberg column on that topic.  Two further points: my global warming point I pulled from Noah Smith, though I could no longer find his tweet to cite. Furthermore, many of the recent protests, such as in Spain, fit a more political and ethnic model, I am not saying price increases are always the major factor.

More on the interactions between humans and self-driving vehicles

Up from Central Square towards Harvard Square is a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue that is mixed residential and commercial, with metered parking. A few weeks ago I needed to stop at the UPS store there and ship a heavy package. There were no free parking spots so I soon found myself cruising up and down along about a 100 meter stretch, waiting for one to open up. The thought occurred to me that if I had had a level 4 or 5 self driving car I could have left it to do that circling, while I dropped into the store.

Such is the root of anti-social behavior.

And more:

(1) People will jump out of their car at a Starbucks to run in and pick up their order knowingly leaving it not in a legal parking spot, perhaps blocking others, but knowing that it will take care of getting out of the way if some other car needs to move or get by. That will be fine in the case there is no such need, but in the case of need it will slow everything down just a little. And perhaps the owner will be able to set the tolerance on how uncomfortable things have to get before the car moves. Expect to see lots of annoyed people. And before long grocery store parking lots, especially in a storm, will just be a sea of cars improperly parked waiting for their owners.

(2) This is one for the two (autonomous) car family. Suppose someone is going to an event in the evening and there is not much parking nearby. And suppose autonomous cars are now always prowling neighborhoods waiting for their owners to summon them, so it takes a while for any particular car to get through the traffic to the pick up location. Then the two car family may resort to a new trick so that they don’t have to wait quite so long as others for their cars to get to the front door pick up at the conclusion of the big social event. They send one of their cars earlier in the day to find the closest parking spot that it can, and it settles in for a long wait. They use their second car to drop them at the event and send it home immediately. When the event is over their first autonomous car is right there waiting for them–the cost to the commons was a parking spot occupied all day by one of their cars.

In sum:

They are seeing the technical possibilities and not seeing the resistance that will come with autonomous agents invading human spaces, be they too rude or overly polite.

That is by Rodney Brooks, the piece has other points of interest, via Tim Harford.

Increasing the “velocity” of automobiles

That is borrowing a phrase from Arthur Marget, of course I do not mean mph:

A San Francisco-based company is putting yet another spin on the Washington area’s sharing economy, giving travelers flying out of Dulles International Airport free parking and a car wash in exchange for permission to rent their cars to other drivers.

FlightCar launches Wednesday at Dulles and two other U.S. airports. Participating travelers can drop off their cars at a designated lot near Dulles. In exchange for letting FlightCar offer a vehicle for rent, the travelers receive free parking, a Town Car ride to the airport, a car wash and per-mile payment if the vehicle is rented — to a pre-screened driver — while they’re away.

There is more here.

The Opportunity Cost of Streets

Here from Alain Bertaud and the Urbanization Project is another way of thinking not just about the high cost of free parking but also the opportunity cost of streets. In New York City, a place with some of the most valuable real estate in the world, 26.6% of the land is devoted to unpriced streets (and an even larger percentage once we include parking). In Manhattan we go to great expense and effort to make it possible for hundreds of people to use the same 10*10 square feet of land, we build skyscrapers, and yet at the same time similar quantities of land are being taken up by a few people and their cars.

NYC land use 1
Hat tip: Brandon Fuller.

Where is inequality greater?

Bryan Caplan writes:

In the U.S., we have low gas taxes, low car taxes, few tolls, strict zoning that leads developers to provide lots of free parking, low speed limits, lots of traffic enforcement, and lots of congestion.

In Europe (France and Germany specifically), they have high gas
taxes, high car taxes, lots of tolls, almost no free parking, high
speed limits (often none at all), little traffic enforcement, and very
little congestion. (The only real traffic jam I endured in Europe was
trying to get into Paris during rush hour. I was delayed about 30
minutes total).

If you had to pick one of these two systems, which would you prefer?
Or to make the question a little cleaner, if there were two otherwise
identical countries, but one had the U.S. system and the other had the
Euro system, where would you decide to live?

Much as it pains me to admit, I would choose to live in the country
with the Euro system. If you’re at least upper-middle class, the
convenience is worth the price. Yes, this is another secret way that
Europe is better for the rich, and the U.S. for everyone else.

I wonder sometimes whether inequality of status — as opposed to wealth — is greater in Western Europe or in the United States.  In this country you can love NASCAR and be proud of it.  Millionaires won’t look down on you much for that taste.  In Europe you are expected to dress well and be educated and not watch too much TV.  So the egalitarian left is in an odd position here.  On one hand it wishes to elevate the European system over the United States.  Furthermore it also wishes to claim that wealth isn’t a final determinant of happiness (i.e., Europe is worthy), while at the same time circling back to emphasize inequality of wealth as a prima facie fault of the American system. 

Tighter social networks, by inducing conformity, make a society more egalitarian along both political and economic dimensions.  Yet those same networks place especially high "taxes" on those who don’t follow the norms, thus creating another kind of inequality.

Happiness studies are highly imperfect but the inequality of measured happiness doesn’t seem to be any higher in the United States than in Western Europe.  Oddly that result doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention.