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.

Comments

Not getting the analogy.

Don't bother -- Shoupians is a belief system. If you close your eyes long enough you can almost pretend the reasons Americans don't like living in cities is the free parking everywhere.

So you think subsidizing something doesn't increase consumption of it?

How is requiring building owners to pay for extra parking spaces subsidization?

If the government passed a law requiring every apartment building to make a hot bowl of oatmeal for each resident every morning, that would constitute a subsidy for the oatmeal industry, correct? This seems like a straightforward application of the same theory.

If that's what you're thinking, it's pretty indirect. I guess you're arguing it's subsidizing the car makers to build parking spots that go unused?

It's much more directly a tax on builders, a way of spreading things out, keeping property values high, and keeping the riff-raff out. In my very leftist town that's explicitly discussed at town meetings. We "need" to require lots of parking to keep any big development from occurring in the town center. Nobody cares about making it a little easier for Honda to sell things, and that effect has got to be tiny. What they want to avoid is someone opening a Chili's.

The goal isn't to subsidize automakers, it's to subsidize individuals who own cars. The best analogy would be fuel subsidies--if the government of Qatar ensures that gasoline is available for $1/gallon, then Qataris who own cars will reap a benefit, at the expense of those who don't. This does cause an increase in the demand for cars and thus help automakers, but it's not the main purpose of the policy.

If they're requiring parking spaces that go unused, it's not a subsidy to car-owners.

Besides, it very clearly is not intended to subsidize cars. It's a local-scale immigration control. You can't build unless you're a certain desirable kind of place.

There is a Qatari that doesn't own a car? I mean, there might be one or two that don't own a Mercedes. Maybe. Nah, no.

To address your strained analogy, it's not like the government is setting a price on gasoline, it's like the government requiring every gas station burn an extra gallon for every gallon you buy. Requiring unused spots effectively makes everything about building more expensive, including providing parking.

You're so wrong I'm not even going to bother responding substantively.

You call it subsidizing, I call it "I pay my taxes to build roads."

I call that "socializing costs."

Roads are fine. It's free storage for empty cars masquerading as roads that are the problem.

Do you live in a city? Do you have free parking? My residental spot cost $25,000. Parking downtown in DC can be between 8 to 40 dollars. Maybe an economist could explain the early bird specials to me.

I've had to pay out over 1500 over 10 years on parking tickets. Lord knows how much on meters.

Cities don't have free parking.

I work in a city rather than live there. My parking costs roughly $5k a year. Over the life of my car, it will cost more than the car itself.

As an aside, this will be one of the big wins if driverless cars work out: it will drastically lower the cost of car ownership for urban people. The car could drive outside the dense urban core to park, substituting a couple of dollars in gas consumption for a $30 parking spot charge.

Have you ever driven around the capital hill region? Tons of free parking there, provided you live there. And your price for parking is off by about an order of magnitude. If I wanted to get a parking spot for my building, it'd be $200 a month. I'm in Penn Quarter/China Town, so I dunno where you're living.

Regardless, the problem is less in the city (though it DOES exist in the city) than it in moderate density suburbs where all of the parking lots preclude actual population density.

The point is to internalize the cost of parking. Having a pay a fee for a parking spot basically does this, although those prices may deflated because of over-building of spots to begin with. As an example, I lived in a building near Petworth a while back, and they had a 4-level garage that was never more than half full. So they charged you for parking, but they charged a pittance (relative to the rest of the city) because they had way too much of it.

The capital hill region of what city?

Sorry, wasn't meant for me I guess. Mavery is talking about DC.

"If I wanted to get a parking spot for my building, it’d be $200 a month."

$200/mo is $2400/year. At 10% ROIC, that means the parking space is $24,000 in capital price.

"...so I dunno where you’re living."

Seems like someplace where parking costs ~$210 per month, or $7 per day.

There is no benefit to bloodletting but there certainly is for driving (and parking close to work).

Were these parking spaces measured against demand at the time or expected demand in the future?

"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."

Notice the totalitarian impulse at work: "...replaced by PARKING CAPS."

If the problem is that minimum parking requirements distort the market causing allocative inefficiency and waste, then parking caps will be at least as bad if not worse.

But the Shoupians' real agenda, endorsed by Shoup himself, isn't to let the parking market find an equilibrium. It's to constrain parking as a way to discourage mobility. The Shoupians don't really hate the waste in parking mandates, they hate the way those mandates help people move around more conveniently in automobiles, without incurring excessive parking-search costs and related frictions.

Shoup likes to rant about how wasteful it is that suburban carports are empty during the day and downtown parking structures are empty at night. Shoup says the overall ratio of parking spaces to cars should be about 1.2! That sounds like wisdom until you realize that suburban easy chairs are also empty during the day and downtown swivel chairs at night. Does that mean we should make everyone sleep under their desks like a divorcee just kicked out by his ex?

In fact the separation of industrial and commercial neighborhoods from residential ones is desirable, and providing parking in both realms for use during their respective busy times is perfectly rational, and the Shoupians are nitwits.

It's curious that socialistic Europe separates housing/rent from parking costs and no one complains.

What sort of building restrictions are there in Europe? I bet developers could make that Paris skyline a lot higher. And, it would mean cheaper housing for more immigrants. Win-win-win all around.

Cheaper housing means paying for an apartment and parking place by separate. If you don't have a car, you save the money of the parking place.

With minimum parking requirements you pay for the parking place in every month's rent. The owner had to pay to build that space, he's not offering it free.

This sounds like a choice made by the developers and not Europeans in general, nothing stopping an apartment complex here from doing the same thing and I'm sure many do.

Oh yeah, Europe has totally liberal building laws. That's why all those old buildings are long-gone in favor of modern, efficient stuff.

When we lived in Edinburgh in the seventies the council enforced maximum parking limits. This avoided people demolishing a magnificent city, stopped the roads jamming, and kept a good commuter rail and excellent bus system working. Having to buy residents' parking permits worked well too; it stopped the roads being obstructed with parked cars to the detriment of their use as roads. These rules also encouraged people to live close to their work; there was plenty of room for people to walk to work, and many did. The thing is, much free market reasoning, though routinely far superior to socialist reasoning, looks feebler when it's dealing not with dilute systems, but with high density systems. The art then is to use some combination of fiat and pricing mechanisms. I even had to pay to park at work, which seemed a sensible use of pricing to me. Pity that California seems unable to introduce a rational pricing system for water.

The same soft totalitarianism was applied to their banking creating the first bank run seen in Europe for 60 years. My daughter lived in Edinburgh for two years in a very large old house that the owners were trying to sell but couldn't and wanted an occupant to keep it up. She paid the council fees and lived quite well. No problem with cars and parking, there was no demand.

The easiest ways to get rid of parking issues is to slow down the economy.

By the way, the bloodletting rant borders on Goodwins law.

Are you saying that you needed to pay a monthly parking fee to park your car in your driveway or garage??

In California, and the West in general as a consequence of Spanish law, people own the water by law, which is what capitalists say results in the best use of resources like water. Farmers who own water are using the water for farming because if they don't the value of their farmland heads toward zero.

Likewise, in California, people own the land, so the landowners get to decide if it will be developed for housing as economists would dictate. However, California have rich people who like a vast view of undeveloped land and will pay a lot of money to keep land free of houses, streets, parked cars.

It is on other people's water, land, parking spaces that economists all of a sudden become socialists calling for government takeover and government renting of land and water on a revenue maximum basis.

I don't live in Europe but in the US west of this Mississippi, I can't imagine what magnificent city you are referring to. It certainly isn't my hometown of Houston, where the planning loons won't shut up about evil parking requirements even as the city densifies due to market forces, or even beloved San Francisco where almost every picturesque Victorian was torn down by the mid 70s to build public housing or had a garage rammed into its ground floor by 1980.

Every planning nerd from Yuma to Minneapolis whines about parking requirements, but then in Houston they have even decided that historical preservation applies to ranch houses with carports and toothpaste green tile.

http://www.glenbrookvalley.org/Glenbrook_Valley/History.html

I grew up in Las Vegas where I never, ever thought about parking, in the sense of "Can I find a space in under two minutes?" Later, living in Baltimore I found myself literally living out a Seinfeld episode. Driving home one day, I lucked into a space on the curb on Charles Street right in front of my apartment building. A couple days later I was considering driving somewhere but hestitated because if I did I would lose that sweet spot where my car was resting. Then I remembered that exact scenario playing out on Seinfeld with George Constanza's father's car, and I felt embarrassed of myself.

The moral of this story? I don't know, there might be one.

Baltimore is an old city, at least by US standards.

Pretty sure the moral is that when parking is tough, you don't want to drive as much. Incentives!
Of course, if there is nowhere to go in your neighborhood, it is a bit of a disappointment...

I've invented an inflatable Volkswagen Super Beetle replica that can be kept in the trunk of your car. When you wish to leave your primo parking space, you can blow up the Fauxwagen with the exhaust of your real car and then leave it in the space you're vacating, confident that it will be there when you return. There's a small cement block in each bogus tire so the wind doesn't blow it away. You can order one here: http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/

Unless you pair such a policy with liberalized land use laws that allow dense residential development in the city core, you are going to create a dystopia where the poor can neither afford to live near work, nor live far away and park at work, nor afford to live close enough to good public transit lines to take those to work.

You have it exactly wrong. People left dense, residential development in the city core so they could have yards and stand-alone houses, and not have to put up with all the vibrancy.

And now they are moving back into the city to have vibrancy. Unfortantley, they like to comment on blogs and wonder why they don't have enough money to buy a place.

And now they are moving back into the city to have vibrancy.

Heh. Gay neighbors and aggressive cops are expensive.

People left dense residential development because large portions of it were torn down for highways and cars were favored over pedestrians, and since these cars and trucks all burned a lot dirtier, the air got worse.
If they tore down your neighbors house and built a highway outside your window, you'd want to move too...

I don't think that's correct. Developers wouldn't be forbidden from including parking, they just would not be required to include a minimum amount. If there is demand for parking, it'll get built.

If people can afford to pay for parking it will be built, but if people can't afford to pay, they will park anywhere they can even if its illegal, and that will lead to those who can pay parking illegally too.

In such a world wages would presumably need to be increased in the city to keep/attract people to work there. Otherwise the elites will have no one to clean their buildings or make their coffee.

There is a strip mall just off of Rt 3 West in Clifton, NJ. Standard stuff, Starbucks, Chipotle, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. The demand for spaces vastly exceeds the supply, especially on the weekend when the right lane of Rt 3 is invariably backed up for a quarter mile with people trying to get into the lot, and non-shoppers stuck in the right lane who cannot pull into the crowded middle lane (~50mph) from a dead stop. Rt 3 is rife with accidents (I was caught up in a bad one myself a couple of years ago), and shopping with insufficient parking (and road bandwidth) is certainly a cause. Rt 17 is similar, maybe worse.

I'm not at all opposed to the market pricing of most parking and roads. But insufficient parking in dense suburbs can create a public safety issues and impose negative externalities on non-shoppers. Further, because a lot of shopping is networked (stores usually locate near other stores), it's not clear that the Nash equilibrium of individual stores choosing the number and price of spaces will be anywhere near socially efficient, even putting aside the safety and non-shopper externality issues; in fact, it is easy to construct examples where a regulator who imposes spaces can save stores from themselves.

Correct me if I'm wrong but the stores in your example wouldn't set the parking policy, the strip mall they rent from would.

Jay, I believe you are correct for my specific example, although some strip malls do have individual store "ownership" of spaces (signs that indicate parking for store X only). My main point is that the strip mall in my example created an insufficient number of spaces, whereas a good regulator would have required more spaces to facilitate public safety and efficient transit on Rt 3. With respect to my second point (regarding equilibrium), there is a Costco with a massive parking lot behind the Rt 3 strip mall. I suspect the strip mall assumed that when their own little lot was filled, people would park in the Costco lot and walk an extra 2-3 minutes to shop in the strip mall. Some people do this, but most prefer to clog the strip mall lot waiting for spaces, filling the area to the point that almost no one can get in or out. I think with the private choice of parking quantity, there will often be this tendency to free ride on neighboring lots, and thus under-provision of quantity relative social optimality. It's a standard common resource problem.

Or Costco has cars towed for people parking in their lot and shopping elsewhere.

More likely the strip mall's parking problems led to new zoning rules that forced the Costco to have parking for the Christmas holiday, but property rights prohibit the strip mall from being required to eliminate stores to equalize parking supply with reduced customers.

What is sometimes done is requiring places like the strip mall to rent a cop to direct traffic, but that is opposed by conservatives as too expensive. Better to force the drivers to pay higher insurance premiums because that hides the costs through socialism.

When you say "insufficient parking", and I presume that the price of said "insufficient parking" is zero, I think the answer to the problem is all too clear.

Donny, if a store can't price the space it owns directly, it can do so indirectly through the price of its products. And even if a store could directly price its spaces, it's not at all clear it would clear up the public safety issue on Rt 3 (restaurants, music acts, and sports teams, for example, routinely under-price access relative to capacity). Further, pricing doesn't resolve the enforcement or smoothing issues I discuss in my follow-up post.

Enforcement is the easiest part of it...you keep a contract with a towing service. When people park illegally, you have them towed. Happens all the time down here (DC). Because most towing companies work on a commission basis, they have the incentive to monitor and enforce (i.e. tow)

Agree that stores bundle the cost of parking into the cost of goods.

The issue you mention with Route 3 I'm less familiar with, but looking at it on Google Maps, I think it's more a road design flaw than a parking policy flaw. Route 3 appears to be a somewhat limited access highway, but with strip malls off of the main road. These two uses are somewhat in opposite of one another. You want your strip malls to be off of lower-speed roads where backups and queues are less of a safety issue. Developers love them though because they get their businesses off of higher-capacity roads and hence more potential customers.

You are entirely correct about Rt 3, major road design flaw. It's a flaw shared with many major NJ routes outside of NYC (3, 17, 10 immediately come to mind). The road design flaw is exacerbated at this particular location by insufficient parking; these roads are dangerous to drive on even when they don't back up from people queuing to get into strip malls.

I agree with you that parking rules can be enforced, but the cost of enforcement must be accounted for somewhere along the line as a social cost (in the DC case, resources deployed in towing that would have been deployed elsewhere if there was no enforcement) relative to imposed parking with no need for enforcement. Also, cost aside, even with perfectly enforceable parking, you still have the efficiency issue related to pooling spaces that is eliminated by the efficient imposition of spaces (I don't claim that efficient imposition actually takes place).

That's the place I want to live! Not enough parking spaces, you have to pay when you can find one, and tow companies are constantly on a hair trigger waiting to tow away your car if your meter runs out. Sounds like paradise!

@ Doug

It's almost like if you follow the rules and pay what you owe, you're fine. The only people who get towed are the ones who violate the parking rules. There are on occasion mistakes, but anytime I ever hear anyone around here complain about being towed, they usually at some point in their rant admit that they didn't feed the meter, or double parked, or were "just running in".

Which, by the way, all takes away parking opportunities for now scofflaws like ourselves.

My only question is why you assume that regulators would have both the foresight, and the good will to create socially optimal parking lots - especially because even if they get it right now, will their answer continue to be correct in the future?

@asdf, if the question is directed at me, I make no assumptions about the quality of regulation in practice. My point is that, in principle, minimum parking requirements can improve efficiency.

Suppose you are one store in isolation with complete autonomy to build (costly) parking spaces. You don't build the number of spaces that meet the maximum space demanded on your busiest day of the year, because too many spaces go unused too often. Suppose your OR friend tells you 15 spaces is optimal.

Now consider putting the same store near 9 other stores. Because people who shop at one store may decide to shop at another, if spaces are tied to a store and perfectly enforceable, suppose your OR friend tells you 20 spaces is optimal. Do you build 20 spaces? Well, perhaps you only build 5, because it turns out spaces aren't perfectly enforceable. You lose a little business because people can't park right in front of your store, but what you lose is not worth the cost of 15 spaces. Free rider problem.

Enforcement is difficult (first you have to monitor, and in the event that someone violates a space, you have to be able to enforce a penalty quickly), but suppose it can be done. Problem solved, right, just build 20 spaces? No! Problem not solved. 20 spaces is efficient for you individually, but it would be better for all stores if parking spaces were pooled rather than individually designated. If each of the ten stores individually needs 20 spaces, collectively perhaps they only need 130 spaces; at one moment in time one store may have 22 customers while another has only 10, they can smooth space needs across stores by pooling. The Coase theorem implies that these stores can solve the common resource problem without a regulator, but the necessary conditions are not always easily met.

I certainly don't claim the regulators do a good job in imposing parking space requirements on stores, but there is certainly scope for efficiency improvement via regulation.

Also, while I am not averse to non-zero prices for road and parking access, I admit my bias as someone with the means to be fairly price insensitive. I play basketball in NYC from NJ each Sunday at a toll and parking cost of about $40, but I'm able to immediately get a spot in a lot a block from my game. Someone else might drive in an hour earlier to look for a spot on the street, paying in time a price I would definitely not be willing to pay. Perhaps we both get identical enjoyment from basketball, but my time constraint binds before budget, and his budget constraint binds before time. There are obvious economic reasons why we should convert cheap street spaces into expensive spaces, making it impossible for my counterpart to play basketball with this particular group. But there are arguments for shifting the balance in favor of free street parking. In one world money-rich guys get to play in the coveted spot, in the other time-rich guys get to play.

it turns out that so I just know if parking was included resource

As Sean Crockett alluded, a lack of reasonable minimum parking requirements can create huge negative externalities for others. I live in an urban neighborhood in SE Portland, Oregon in which hundreds of new apartment have been recently added within a few blocks of each other with no additional parking. Obviously, the availability of parking declined substantially and the related traffic from drivers circling, waiting for parking, etc. has added a significant costs to coming and going from my home.

I am still waiting on my compensation from the real estate developers who are responsible for the dramatic increase in congestion on the main and side roads and who directly benefitted from decreased costs associated with forgoing adequate parking.

Sounds like spaces are too cheap then.

"Reasonable" and "Adequate" are all judgments that the market can make. I've never had a problem finding a spot in New York City because I'm willing to pay for it in private garages.

Me too. Funny how people with money favor a world where all things are allocated by money. I certainly don't claim there is a better mechanism, however, do realize you make a strong moral judgement when goods are allocated by relative valuation, and this relative valuation is in large part a function of financial means. Most of the time I do think the market is the best allocation mechanism we have.

If we made a list of things where moving away from market allocation might seem like the right thing to do because of moral issues with letting people with greater means outbid those with lesser means, I would think parking spaces would be pretty far down. In the city-based situations where the issues in the post are relevant, the truly financially-needy people tend to not even own cars.

Allocating resources to whoever has money is the most compassionate way. Look at shoes, clothing, and food; the poor have them because the market system incentivizes producers to satisfy demand. High prices induce greater production.

Free parking mandates are not only a tax on the poor; they are a subsidy to driving. People may be induced to drive more; but while stores may have extra customers, they may prefer to have fewer customers but also none of the costs associated with the extra mandated parking spaces. Or developers may prefer to build more cheap apartments instead of fewer and more expensive ones.

To elaborate, people circle and circle because free parking is a massive giveaway and they are thus there are shortages. Charge the market price for on-street parking and you won't see circling.

"Charge the market price for on-street parking"

City street parking is enabled by the city government, who ostensibly owns the streets and has responsibility for them. There isn't any market in on-street parking because there's only one provider and rates are set arbitrarily. On-street parking and parking in commercial lots and ramps aren't the same thing.

The city needn't set them arbitrarily. They can float at the market clearing rate. Then supply will match demand and people won't be circling over and over looking for a big handout.

What is about "underground parking for tenants" they don't understand. Providing that seems to be a rule here in Emeryville.

Sadly, I'm not surprised to see many of the posters here defend their government-mandated parking spaces.

Yeah, almost everyone's a libertarian until their own subsidies are threatened.

I don't think this is right. You guys are missing the point and effect of the regulation.

It's not about keeping urban areas car-friendly, it's about keeping middle-density areas poor-person unfriendly.

If the person making that argument purports to be libertarian he's just as much liber-hypocrite as the subsidies explanation.

The people making that argument are died-in-the-wool democrats. Nice-place parking regulation isn't something that gets made by libertarians. It's pure social engineering.

A) There few to no died in the wool democrats in this blog's comments section. It's overwhelmingly a sample of fringe parts of the Republican coalition.

B) NYC, that supposed bastion of liberal latte sipping elites, doesn't have oppressive minimum parking regulations.

I don't understand point (A). Are you arguing against applying markets to parking? The people (in the real world, not here in the comment section) that argue for parking requirements are generally democrats. Beyond that, if you think there's a shortage of lefties around here, you aren't paying attention.

Regarding (B), yeah, dense urban areas generally don't do this. It's middle-density places that have the requirements. The kind of places that want to fight development, and in particular development aimed at lower-income people. NYC has already won the war on poor people.

If you realize minimum parking requirements are a tax on the kind of places that need parking, it will all make sense to you.

This "subsidization of cars" business is just stupidity. It's a case of not understanding your enemy and his goals.

If New York already won the war on poor people then how do you explain all the projects sitting on prime real estate?

collateral, victors in wars rarely get absolutely everything they want. Usually far from it. If you understood the challenges to tearing down thousands of units of public housing then you'd see how silly your argument is.

Anyone who lives on the east coast knows there needs to be more parking spaces, not less.

Can't wait for self-driving cars.

That's why nobody lives in New York!

The number of native New Yorkers living outside New York far exceeds the number of New Yorkers. That suggests something.

Or

In 1940 NYC had 7.5 million people, 75 years later it is 8.4 million. Meanwhile the US went from 132 million to 318 million.

This suggests something too.

Those of us who don't own cars seem to be okay with the current amount of parking....

When I lived without a car in Boston I wanted fewer parking spots and fewer roads.

Surely all of the natives here will oppose these "Obamapark"-mandated parking spaces, correctly? Certainly the allocation of parking spaces, which are purely private goods, could be best allocated by the profit-seeking private market.

1) Motorcyclists are underappreciated in this equation. Please stop killing them. 2) At UC Berkeley (as far as I know still true), only Nobel winners are guaranteed on-campus parking. One distinguished law professor was distinguished largely for her Vespa. 3) Vegas baby Vegas. Easiest-parking metropolis in the nation.

Plus winners of the counterfeit Nobel prizes.

"At UC Berkeley ... only Nobel winners": as long as the perk is taxable, why worry?

Essentially the argument here is that these companies that own this urban land aren't rent-seeking enough. Instead of providing free parking, these companies could be charging their employees to park and thus capture rents. Or these companies could give up their parking lot land to another party who would be better at or do more rent-seeking, either by keeping it as a parking lot and charging for parking, or renting out office space on it, or by using it for mass transit infrastructure, etc.

So if you like rent-seeking or think rent-seeking is good, then it's clear that free parking is an opportunity for more rent-seeking.

If you don't think rent-seeking is that great, then a land value tax on this free parking space would be more appropriate.

No, what is being criticized is government regulation mandating a minimum number of spaces.

Obamacare for parking space. I"m waiting for Cruz to take up the cause.

The parking regulations leave rents on the table while increasing rents for current urban site owners. That's why the regulations are being criticized.

Rent-seeking and "charging rent" are not the same thing.

Collecting rents require property rights which are political constructs. The economic rent that accrues to, say, a piece of urban real estate, does not derive from production. The economic rent accrues to whoever expends resources to acquire the property right, not to the creation of wealth. Rent-seeking is expending resources on political activity to increase one's share of existing wealth without creating wealth.

Things should be priced. This should not be controversial.

Existing residents own cars and use X number of parking spaces on side streets. If you want to build a 200 unit condo but do not build parking for 200+ cars then you are essentially stealing from the common parking supply.

If you don't have a minimum parking requirement than the existing neighbors will be rightly pissed off that the new development is robbing them of previously free resources.

People recognize this obvious fact and oppose new construction from a purely logical self-interest standpoint.

I missed the part where everybody is required to have a car.

I'm guessing you've never lived in a city. If a condo is built and the managers tell its residents to take their chances with street parking, either nobody will move there because they want a guaranteed parking spot, or people without cars will still move there because they don't have cars and the lack of guaranteed parking isn't a big deal for them of course.

Parking minimums are to a certain extent fait accompli, because city planners presume that everyone will own a vehicle. However, exhibit A - the DCUSA shopping center in DC, where its garage was so underused that the shopping center resorted to leasing out spaces to long-term parking, such as local residents. http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/4811/dc-usa-garage-to-offer-daily-and-monthly-parking/

City planners presumed that Everybody Would Drive (because that's what proper middle-to-upper-income folks do of course), forgetting that DCUSA is extremely accessible via transit, walking, and biking. And thus the parking minimums were deadweight on the developer, who fortunately was able to find other use for them.

Obamacare for parking. Of course if there's one thing that conservatives hate more than government mandates, its sitting with poor people on the bus or having to walk to the store, hence the love of Obamaparking.

Of course the existing neighbors deserve their free resources, and no other Americans are allowed a piece of that pie either.

I will admit that I find perhaps too much amusement at those who would claim to be Libertarians, but are horrified at the thought of builders not having to provide parking. I consider it a bit of a litmus test as to whether one likes freedom only to the point that such freedom works in one's favor.

(I think the equivalent on the "all lives are equally precious" left would be being horrified at the concept of truly open borders.)

"Libertarianism" is the guise for limited subsidies for others.

"Avoiding externalities/concern" is the guise for getting as many as you can grab.

I have yet to see anyone across the spectrum who doesn't try to rig the system. At least Democrats tend to be more up-front about it, as opposed to Republicans who hide behind ag subsidies (Let's see how small-government GOP presidential candidates are in front of subsidy-receiving Iowa farmers) and military spending (We need this bomber to defend us from terrurists....the one built in my district of course).

I thought the stupidity of parking minimums was as well established as the optimality of pigou taxes, the need to price water, and the undesirability of rent controls and taxi medallions as things that economists know and non economist refuse to listen about.

I'm an economist, it's quite clear to me that parking minimums are not necessarily stupid in principle. Whether they've typically been stupid in practice is beyond my expertise.

I think a lot of the "I-love-free-markets-except-for-land-markets" argument is related to the fact that when people buy houses, they are in essence buying-in under the assumption of a specific regulatory setup. If a house is located in an area that is zoned for only low-density single family housing, then that legal limit has a value to buyers who want peace, quiet, and parking. This subjective value is, of course, priced into the cost of the house. So when people see minimum-parking requirements being repealed, and overflow cars causing shortages on municipally-owned street parking, they see it as (1) a diminishment of the value of their house, due to (2) an abridgement of their assumed "property rights" to a share of the street parking in the area, or to parking available at a particular price (usually $0).

When the regulation changes, people feel that their house has been arbitrarily devalued due a "parking shortage". But this is only true, and these "externalities" only have effect, because (1) on- and off-street parking was planned, priced and allocated by government in the first place, (2) the lifting of minimum planning requirements is often localized, arbitrary and seemingly random, and (3) people were led to believe that their "property right" to nearby street parking was secure, but it was not.

Imagine the following analogous scenario: Cars with license plates containing no vowels can park for free in any parking space in Aeiou City, and have for decades. (Pretend that we're dealing with a European-type scenario where plates stay on the car for its lifetime.) People would covet such cars, and pay a high price for them. One day, the Aeiou City government decides that, in fact, the letter "Y" is not a vowel. Suddenly all the Y-cars would begin competing with the other no-vowel cars for the same pool of spots. Owners of no-vowel cars would feel that the worth of their cars had been diminished. (And due to the concentrated benefits and dispersed costs, while there's likely to be a strong No-Vowel Car Owners Association to push against deeming any other letters valid, there's probably not anybody to push specifically for the interests of E-car or I-car owners on this matter.) The problem comes not from some fundamental lack of parking, or from parking being something that needs to be centrally planned and allocated. It's from the government assigning vague, arbitrary, and politically-dependent pseudo-property-rights to a rivalrous resource, and the only effective way to retain your share is to influence the government allocators. So of course parking minimum repeal is fightin' words.

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