Results for “free parking”
41 found

The economics of car towing

Yahel, a loyal MR reader, asks:

the model of towing? I live in Philadelphia, and have noticed one
particular company, Lew Blum, seems to have most of the market cornered
for towing cars parked illegally in private parking spots. How does one
acquire market share? Do the owners of private parking spots pay for
having someone like Lew Blum come and tow the cars that are taking
their spots? Or does Lew Blum offer money for the right to tow their
problematic cars (as they charge the owner of the car $150 to get the
car back, and $25 for every day it sits in their lot.) I can imagine
rationales for either model. On the one hand, Lew Blum is providing
owners of the spots a service by clearing out the vagrants. On the
other, he's guaranteed $150+ for every car he tows, so he (and all of
his competitors) wants to maximize the number of spots/lots they
'protect', and that competition should drive the 'cost' of the service
down to at least $0, if not negative $ (ie paying for the right).

A Google search on "economics of towing" doesn't turn up muchThis site indicates that tow trucks were "deregulated" in 1995 and free entry, without traditional municipal permits, became the norm.  That same post has a long discussion of "rogue towing," which I suppose is not hard to figure out.  In many locales they are supposed to wait an hour before towing your car, even if it is illegally parked.

Here are the San Francisco towing regulations.

I'm puzzled that I can't find any discussions of towing company kickbacks to merchants, for giving them the towing call.  Why isn't this more common?  Surely the marginal profits on a tow are positive.

Overall towing seems like a "tragedy of the commons" problem, with an incentive for overly rapid and indiscriminate towing.  If towing is a natural monopoly, the monopolist may be less quick to tow, because the alternative is that the firm will likely "capture" your car anyway.  So if overtowing is a problem, monopoly may be preferred. 

What else can you tell us about the economics of towing?

Here is a discussion of illegally parked tow trucks.

Not any good reason for this

Here is the story, but this bit caught my eye:

Potential strains in relations between the US and Canada were exposed today when Barack Obama, on his first foreign trip as president, hinted at renegotiation of the North American Free Trade agreement.

Obama at a joint press conference with the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, tried to square a campaign pledge to renegotiate the agreement while at the same time avoid sparking a trade war with Canada.

Obama told reporters at the press conference in Ottawa he wanted to
begin talks on adding provisions to the agreement relating to workers
and to the environment.

On this one it is announced in Canada but the real victim is Mexico.  The simple truth is that so far economic policy has fallen short of being good.  Some (not all) left-wing bloggers may be reluctant to say this so early in the tenure of such a long-awaited administration, but perhaps a few of them are thinking it.  There is the stimulus, the Geithner banking plan, and the housing plan.  Of course there are differences of opinion but perhaps it is fair to say he is straining to be one out of three?

Porsche and Volkswagen

In a time when many odd economic events are taking place, this saga nonetheless deserves comment:

Volkswagen’s shares more than doubled on Monday after Porsche moved to cement its control of Europe’s biggest carmaker and hedge funds, rushing to cover short positions, were forced to buy stock from a shrinking pool of shares in free float.

VW shares rose 147 per cent after Porsche unexpectedly disclosed that through the use of derivatives it had increased its stake in VW from 35 to 74.1 per cent, sparking outcry among investors, analysts and corporate governance experts.

This seesaw has been going on for some time and German regulators haven’t done much about it, despite complaints from hedge funds.  Today the share price rose by a factor of nearly five (!).  So for a brief while Volkswagen became the world’s largest company in terms of capitalization.  Who needs Exxon and WalMart?

I thank Ben, a loyal MR reader, for the pointer to this episode.

Why so many churches in Las Vegas?

Robert, a loyal MR reader asks,

I lived there for four years and was always curious.  I guess the more sin, the more churches???

For background, here is a 1997 look at the numbers.  It seems the city has more churches than average in per capita terms.  Among the cities claiming the highest number of churches per capita are Nashville, Grand Rapids, Mich., Waco, Texas, Wheaton, Ill., and Berkeley, Calif. (Berkeley?)  Overall the South has more churches per capita than the rest of the country.

I would think that most of the churches in Las Vegas are for the residents, not the tourists, and thus the quantity of sin is not a major factor.  Why should the residents be especially sinful?  (Don’t forget that lots of sinful activities seem to be produced at constant returns to scale, so there’s not always free-riding upon the sin infrastructure for tourists plus parking is an issue.)  In explaining the number of churches, I would expect three factors to play a role:

1. Perhaps migrants to Las Vegas are more likely to come from the South.

2. Most of the population growth is recent, so churches serve a valuable function of social networking.

3. Las Vegas has no dominant established religion so there is much religious competition and thus many different churches.

But surely Jacqueline (and others) can set us straight…

Tips for panhandlers, from panhandlers

Currently, the direct, humorous approach is in vogue. That’s why in
many cities today you’ll hear some version of: "I won’t lie to you, I
need a drink." Panhandlers also report that asking for specific amounts
of money lends credibility to pitches. "I need 43 more cents to get a
cup of coffee," a panhandler will declare; some people will give
exactly that much, while others will simply hand over a buck.

Oddly, the tips are offered on-line:

If it seems unlikely that a homeless person would surf the Web for
advice on how to panhandle, that’s exactly the point: many aren’t
homeless and are lying about their circumstances.

And what’s the rate of return?:

Anecdotal surveys by journalists and police, and even testimony by
panhandlers themselves, suggest that begging can yield anywhere from
$20 to $100 a day–though police in Coos Bay, Oregon, found that local
panhandlers were taking in as much as $300 a day in a Wal-Mart parking
lot. “A panhandler could make thirty to forty thousand dollars a year,
tax-free money,” Baker says.

French economics

Earlier I wrote that French students need more Bastiat and less Foucault.  Supporting evidence is provided by The International Herald Tribune which notes:

In a 22-country survey published in January, France was the only nation
disagreeing with the premise that the best system is "the free-market
economy." In the poll, conducted by the University of Maryland, only 36
percent of French respondents agreed, compared with 65 percent in
Germany, 66 percent in Britain, 71 percent in the United States and 74
percent in China
(!, AT)….

"The question of how economics is taught in France, both at the bottom
and at the top of the educational pyramid, is at the heart of the
current crisis," said Jean-Pierre Boisivon, director of the Enterprise

"In France we are still stuck in 1970s Keynesian-style economics – we
live in the world of 30 years ago," he said. …

And then there are the textbooks. One, published by Nathan and widely
used by final-year students, has this to say on p. 137: "One must
analyze the salary as purchasing power that you could not cut without
sparking a deflationary spiral and thus higher unemployment." Another
popular textbook, published by La Découverte, asks on p. 164: "Are
there still enough jobs for everyone?" It then suggests that the state
subsidize jobs in the public sector: "We can seriously envisage this
because our economy allows us already to support a large number of
unemployed people."

These arguments were frequently used on the streets in recent weeks,
where many protesters said raising salaries and subsidizing work was a
better way to cut joblessness than flexibility.

Hat tip to Peter Gordon who is teaching in Paris but finds his students considerably more sophisticated.

Are market-clearing prices so bad?

The state House of Representatives gave preliminary approval yesterday to a bill intended to crack down on private parking lot operators around Fenway Park who illegally charge exorbitant fees on big game days.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino sought the legislation, which would raise the fine for price-gouging from $300 to $1,000, after hearing that some lot operators were charging fans as much as $100 to park on opening day.

”The prices are so high, it’s hard for the average person to afford them," said Thomas J. Tinlin, the city’s acting transportation commissioner. ”If these open-air lot parking providers don’t want to do right by the people visiting the city and violate the terms of their license, we need to make them pay for that, and obviously $300 wasn’t getting it done."

Here is the story, courtesy of Michael Costello.  And here is a bit from the rock star who runs our development policy:

Scores of free tickets for the 2 July concert in London – won through a text contest – had been put up for sale [on ebay].

Live 8 organiser Bob Geldof branded the attempted sale of the tickets as "sick profiteering" and welcomed the move.

He said people had realised that "the weakest people on our planet" were being exploited and they were "sickened by that".

The minister for music, James Purnell, said he "wholeheartedly shared" Geldof’s annoyance and had asked the site to halt the sales.

Thanks to David Nishimura for that story; see also Lynne Kiesling.

Brain Drained

Two weeks ago I posted on the brain drain at the NIH brought about by new draconian rules on so-called "conflicts of interest" between NIH workers and outside interests.  I suggested that the policy was a mistake but we now learn from the Washington Post that it is a stupid mistake.

The unexpected finding that as much as 80 percent of the seeming
improprieties were actually the result of errors by government
investigators has undermined the rationale behind NIH Director Elias A.
Zerhouni’s recent decision to impose severe restrictions on the
personal activities and finances of all of the agency’s more than 5,000

The story is simple.  The government asked the pharmaceutical companies for the names of all NIH scientists with whom they had consulting operations and they asked the NIH for a similar list.  Comparing the two lists they found about 100 names on the pharmaceutical list which were not on the NIH list and then jumped to the conclusion that these 100 people were lying.  After months of investigation during which many people’s lives have been turned upside down it turns out that one list included 2004 but the other did not, some of the "John Smiths" on the pharmaceutical list were incorrectly identified with "John Smiths" at the NIH, the pharmaceutical companies didn’t use the same definition of consulting as the NIH etc.  Keystone cops.

And here is an example of the new law in practice.

One scientist who, under the new rules, was informed he could not
accept an unpaid adjunct professorship at Johns Hopkins University was
told he might be unduly influenced in favor of the university because
the appointment came with free campus parking…

Is it easy to start a new private school?

If David wants to start a private school, he must slay four Goliaths [in California]:

The State Environmental Quality Act, which imposes several obstacles to acquiring a piece of land or modifying a structure on that land;

City zoning requirements, which impose restrictions on the location of the private school;

City parking requirements; and

State and local building codes, which deal with the school building itself.

Plus, of course, tuition will not be free.  But we frequently underestimate the role of "micro-regulation" in stifling competition and innovation.  Read the whole thing, courtesy of the Reason Foundation.

Markets in everything, continued

How about this? [is] the first Internet company to help drivers contest parking tickets online…”It’s such a unique concept — fighting tickets for you,” says Austin, for whom the service was a godsend, given that she averages 5 to 10 parking tickets a year. “Some of these tickets are unfounded and you start getting a little mad every time you write a check to the city.”

On the Web site, clients who get tickets in the District, New York or San Francisco are guided through 30 to 50 questions about the circumstances of their tickets — whether the meter was broken, what the parking sign said, did they have a medical emergency, etc. They transfer details from the ticket to a look-alike online version. Then they key in their credit-card data to pay for the service — if the ticket is dismissed. No dismissal, no charge.’s computers analyze the data in search of grounds for dismissal. If there are none, clients get an e-mail recommending that they pay the ticket promptly. It’s free advice. But if the computer finds a loophole, technicality or error, or a compelling reason to contest, the client is e-mailed a customized dismissal-request letter, with instructions on what proof to attach and where to mail it.

Because her car was disabled, Austin’s ticket was dismissed. charged her half of what the ticket would’ve cost her — $25. Case closed.

The District of Columbia takes in more than $100 million in parking tickets each year, a major source of city revenue. The head of claims that seventy to eighty percent of those tickets should be dismissed for technical or legal reasons.

Here is a previous installment of Markets in Everything, try this one too.

Bickering with Alex, again

I agree with much of Alex’s post on road pricing, immediately below. And I favor road pricing in a wide variety of instances. But I don’t think it is so easy either.

Alex notes that people are willing to pay for parking, and that no one finds the idea to be strange. True, but how would they feel if you made them pay for “parking within a half mile of their homes”? Most people would rebel against this idea. They understand the difference between a monopolist (someone who controls a major road), and a parking lot owner, who has little monopoly power. If parking rights were subject to monopoly issues, people wouldn’t want to be charged for that either. So I don’t see the two cases as the same, as Alex suggests.

Here are some cases where toll roads have worked, illustrating Alex’s point. But almost always they are imbedded in a context where free (albeit congested) alternatives are also available. A true solution to the congestion problem would involve a much more widespread use of pricing, thus exacerbating the monopoly issue.

We should not forget previous history. It was originally promised that various bridge and highway tolls would be removed, once the infrastructure was paid for, but of course this never happened. In similar fashion, we can expect more widespread road pricing to become an important means of local and state government finance.

In effect, Alex is asking the American public to give our trustworthy government monopoly pricing power over our ability to get around, and in a time of state and local fiscal crises. We also would have to give that same government knowledge of our daily movements, and thus give up our privacy. Yes, people are irrational (I know that I am!), but I am not surprised that this a difficult political sell.