Friday, April 20, 2007

Parking is bad

Free parking spaces damage the environment directly -- by misusing a scarce resource -- and indirectly -- by encouraging driving.

So says Economist Steve Landsberg in an article in which he discusses Donald Shoup's findings that "the social cost of mandated free and underpriced parking is nothing short of phenomenal, the implied subsidy being comparable to what we spend on Medicare or national defense."

We must have more buses and fewer cars and trucks on the road. And the way to start is by directly imposing on people who drive the costs of their decisions, starting with parking.

No more free or nearly free parking.


jwardell said...

While these arguments may be true where you have a public transportation option to get everywhere, like boston, they are not true for newton. Unfortunately you do have to drive to get to and from most places. Even if there is a bus to the location, often it only operations during commuting hours so it's not an option in the evenings or weekends. You can't make parking impractical if there is no decent alternative, or else we'll just drive to do business in the next town.

Anonymous said...

The Shoupistas of the world need to grow up and spend some time in second and third cities. All I hear from Shoup are examples of how his approach works so well in Pasadena, Redington,Beverly Hills.... yeah, same market and very comparable to East Lansing, MI.

Downtowns are created through subsidies...about TIF, tax abatement, public/private partnerships. Development, infrstructure in every downtown in the USA has been incentivized through government subsidies ala the taxpayer. Okay - I get it, the taxpayers get an eventual return on our investment - that's good. My point is that its unrealistic to talk about underpriced and subsidized parking because everything is subsidized to some extent in nearly every downtown.

Okay, back to the issue at-hand. I think we need to "force" investment to transit and alternative modes of travel instead of elimnating the only way people can get to work and go shopping, either physically or economically. Think about it, most downtowns are convertiung to an entertainment venues. The employees are minimum wage and part-time workers....better figure out how they are impacted if you raise on-street parking rates.

What high rates will do is provde really nice proximal parking to the wealthy who will continue to drive and park downtown...those who dont want to pay $2/hour or more for on-street parking will go where - you got it - the mall.

The answer isnt "raise" parkign rates.... I thought PhD's were "deep" thinkers.

Sean Roche said...

I may have understated, in this post, the complexity of the transportation ecosystem, but I feel strongly that we most impose the direct costs of driving on motorists as part of a coordinated plan to shift car/truck dominance to more balanced modes.

While it would be better to have transit options before you have market-priced parking, it isn't a necessary condition. Market-based pricing can encourage off-peak driving, more judicious driving (combining errands in one trip), and less convenient parking (a block or two away from the prime spots).

As for the subsidy, anonymous is right. Lots of things are broadly subsidized. But we Shoupistas think that the blind subsidy for parking (everybody pays regardless of whether they use the resource) discourages better behaviors. So, let's reduce the subsidy from/for all and tax certain behaviors.

I think that anonymous also falsely makes this a class issue. How are the employees helped if they take the prime parking spaces. The merchants they work for cannot make as much money if the "rich" can't park and shop.

Yes, if there is a fixed amount of parking and all of it is used at capacity, then transit for employees is a necessary condition. But, at least in Newton, the opportunities for higher rate parking are in villages where there is plenty of parking at the periphery.

Charge more for the prime spots and employees have to park farther away from the store/restaurant. Or, they have to take transit, which is available in all of the villages. I don't think that is either unfair or particularly harmful to employees.