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Web www.startsandfits.com
Saturday, July 30, 2005
The Multi-Billion-Dollar Parking Subsidy
Since I just posted an item decrying a bill that would create free on-street parking in New York City on Sundays, it's worth noting the theoretical underpinning tying free parking to traffic congestion. Donald Shoup, a professor of economics at UCLA, recently released a huge book detailing the many ills that arise out of the "free" parking that is everywhere in the United States and offering policy solutions.

There is an enormous subsidy given to motorists in this country in the form of "free" parking. And by enormous, I mean $127 billion to $374 billion per year. Companies that give their employees free parking spaces but don't give non-drivers a comparable sum of money encourage driving, congestion, pollution, and further sprawl. So do all the strip malls all over the country with all their parking built at no apparent cost to the motorist. Slices of free pizza go a lot more quickly than pizza that costs money to buy, and the same is true for the parking subsidy. If you build "free" parking spaces, people will use them.

In New York City, parking is expensive (except, in the near future, on Sundays). In the rest of the country, it's free to the driver. For a good explanation of the problems this creates, see these links:

- Oceans of Parking - A Tragedy of the Commons [Mobilizing the Region]
- The High Cost of Free Parking Part II - The Problem With Zoning [Mobilizing the Region]
- The High Cost of Free Parking [American Planning Association Store]
- Posted at 2:27 AM | Permalink | Comments: 2 | Post a Comment |  

I met Gifford Miller on Friday in a small group setting in Park Slope. At the end of the meeting he started touting his new free Sunday meter legislation. As he wound down his little shpiel I pulled the massive Shoup book out of my backpack and suggested that Giff read it. It was a great moment. Totally hilarious. He was kind of speechless. I think it was just totally unexpected to him that someone would actually criticize free parking no less write 700 pages on the topic.

By aaron, at 8/01/2005 2:16 PM  


It's lucky you happened to be carrying that book with you. He was probably just as shocked that you, his potential voter, could be against free parking. Who could be against free parking?? Seriously, that's a great moment. I hope it made him think through his position a little bit. These are the kind of grass-roots meetings where regular people have a chance to make a difference, if only a tiny one, and only at some time in the distant future.

By AD, at 8/01/2005 10:14 PM  

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