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]