Free Parking

One of the book jackets in the cellar level display case maintained by Brooklyn Law School Associate Librarian Linda Holmes is The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald C. Shoup (Call #HE336.P37 S56). This 734 page book critically discusses the link between transportation and land use and argues that the topic of free parking deserves more attention than it has historically received. Shoup, analyzing parking problems and their solution, addresses the reason for such problems: the assumption that parking should be free. Analogizing to the idea of free gasoline, he states the obvious result: people would drive too much, shortages of gasoline would develop, fights would break out over scarce gas, and governments would go broke trying to pay for it all. This book argues that parking is no different and that providing free parking leads to overuse, shortages and conflicts over parking. Cash-strapped local governments and neighborhoods also lose out. The high price of housing is due to requirements by local governments that a certain number of parking spaces must be provided. These costs are paid by everyone, including those who do not own a car.

In NPR’s recent show Charge More for Parking, Reap Benefits Beyond Revenue, Andrea Burnstein discussed how New York City has been quietly experimenting with variable pricing in Greenwich Village and Park Slope to encourage drivers to leave spots more quickly. An 86 page report called U.S. Parking Policies: An Overview of Management Strategies by the Institute for Transportation Development Policy says that an increasing number of municipalities are looking to variable parking rates as a way to get people to leave their spots more quickly. At page 28, the report says:

In New York City, for example, the Department of Transportation is piloting a “ParkSmart” program which increased meter rates in Park Slope, Brooklyn, from $0.75 to $1.50 per hour during the parking peak. In Greenwich Village, rates have been increased from $1 to $3 per hour as a result of the program. Yet off-street parking rates range between $13 and $25 per hour with the typical rate being $15 or $16. The rate differential results in a $12 to $13 savings per every hour parked at the curb, which is essentially equivalent to paying oneself $12 per hour if it takes a full hour to find a curbside spot. Spending 15 minutes to save $12 is the equivalent hourly rate of someone earning $100,000 annual salary.

The audio of the show is here: