Parking: Insane and Insanely Expensive

In 2002, building a parking spot cost $22,500.

That’s perhaps the most startling piece of information from this post over at Market Urbanism. The post is a partial review of The High Cost of Free Parking, and serves as a follow up to the piece I highlighted last week.

In the post, Emily Washington explains that author Donald Shoup arrived at that figure by looking at parking structures built between 1961 and 2002 on the campus of UCLA. Of course, the cost of parking would vary by location, though I’ve heard other, much higher construction costs for parking in cheaper cities.

In any case, the post explains how parking requirements create a kind of self-perpetuating cycle:

Shoup explains that parking requirements breed demand for more parking. By subsidizing driving, these rules lead more people to become drivers and encourages sprawling development. This in turn creates an increased demand for free parking and leads to higher parking requirements, since many cities base these requirements on the peak number of people who would like to park at a building for free, leading to the parking disaster we have today.

The post includes a lot of other interesting information, as well as a critique of Shoup’s argument, but I think the relevant point here is that parking is a consumer good — like milk or cable TV or cars themselves — that cities and residents demand at below-market values. What happens, however, is that the cost of parking gets rolled into other things that people pay for.

And as I mentioned in that post linked to above, people wouldn’t tolerate this sort of behavior for anything else. No one thinks the city should require grocery stores to give away milk to everyone, for example, so it makes equally little sense for communities to treat parking that same way. That’s a hard reality to accept when we’re so used to “free parking,” but it still is a reality we need to accept if we’re going to better use our city space and create healthier communities.

Free parking at a mall in Orem.

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2 Comments

Filed under construction, driving, economics, parking

2 responses to “Parking: Insane and Insanely Expensive

  1. Paul

    FYI, the last couple of above-ground parking structures built in downtown Provo have been running about $11,000-$12,000 per stall – still alarmingly expensive, but not in the $22,500 league. Underground parking can run much more than $12,000. Surface parking is, or course, somewhat less expensive, but is an awful waste of scarce downtown land & should usually be viewed as just a transitional use.

  2. Pingback: Free Parking is Not a Right | (pro(vo)cation)

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