The myth of free parking

Parking lot by Shutterstock.com

Article Highlights

  • More people need to have more faith in markets to allocate land efficiently.

    Tweet This

  • Parking spaces are a scarce resource, yet governments give up spots for less than the market rate.

    Tweet This

  • Myth: City government & developers have a responsibility to provide affordable parking to residents.

    Tweet This

I won this one, putting my winning streak at 5.

The Carney brothers play a lot of Monopoly. In the summer of 1997, we would often play three games a night. Many folks badmouth the game, because they think it lasts forever. That’s only really the case if (1) you play poor strategy, and build homes too slowly, or (2) you deviate from the written rules, and adopt folk-rules.

The most common and silliest folk rule of Monopoly is that you get money when you land on Free Parking. You don’t. You get to park. For free. (And if you’re staring at hotels on the Oranges and three houses on the Reds, that’s a pretty sweet deal.)

Here’s another myth about parking: That city governments and developers have a responsibility to provide affordable parking to residents. Parking spaces, like apartments, are a scarce resource. But parking spaces are only used by people with cars, and so I’m willing to bet that, in cities, the average person using a parking space is not poor.

Yet governments give up street parking spots for less than market rate (either low meter rates or low annual fees for parking stickers) in many neighborhoods, leading to a scarcity of spots. Also, governments often require developers to provide off-street parking, so as not to throw a bunch more cars onto the scarce parking spots.

In D.C., there’s a push to free developers from these rules. AAA dislikes this:

Removing off-street parking requirements in apartment and office buildings would force motorists to circle city blocks looking for scarce spaces.

“This is a very dangerous proposal. We think it threatens the future of Washington, D.C.,” says Lon Anderson, the chief spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic

Matt Yglesias at Slate picks apart AAA’s bad arguments:

Insofar as people want to park cars—and lets make no mistake, lots of people want to park cars—they will pay for the privilege, and property developers will provide parking spaces.

What’s at issue here is whether non-parkers should be forced to offer a cross-subsidy to parkers. The case against such a subsidy seems strong. It encourages extra traffic congestion and extra pollution, as well as inducing some kind of deadweight loss in the form of stifled real estate development.

More people need to have more faith in markets to allocate land efficiently.

See my related piece, “Free Parking is Welfare”

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Timothy P.
Carney
  • Timothy P. Carney helps direct AEI’s Culture of Competition Project, which examines barriers to competition in all areas of American life, from the economy to the world of ideas. Carney has over a decade of experience as a journalist covering the intersection of politics and economics. His work at AEI focuses on how to reinvigorate a competitive culture in America in which all can reap the benefits of a fair economy.


     


    Follow Timothy Carney on Twitter.

  • Email: timothy.carney@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image The money in banking: Comparing salaries of bank and bank regulatory employees
image What Obama should say about China in Japan
image A key to college success: Involved dads
image China takes the fight to space
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.