Could Auctions Solve Urban Parking Woes?

from the free-parking dept

Complaints about the difficulty of finding parking are pretty common in many cities, and it should be obvious that the existing system is fairly inefficient. As an economist would see it, it’s far better to have people pay for parking with money (which goes to someone else) than to pay for parking with time spent circling around the block, which benefits nobody. A new startup is hoping to tackle this inefficiency by introducing an auction system, whereby drivers can bid on available spots in real time, using their mobile phones. Initially, the system will be limited to parking spots in private garages and driveways whose owner may not be occupying them. Eventually, the company will also offer street side parking as well, although it’s not clear how that will work. Unfortunately, it’s this latter area that really needs a solution, since finding spots in expensive parking garages usually isn’t the hard part. This is not a bad area for a company to pursue, since it’s certainly an area that it needs work, but there a few problems. First, an auction process consumes time, which is the one thing that you’re hoping to save. Secondly, the company will have to build up a sizable critical mass for it to be useful, something that’s going to be very difficult to attain. Most importantly, the underlying problem is often the result of bad urban planning, meaning that there can’t be much of a solution until more fundamental issues are resolved. In the meantime, there are a number of existing services that tell drivers where there are open spots, which will probably prove more useful to most people.

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Comments on “Could Auctions Solve Urban Parking Woes?”

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James says:

Paying for Parking is BS

In cities where there is not decent public transportation, the parking should be free, period. In cities where you have VERY GOOD public transit, I’ll listen.

Its completely rediculous when some idiot (here in Atlanta, GA) buys a block of land across from restaurants, paves it and charges $5 a car to park… completely and utterly rediculous.

Yeh yeh make your argument land is expensive, blah, blah, blah, I don’t care… a decent amount of parking (in a city that is COMPLETELY reliant on cars) for each of these businesses should be free, which is not the case.

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Paying for Parking is BS

You make no argument about why parking should be free? Only that it is ridiculous that you have to pay for it due to a lack of decent public transit. Do you honestly believe that free parking is really free?

Why do you call the person in Atlanta, GA an idiot? Seems to me that he has noticed that there is demand for parking and decided to provide a much needed service. The restaurants benefit by not having to investment time and money in the provision and maintenance of off-street parking. Seems like a win-win to everyone.

James says:

Re: Re: Paying for Parking is BS

You might see it as win-win, but only for the guy w/the parking lot. Also, these companies may not realize it (and you either) but these places can and do actually suffer and lose some business due to the parking debacle.

In this particular case when deciding where to eat, I do take their lack of decent parking into consideration before eating there.

One last note…… I don’t have to make an argument for WHY it should be free. It should be completely obvious that a city that makes its citizens dependent on cars should factor half-way decent parking into the whole thing.

kweeket says:

Re: Paying for Parking is BS

If everyone in a city was guaranteed “free” parking, I can’t imagine it looking like a city anymore. Even with underground parking and multi-story garages, you’d end up with widely spaced strip malls surrounded by acres of parking lots – the name for that is suburbia and there is plenty of that already.

Not to mention that in your scenario, those without cars (often the poorest) would be subsidizing those with cars.

“Of course there’s never enough parking. If you gave everyone free pizza, would there be enough pizza?”

James says:

Re: Re: Paying for Parking is BS

kweeket you’ll note I didn’t say “free parking for everyone”, just decent free parking before you start breaking out the pay lots.

and businesses, that have a (parking) lot w/stores, that are within walking distance of other places (clubs, restaurants, etc.) that CLOSE earlier and aren’t open when those other places are, SHOULD NEVER be able to charge (for the use of their empty non-used parking). 😉

yeh, … i know that last part is too idealistic, but anyways.

kweeket says:

Re: Capitalism At Its Best

The article about “bad urban planning” says that the correct price for metered parking should result in a 15% vacancy rate – any emptier, and the price is too high, any fuller and the price is too low (as it is currently).

And it’s more likely that those without any money will walk or use public transportation, anyway.

Jack Deth says:

I wish parking was $5.00, around Boston it is more often $20.00 While there is public transportaion it shuts sown before the bars/clubs close, so you are still forced to drive in some circumstances. The article failed to mention public transportation as part of urban planning, I agree with the previous poster, it is not fair for cities/towns to charge for curb space when they are not providing a decent alternative to driving.

Ralf Jonez says:

try parking it in the curb for FREE- NY style!

There are always ways to find a good parking space regardless of the location.

Should one want to find a free parking space, never give up and always be persistent in finding one.

Right here in New York, many people depend on cars as their primary transportation, whereas the subways or the LIRR comes as an alternative or secondary mean. And, sure we pay for a parking spot if it resides on a commercialized area and etc., but other thanr that there’s no need to pay for jack if someone wants to leave their car unattended just to hang out with friends near a club or even just hit the mall with their boyfriend/girlfriend for some light shopping.

..That is if you’re in Washington Heights and you realize that the spaces between cars are smaller than your ’78 Chevrolet …

Vincent Clement says:

I take issue with your characterization that this is “bad urban planning”. Many urban planners are not big fans of parking requirements. However, the traffic engineers keep insisting that businesses have to provide on-street parking to avoid parking problems. Guess who the politicians listen too?

Most uses in my downtown are not required to provide on-site parking. Yet, there is an abundance of private and public parking. In fact, two private parking garages have gone into receivership due to the over supply of parking spaces. The biggest complaint about parking is not the supply of parking but the location of parking.

Jdog says:


The article mentions that one problem with this is the relative lack of mobile broadband penetration. Implying, of course, that one must surf the web via their phone, while driving around (obviously they aren’t parked, or why would they need the service?). This is just what we need. The irony is that the places that need this system the most (packed cities such as NYC) are also the places where you’re really going to cause a lot of havoc by trying to surf the web on your phone. I mean, on a straight 3 lane highway at 3am, you can pretty much get away with doing almost anything while you’re driving. Surfing the web on the FDR, on the other hand, is nearly a guaranteed accident.

The only alternative to having to do this while driving would really be to just pull over in some illegal spot, put your flashers on, start surfing and if a cop comes up, move your car. Again, though, this brings in the ironic result that in the places where such a system is most needed, people already do that so much that if we add a whole bunch more people doing the same thing, it will grind the city down to a halt. I’m thinking NYC again here. There’s already enough idiots who just leave their car obstructing traffic. We don’t need any more.

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