Is Free Parking Costing Us Billions?

from the it-takes-733-pages-to-discuss? dept

Always interesting economist Tyler Cowen has a story in the NY Times discussing the "cost" of free parking. It's based on the book The High Cost of Free Parking, which spent an astounding 733 pages to delve into the subject. The book suggests that "free parking" cost people in the US at least $127 billion in 2002. I haven't read the book -- and at that page length I'm sure there's a detailed discussion on nearly every challenge -- but I do wonder if it takes into account the benefits to local businesses of free parking. The easier it is to park, the more likely people are to go to those businesses. I'm guessing that the response is that if this does make sense, it should be a per-business decision, rather than a government-mandated one, which is the main complaint. This isn't a subject I've thought much about, frankly, but I found Cowen's discussion of it interesting, and thought people around here might have some... enlightening comments on the subject.

Filed Under: economics, free parking

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  1. identicon
    Greg, 17 Aug 2010 @ 5:23am

    Less RIAA...

    More like tragedy of the commons. I usually enjoy the posts and comments here on techdirt, but it seems like most people checked their brains at the door for this one. Bits are infinite goods, parking is a very limited resource. Having lots of free parking encourages city planning around a car culture, and you can never have *enough* free parking (similar to how building more roads simply encourages more people to drive, increasing the total amount of traffic and erasing any gains made by building the new roads). If you limit the amount of free parking in a city, people will drive less. This leads to benifits such as less congestion, which means that delivery trucks spend less time sitting in traffic and cities spend fewer taxpayer dollars fixing roads; fewer people going to the hospital because of poor air quality (and probably because they now get more exercise walking short distances rather than driving); and people spending less money on gas and car maintnence.

    So no, this isn't free music (with positive benefits that can be exploited by musicians), or broken windows. It's dealing with serious hidden negative externalities. Plus, think of all the valuable land being occupied by cars that are just sitting in the middle of cities. I bet a private business could make much better use of it.

    On a personal note, I live right outside Boston and almost always take the subway rather than driving into the city. Why? Because parking is a pain in the ass and I can easily walk to a T stop. Of course, if you live in a city that has always had plenty of free/cheap parking (I used to live in Kansas City), there probably isn't a good way to get around other than your car. And in that case there would be some long, painful delays between getting rid of the free parking and seeing good alternative modes of transportation become viable.

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