Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

26 August, 2010

Free Parking Is Expensive





Chris Murphy of The Cap Times opened up a real can of worms by asking "Where's the outrage over $1 billion-plus for widening I-39-90?" Essentially he was asking why people find spending $810 million on rail a huge financial disaster whereas $1+ billion for widening the interstate from the Illinois border to Madison is a perfectly reasonable expenditure for these same people.

Regardless of your chosen method of transportation, it's expensive. But here's something most people don't think about: how we subsidize driving - to an estimated $127+ billion in 2002. To wit:

Car owners may not want to hear this, but we have way too much free parking.

Higher charges for parking spaces would limit our trips by car. That would cut emissions, alleviate congestion and, as a side effect, improve land use. Donald C. Shoup, professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, has made this idea a cause, as presented in his 733-page book, “The High Cost of Free Parking.”

Many suburbanites take free parking for granted, whether it’s in the lot of a big-box store or at home in the driveway. Yet the presence of so many parking spaces is an artifact of regulation and serves as a powerful subsidy to cars and car trips. Legally mandated parking lowers the market price of parking spaces, often to zero. Zoning and development restrictions often require a large number of parking spaces attached to a store or a smaller number of spaces attached to a house or apartment block.

If developers were allowed to face directly the high land costs of providing so much parking, the number of spaces would be a result of a careful economic calculation rather than a matter of satisfying a legal requirement.


Does anyone know what Madison's zoning laws are concerning parking?
|| Palmer, 11:55 AM

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