There’s been a horde of great parking posts in the last few days:
First, Jarrett Walker documents San Francisco’s new adventure in market pricing for on-street spaces:
The goal is to ensure that there’s always a space available, so that people stop endlessly driving in circles looking for parking. People will be able to check online to find out the current parking cost in the place they intend to visit. Parking garages will have a better chance of undercutting on-street rates, so that those garages can fill. If you’ve ever driven in San Francisco, you know that it’s hard to decide to use a garage because, well, if you just drive around the block once more, you might get lucky. Under SF Park, if you just drive around the block once more, you’ll probably find a space, but it will cost more than a garage, especially if you’ll be there for a while. So drivers are more likely to fill up the garages.
Jarrett illuminates some of the problems with truly dynamic pricing – ideally, you’d want to have a price set for a given location and time so that a driver knows what they’ll likely have to pay prior to beginning their trip. This is similar to all sorts of other goods, where the prices are fixed for consumers, even if the actual prices fluctuate more often.
Jarrett also notes the potential for San Francisco to predict and target prices based on the data these meters will collect. The city has collected lots of useful parking data, the question is now about using that data and infrastructure effectively. Walker notes:
In a recent post on congestion, I observed that current road-pricing policy requires us to save money, a renewable resource, by expending time, the least renewable resource of all. If you’ve ever circled a block looking for parking, while missing or being late for something that’s important to you, you know that the same absurdity is true of our on-street parking policy. SF Park deserves close watching. And if it doesn’t work well, ask yourself: “Is it because it doesn’t make sense to charging for parking based on demand, or is it because they were too timid to do it completely?” The answer will almost certainly be the latter. The policy itself relies only on free-market principles that already govern many parts of our economies, because they work.
Indeed, market forces do work. Similarly, Tyler Cowen raised the subject in this weekend’s New York Times. Cowen focused on all aspects of Donald Shoup’s excellent book The High Cost of Free Parking. In addition to market pricing for parking spaces in order to ensure efficient use, Cowen also addresses parking development requirements:
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. Parking would be scarcer, and more likely to have a price — or a higher one than it does now — and people would be more careful about when and where they drove.
The subsidies are largely invisible to drivers who park their cars — and thus free or cheap parking spaces feel like natural outcomes of the market, or perhaps even an entitlement. Yet the law is allocating this land rather than letting market prices adjudicate whether we need more parking, and whether that parking should be free. We end up overusing land for cars — and overusing cars too. You don’t have to hate sprawl, or automobiles, to want to stop subsidizing that way of life.
Market Urbanism chimes in specifically about minimum parking requirements, taking note of New York City’s efforts to change their laws (including references to Streetsblog’s coverage of the issue earlier this year). Many more also chime in, including Cowen’s personal blog – with posts expounding on his NYT article, Arnold Kling’s response, and Cowen’s response to the response – all worth reading. As usual, Ryan Avent also responds.
In a similar vein to the parking discussion, Ryan Avent also offered this paper up for review, drawing the conclusion that congestion pricing works best in places that have good transit networks – i.e. where there is an effective alternative to driving. The abstract notes that the two congestion pricing successes had solid transit systems to rely on. Ryan notes that congestion pricing can be used for improving transit, but it might be politically necessary to front the costs of those transit improvements prior to implementing the congestion charge.
The limited polling prior to the death of New York’s congestion pricing plan also suggested this – dedication of revenues to transit improvements was crucial for garnering public support. New York, of course, has the advantage of a transit system as an alternative means of transport. If a city without such infrastructure were to implement such a plan, might some borrowing against future revenues (similar to Los Angeles’ 30/10 plan) be in order?