Noah Brier | July 19, 2023

The Parking Edition

On alternate side, cities, and cars

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Noah here. In an excellent interview with Henry Grabar, author of Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World outlines just how crazy the parking situation is:

On a national level, certainly, there’s far more parking than we need. There are at least four parking spaces for every car, meaning that the parking stock is no more than 25 percent full at any given time. And some of those cars are moving at any given time, so parking may be a good deal emptier than that.

Of course, there are places where people get frustrated because there isn’t enough parking. So if what you’re interested in is having a free place to park, you could look at this situation and say, well, there isn’t enough parking. In fact, that’s sort of what we did as a country: We decided, at some point in the middle of the 20th century, that there wasn’t enough parking, that this was at the root of our traffic problem, and we had to create more parking. But you can only do so at great expense, and at a tremendous cost to the urban fabric. There may be places where there isn’t enough parking, but the solution is rarely to create more parking, but rather to more intelligently manage the parking that we have and try and find ways to control demand for parking by, for example, sharing it, pricing it, and telling people where it is.

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Why is this interesting?

Parking prices sit at the center of the problem. “If you institute a parking fee,” Grabar explains, “you’ll find out exactly how many people are willing to pay to park there. If you keep raising prices until you always have spots available, you’ll find out exactly how high it needs to be to create a few open spots on every block.”

During COVID, as everyone (including me) got a car and New York City street cleaning moved to one day, one of the knock-on effects was car owners leaving their cars through alternate side parking. They’d get a ticket for $60 or $70, but that added up to a tiny portion of the $600+ a month NYC garages regularly charge to park. Thousands of New Yorkers were more than happy to pay the city $200 a month so as not to deal with moving their car.

If that doesn’t tell you something about the real value of parking spots around Manhattan and Brooklyn, I’m not sure what will. (NRB)

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

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