Everyone wants to park free, and most people consider parking a personal issue, not a policy problem. Rational people quickly become emotional about parking, and staunch conservatives turn into ardent communists. Thinking about parking seems to take place in the reptilian cortex, the most primitive part of the brain responsible for snap judgments about urgent fight-or-flight issues, such as how to avoid being eaten. The reptilian cortex is said to govern instinctive behavior like aggression, territoriality, and ritual display, which all play a role in parking.
Parking clouds people’s minds, shifting analytic faculties to a lower level. Some strongly support market prices — except for parking. Some strongly oppose subsidies — except for parking. Some abhor planning regulations— except for parking. Some insist on rigorous data collection and statistical tests—except for parking. This parking exceptionalism has impoverished thinking about parking policies, and ample free parking is seen as a goal that planning should produce. If drivers paid the full cost of their parking, it would seem too expensive, so we expect someone else to pay for it. But a city where everyone happily pays for everyone else’s free parking is a fool’s paradise.
I already knew the basic economics of parking when I started writing Build, Baby, Build. But it was Shoup who convinced me that parking regulations were a major restriction on housing supply. Residential parking restrictions sharply raise the price of multi-family housing, especially in urban areas. Commercial parking restrictions sharply raise the price of even suburban land, indirectly raising the price of suburban housing. All the parking spaces at the mall that are empty 99% of the year could have been housing instead!
P.S. Build, Baby, Build update: The storyboards are complete. My artist plans to have the pages done by June. The full-color book will be available for sale in early 2023. To whet your appetite, here’s the Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: The Home that Wasn’t There
Chapter 2: The Manufacture of Scarcity
Chapter 3: The Panacea Policy
Chapter 4: The Tower of Terror
Chapter 5: Bastiat’s Buildings
Chapter 6: Dr. Yes
Chapter 7: Mission to YIMBY
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