It always seems that parking is easy to find when you don't need it, and it turns out that there might be a reason for that. New studies conducted by the University of Connecticut have found that the US might actually have too many spaces, especially in cities where they are needed least.

The studies looked at available parking and their economic and social impact in six cities from 1960 to 2000 – Arlington, VA; Berkeley, CA; Cambridge, MA; Hartford, CT; Lowell, MA and New Haven, CT. For example according to Bloomberg Businessweek, over that time, Cambridge increased its parking by 39 percent and boosted its building area by 46 percent. However, Hartford added 158 percent more spaces and just 27 percent more buildings. The result is that the people in Cambridge pay more to leave their cars because there is relatively less parking available.

While people might be paying more in some places for parking, cities often profit from fewer spaces. In fact, the studies found that a single space might cost a city over $1,000 a year in lost revenue. Motorists might find ample lots convenient, but most cities receive a vast majority of their tax income from buildings. Parking, by comparison, brings in relatively little money. Investigations also found that cities which force developers to incorporate a minimum number of new parking spaces with their new projects are making traffic worse, because they are bringing in more cars instead of incentivizing other forms of transport.

These results suggest that if cities want to increase revenue, their leaders need to put a plan in place that actually reduces parking. Of course, a portion of that money must be spent on public transport and other automotive alternatives, otherwise no one will be able to get around.


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  • 31 Comments
      MikeInNC
      • 8 Months Ago
      Put the parking underneath the building. They get the building and the parking in the same real estate. Then, people can choose to drive and pay for parking or they can take public transport and pay a little less if it's viable from where they live (depending upon the city). Choice, imagine that. I don't like any solution that forces behavior. Your life is not my life, despite what you may think is good for me.
        Zoom
        • 8 Months Ago
        @MikeInNC
        "Your life is not my life, despite what you may think is good for me." It's a great line. Until what you decide is right for you has a direct adverse affect on me. Suddenly, your utopian-Libertarian wetdream becomes a nightmare.
      ken
      • 8 Months Ago
      This study is total BS. People just don't go out to park their cars. They are there to work, shop, and to be entertained. To make parking more expensive, or difficult, is the same as gas inflation or insurance rate hike, which will directly hit the pockets of small businesses and essentially killing off downtown shopping in the weekend and after hours. Making more money off parking will mean gutting of downtown businesses.
        Gregg Alley
        • 8 Months Ago
        @ken
        Greenville, SC has lots of free parking available, and even the daily lot rate is only $6 per day. The largest parking garage is free on nights and weekends. Our downtown has been thriving for more than 20 years.
      waetherman
      • 8 Months Ago
      The missing part of the argument here is that theoretically, increased availability of parking actually spurs economic growth. Sure, if you're dedicated taxable land to public parking, that's probably not going to generate the highest income for the city, but if you are making buildings incorporate parking in to the plan then you're making it easier for businesses at that location to consider locating there, and bringing in employees who pay taxes to support it. I get that this also encourages people to drive rather than use public transport, but in most cities the necessary infrastructure for the kind of public transport that people will actually use just isn't there. I happen to live in a city with one of the best public transport systems available (NYC) - where a banker making millions a year rides in the same car as the guy who makes his sandwich for lunch (caviar sandwich - whatever, you get the point). But someplace like Houston you would just never find that to be the case. What's my point? Not sure I have one. But I do have a craving for a caviar sandwich. Oh right, my point; driving works best in some areas of the country and always will. Making driving easier and less environmentally impactful should be a priority for those areas. And having more parking spaces is part of both of those priorities.
        Bernard
        • 8 Months Ago
        @waetherman
        One thing I never understood where shopping areas that don't have free parking. When I see places like that I simply don't shop there. If you want your store to accept customers and generate taxable revenue for the state, then getting to those stores is going to need to be convenient for customers. That means free parking and plenty of parking space.
          Chris
          • 8 Months Ago
          @Bernard
          Derek, I don't know of too many folks who'd rather pay for parking. Do you? With all things equal, I suspect most people would choose to park some place where they don't have to pay. Where I live, I'll literally walk an extra mile to avoid paying for parking. The only time I'm okay with it is if I'm going to a ball game, and paying an attendant up front, and not have to worry about a meter timing out on me.
          Derek
          • 8 Months Ago
          @Bernard
          Chris, do you really think that "free" parking at a store doesn't cost the customers anything?
          Derek
          • 8 Months Ago
          @Bernard
          Then Chris, if the customers don't pay for "free" parking, then who does? In your answer, please acknowledge the amortized cost of the land and the construction costs, lighting and maintenance costs, and the opportunity cost of capital for the parking lot.
          Chris
          • 8 Months Ago
          @Bernard
          Derek, If it means not having to put money in a meter or pay an attendant then yes. I don't think it costs the customer a dime. Paying for parking is just one more thing to worry about, and is therefore an inconvenience.
          Derek
          • 8 Months Ago
          @Bernard
          The store owners appreciate you for making a parking space available for someone who doesn't expect to get everything for free.
        Derek
        • 8 Months Ago
        @waetherman
        "if you are making buildings incorporate parking in to the plan then you're making it easier for businesses at that location to consider locating there" But forcing developers to incorporate parking makes it harder for them to consider building anything. A better idea than forcing anybody to do anything is to allow property owners to build as much or as little parking as they think the market wants.
      I_say_uuhhh
      • 8 Months Ago
      I wish that was the case for L.A. I can never find any parking there and when I do I pay 10-20 bucks for only a few hours.
      JB
      • 8 Months Ago
      Parking is basically, private auto storage. If you look at the space that is reserved for people and the space reserved for sitting cars, it seems very unbalanced an inefficient in sprawling areas. Check out what Portland Oregon is doing with bikes: Much more people can access businesses because bikes can park so much more efficiently.
      Zoom
      • 8 Months Ago
      If a project or community is designed well, all you need to provide are sidewalks. It's amazing how little you need your car if you can walk to work and pick up convenience items. This is why carsharing works so well in dense, mixed cities.
      Justin
      • 8 Months Ago
      This SHOULD be common sense. But time has proven it isn't.
      Jake
      • 8 Months Ago
      So, the areas with surplus parking are the areas where not as much parking is needed??? That's some mighty fine researching.
      goa
      • 8 Months Ago
      If you only look at your citizens as cash machines, this is correct. If you look at them as the reason for your city even existing, then it is wrong. Create adequate parking and infrastructure to serve the people that give you reason to be.
      Riley C.
      • 8 Months Ago
      How is "too much parking" a bad thing? It would almost be impossible to put parking in crowded cities like New York because most of the real estate is already taken.
      jesscott
      • 8 Months Ago
      real estate in a city is very expensive. and it has to pay for itself so why waste it on a parking lot? People should use Mass transit in the city anyway.
      Chris
      • 8 Months Ago
      Their solution of making parking in cities more scarce and expensive seems a little overly simplistic and like a one size fits all approach. Such an approach might work in a densely populated city with a well established public transportation system in place, like Boston or Philadelphia but not so much in a sprawling one like Indianapolis or Charlotte, or an economically depressed one like Detroit that's already in the red financially and desperately trying to get people to come back into the city.
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