Sunday, March 11, 2012

Who pays for "free" parking

We all pay the hidden cost of free parking. Today's Post has a good Opinion piece entitled Why should my bike subsidize your car? by Dillon Klepetar:
The upscale grocery store near my home in Tenleytown is a popular spot for foodies. Most of these “diehard” environmentalists roll up in their cars because the store has made it quite convenient to do so. I choose not to drive, and I don’t fault those who do — as they’re paying for their choices. But at this grocery store, and many others across the nation, drivers do not bear the true economic costs of their choices, let alone the environmental ones. Instead, the supermarket takes the cost of providing the parking and, since we all pay the same prices for grocery items, redistributes it among everyone who shops there. In effect, cyclists, walkers and those who take public transit subsidize the parking of those who don’t.
We not only pay for free parking but we also subsidize most roads, since user fees such as gas taxes and registration fees pay only about half the cost to build roads. The other hidden costs of driving such as air and water pollution and all the negative health impacts are also paid by society as a whole.

See The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup for more on this topic. For a list of the many hidden costs of driving and how to calculate them see The True Cost of Driving.

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I am very sympathetic, and you can add transit-users as also subsidizing "free parking" with higher store prices and taxes.

But this argument is a very tough sell, even among liberals. Nobody sees the cost of all these roads and concrete.

That said, I look forward to reading more about your progress in moving this issue forward.
It's a fact that we're subsidizing "free parking" and that user fees don't fully pay for our roads. It's a matter of making people aware of those facts so that when they make decisions about the cost of transportation facilities, everyone understands who is really paying.

This shouldn't be a partisan issue.
It's interesting that some fiscal conservatives would like user fees to pay for all transportation infrastructure --unless it's roads or parking spaces. Gas taxes are not paying for the infrastructure used by cars, but most roads are only built for cars (not pedestrians, bicycles, etc).

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