Tag: parking subsidies

Yes, a Free Parking Space Grows in Manhattan

In my recent comments on Tyler Cowen’s op ed on the supposedly high costs of free parking, I boldly wrote, “I defy Cowen to find any free parking anywhere in Manhattan.” That just shows how little time this Oregon resident spends in Manhattan.

It turns out that the western invention, the parking meter (first installed in Oklahoma City in 1935), hasn’t thoroughly penetrated east of the Hudson River. Many streets in Manhattan offer free parking, albeit often with the caveat that you have to move your car from one side of the street to the other every night.

But this doesn’t change my main point, which is that it is one thing for Cowen to argue that cities should not price parking below market rates where there is a market for parking. I have no problem with this. But it is quite another thing to argue, as many urban planners following the Shoup model do, that private businesses should be required to charge for parking (or be limited in how much parking they are allowed to provide) in areas where the market rate for parking is zero.

If Manhattan has so much free on-street parking, why are some people willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for their own personal parking space? The answer is simple. Although Manhattan has one of the lowest rates of per-household auto ownership in the nation – less than a quarter of households own a car – its population is so dense that it has one of the highest rates of auto ownership per square mile. Based on 2000 census data, I calculate that Manhattan has 8,355 locally owned vehicles per square mile, vs. less than 4,000 vehicles per square mile in car-crazy Los Angeles and less than 2,000 vehicles per square mile in auto-happy Houston. So much for the idea that increasing population densities reduces congestion.

Response to Matthew Yglesias re: Uncle Sam’s $4 Million Bike Rack

In response to my criticism of the new federally-financed $4 million bike center set to open at Union Station in Washington, DC, Think Progress blogger Matthew Yglesias says:

I look forward to the day when the Cato Institute does a blog post denouncing each and every publicly financed parking lot or garage in the United States of America.

I’ll take that bait…sort of…

I denounce each and every federally financed parking lot or garage in the United States of America on non-federal property.  I’m one of those quaint individuals who recognizes that the Constitution grants the federal government specific enumerated powers.  Using federal tax dollars to finance local parking garages, lots, bike centers and racks is not one of the powers granted to the federal government.  So let me rephrase my statement from yesterday: Look, I harbor no animosity against [car drivers], but under what authority — legal or moral — does the federal government tax me in order to build [parking garages or lots] for parochial, special interests?

By the way, for an excellent study on the problems with federal subsidies to state and local government, please see my colleague Chris Edwards’ “Federal Aid to the States: Historical Cause of Government Growth and Bureaucracy.”

Here are a few additional random thoughts…

I know so-called “progressives” like Yglesias don’t lose sleep over how much money the federal government spends, but $4 million to park a hundred or so bikes?  As Chris Moody noted to me today, if bike security is the major issue, why not pay a guard $12 an hour to stand watch?bike rack

Isn’t it possible, just possible, that a bike center with even more racks could have been built for a lot less?  Isn’t that the question that people like Yglesias, who want more people on bikes and less in cars, should be asking?

I don’t see anything inherently governmental about building and operating parking garages or bike centers.  The absolutely sorriest, most poorly run parking garage system I’ve ever experienced is the one managed by the State of Indiana where I used to work.  I recall an overcrowding situation – exacerbated by lousy management – in which the solution put forward was to just build another garage.  Hey, someone else is going to pay for it so who cares, right?  I often tell people that young libertarians should spend a couple years working in the bowels of government in order to reinforce their belief system with hands-on experience.  I’m starting to think “progressives” and other unwavering fans of all-things-government should do the same.