Monday, October 09, 2006

There's no such thing as a free park

The Age on Friday had an article entitled ‘Inner-city parking wars’ about the competing demands for scarce parking spots in inner city suburbs of Melbourne such as Richmond:

Ted Woodruff has a daily parking dilemma that many other inner-city residents could relate to - the Richmond resident arrives home from work on most days to find every park on the street taken. Vehicles are even parked on the footpath and nature strip.

Mr Woodruff has been slugged with some hefty parking fines in the past year, despite the fact that he has a parking permit.

"The problem is there are so few parks you end up having to park up on the curb or,
alternatively, park three or four streets away and it's not in your zone," he explains.

This scene is repeated throughout Melbourne's inner suburbs. Residents in heritage properties without driveways fight for on-street parking spaces with apartment dwellers and other residents who may have a garage but own more than one car.

Nearby businesses and entertainment venues also attract visitors searching for that elusive spot, adding to residents' parking woes.

The article also talks about the advent of new inner-city apartment developments designed to be car-free.

Harry Clarke has an interesting discussion of the economics of free parking on his blog over the weekend, reviewing a recent US book: The High Cost of Free Parking. The average parking spot is worth a lot more than the car occupying it and the high availability of ‘free’ workplace parking in the US effectively represents an average 22c per mile subsidy to commuters. This distorts a range of economic decisions, affecting public transport, land-use and planning and the cost of housing. An interesting argument is that so much congestion is caused by people driving slowly looking for a parking spot that an optimal policy would set the price of parking spots high enough so that there's always one available without a search. (Ie, lots of empty spots).

Interesting stuff.


Rob Dawg said...

Miss Krin said...

I really enjoyed that article since it was a practical example of an externatility that could easily be rectified (compared to issues such as diffuse source air pollution). While the public transport debate will wage on, with strong statements from proponents of reduced funding for public transport, (read Alan Moran from the Institute for Public Affairs for an example of the other extreme), I hope that a bit more sense could be brought into the discussion with more articles like this.

Incidentally have you read Matthew Patterson's article "Car Trouble"?It addresses the place of the car in the modern conception of progress and how this will need to be addressed before we can try to fix some of the problems the car creates? You can find it in "Understanding Global Environmental Politics: Domination, Accumulation, Resistance" Princen et. al. Palgrave, New York, 2001.