Cross-posted from City Observatory.
Earlier, we rolled out our parking price index, showing the variation in parking prices among large US cities. Gleaning data from ParkMe, a web-based directory of parking lots and rates, we showed how much it cost to park on a monthly basis in different cities. There’s a surprising degree of variation: While the typical rate is somewhere in the range of $200 a month, in some cities (New York) parking costs more than $700 a month, while in others (Oklahoma City) it’s less than $30 a month.
As Donald Shoup has exhaustively explained in its tome, The High Cost of Free Parking, parking has a tremendous impact on urban form. And while Shoup’s work focuses chiefly on the side effects of parking requirements and under-priced street parking, we’re going to use our index of parking prices to explore how market-provided parking relates to the urban transportation system.
In the United States, the majority of commuters travel alone by private automobile to their place of work. But in some places — in large cities and in dense downtowns — more people travel by transit, bicycle or walk to work. It’s worth asking why more people don’t drive. After all, the cost of car ownership is essentially the same everywhere in the U.S. The short answer is that in cities, parking isn’t free. And when parking isn’t free, more people take transit or other modes of transportation.