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How Much of Your Rent Covers the Hidden Cost of Parking?

11:28 AM PDT on June 2, 2015

How much does that parking space cost you? Graph: Seth Goodman
In an average building with structured parking in an average American city, it costs $225 per month to cover the expense of a parking space. Graph: Seth Goodman
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If you rent an apartment in a building with a garage, odds are you don't get a bill every month that explains how much that parking costs you. But while the price of parking is generally bundled into the price of housing, you still pay for parking -- and it's expensive.

The costs of land, construction, and maintenance can all add up to a hefty chunk of that rent check. How much? Seth Goodman at Reinventing Parking ran the numbers and created this graphic explaining the range of parking costs depending on where you live. The average is about $225 per month.

Goodman says parking should be "unbundled" from housing, giving renters the choice to pay for parking or not:

The effect of each parking spot on affordability is significantly higher in urban communities than suburban ones both because the land occupied by parking is more expensive in urban areas and because building structured parking is many times more costly than paving surface lots. This reality affects the ability of lower income households to live in urban areas since parking costs roughly the same to build whether an apartment is luxury grade or modest. An $18,000 spot might not have a noticeable impact on the rent of a $300,000 unit, but it would definitely be noticed by someone renting a $75,000 unit.

Even when minimum off-street parking requirements are eliminated (and on-street parking is properly managed), the practice of bundling parking with rent may persist. It is imperative that cities find a way to separate rent for cars from rent for people either by encouraging or mandating that parking be rented separately. People should be allowed to make their own transportation choices, especially when all the other choices are more sustainable and equitable. When renters have no choice other than to pay for car storage regardless of whether they possess a car, they are not truly given that freedom. People with the means to own a car OR to live centrally but not to do both, should be allowed to choose the latter.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The State Smart Transportation Initiative reports that car insurance companies don't factor in drivers' mileage when determining rates, even though mileage is one of the best collision predictors. Greater Greater Washington says building mid-rise apartment buildings is about to get easier in D.C. And The Naked City looks at the parallels between North Carolina highway builders and infamous New York City "power broker" Robert Moses.

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