The Cost of Free Parking

Transport planners Julie Anne Genter, Stuart Donovan and Professor of Economics Tim Hazledine explain why there is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as free parking.

Providing parking requires land, and land requires revenue to pay for its rent. Basic economic theory would have developers providing parking up to the point where revenue raised by last the car park equals the value of the next best land use alternative.

Minimum Parking Requirements (MPRs), by definition, force developers to provide parking above this economically efficient level, which raises development costs, subsidizes private automobile transport over other modes such as walking, cycling and public transport, and provides incentives to develop at low densities, encouraging sprawl.

MPRs distort economic decisionmaking because they do not allow consumers or producers of parking to avoid the costs of parking by providing or consuming less. MPRs inhibit free and informed choice, and they exacerbate social/cultural inequities by redistributing wealth across transport demographics.

MPRs are included in most district plans in New Zealand, with the exceptions of Auckland and Wellington CBDs.

Last year Julie presented a paper on this topic to the NZ Society for Sustainability Engineering and Science.

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