No such thing as free parking

A new study estimates there are at least 500 million off-street parking spaces in the U.S. This represents 0.5% to 12% of estimated lifecycle energy consumption and greenhouse emissions, and 24% to 81% other air pollutants.

—from Planetizen

That is an externality of private auto use paid for by everyone — with our health, our environment and in the cost added to goods and services to pay for the land and pavement. Remember that next time someone shrieks at you about public transit requiring subsidies. Everything is subsidized, some subsidies are just more insidious than others.

The full story is here:

The first nationwide count of parking spaces demonstrates their high environmental cost

Oh, and by the way, this much pavement would store one car…

5 replies
  1. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    One of the major changes in Toronto over the last 20 years is building condominiums and office buildings on all (and I mean all) the major downtown parking lots. The only parking lots left are on scraps of land that it is impractical to build on or in parking garages. Needless to say, there is no free car parking.

    New buildings are increasingly car-free, but bicycle parking is required by law in all new buildings (residential and commercial) since July 20, 1993. For details on required cycle parking, see page 34 of:

  2. Tim
    Tim says:

    You hit on a major theme about economic/financial analysis involved in public policy decisions like transportation. Often the analysis is incomplete and ignores the true cost of various infrastructure options. Sometimes it is difficult to quantify and gets lost in the simplistic clamor that replaces discourse/debate.

    As example, ask yourself what the true cost of that nice comfortable suburban home. I guarantee you most people don’t even come close to the real number.

    • Will
      Will says:

      tim, very true. I like to tell people to factor in commuting costs, most don’t even do that. But there’s so many other costs, every thing from heating cooling extra rooms, maintenance, furnishing the extra space.

      What I want to know (and without much time to search around for it) has anyone compiled how much the public’s muney winds up spending on cars. From free parking to interstates to tax breaks to oil companies. Anyone seen something like that?

      • Tom Armstrong
        Tom Armstrong says:

        I haven’t seen any comprehensive numbers–society is probably scared to find out what the numbers would tell us. I’ve seen bits and pieces, including that surface parking lots cost on order of $16K PER SPOT, and multi-tier garages half again or more that number. I saw a citation from perhaps Oklahoma that car-specific taxes support about enough pavement for the car to remain stationary, on a road where the cars maintain separation to move at 60+ MPH.

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