A Manhattan transportation committee recently passed a resolution, which is pending approval, to start charging to park on the Upper West Side’s city streets. So, just how much is that parking space worth? An article on Bloomberg by Justin Fox estimates it could surge north of $6,000.
- By providing free parking, cities are subsidizing cars.
- Free parking contributes to congestion and CO2 emissions.
- In putting a premium on parking, cities could help the transition to other, more environmentally friendly forms of transport.
Although other cities, such as Los Angeles, have metered parking, Manhattanites have gotten used to the fact that most parking is a free for all situation that is a free-for-all. People drive round and round in a parking musical chairs that definitely isn’t a good time. In addition, while drivers are searching for a space, they increase congestion on the streets and emissions in the air.
By monetizing its free parking, Manhattan could encourage more people to take a cleaner form of transport. (Photo: Getty Images)
Adding a level of difficulty, Manhattan also has a lot of parking restrictions, as the Bloomberg article points out. For example, car owners end up spending 90 minutes waiting in their vehicles double-parked across the street during the restricted window for the street sweeper to lumber by. Now double that amount of time to three hours because you’ve got to move again when the street cleaner tidies up your side of the street on another day.
Placing a value on parking
Clearly, free parking in Manhattan is an elusive and therefore valuable commodity ripe to be monetized. So, how did Fox come up with that eye-popping six grand? He used a series of calculations he admits are less than scientific, but logically make sense. Let’s look at the math.
First, he took the median income of $134,000 for car-owning households in Manhattan in 2017. That works out to $64.42 an hour for a 40-hour week. He shaved off the cost of those hours waiting around to park 3 hours a week, accounting for 38 weekdays of suspended parking rules for holidays. Fox landed on the number $8,581 a year.
Approaching the calculation from another way, he estimated what a parking spot would be worth if it was used for something else. Fox consulted Charles Komanoff, a New York City economist and environmental activist, who estimated the cost as a result of added congestion from blocking a lane-foot of midtown Manhattan street at $140 per month. Multiply that by the length of a 17-foot parking space and you’ve kachinged your way to $2,380 a month or $28,560 bucks a year. Although Komanoff lowered the expectations of that number to a midpoint of $8,568 per year.
If you want to grab a free spot in Manhattan, be prepared to reserve three hours a week to moving your car. (Photo: Getty Images)
Parking reforms could save cities
Fox used a third method to figure the cost of a parking space by square foot. Since a parking space takes up 119 square feet, and a square foot of developable land in Manhattan in 2018 cost on average $684, that tallies up to just over $80,000. To finance and pay that price over a 30-year mortgage with 3.625 percent interest comes out to $6,132 per year.
Donald Shoup, distinguished professor of urban planning at UCLA, argues in an article on CityLab that implementing parking reform will save cities. While not done purposefully, he says planners created cities that favored the car at the expense of pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.
“A flood of recent research has shown that parking requirements poison our cities, increasing traffic congestion, polluting the air, encouraging sprawl, raising housing costs, degrading urban design, preventing walkability, damaging the economy, and penalizing everyone who cannot afford a car,” Shoup says in the article.
Moreover, he notes that parking requirements actually directly subsidize cars. We’re able to drive one place, park for free, hit the next stop and roll our chariots into another white space on the curb. It’s very convenient and there’s not much incentive to make a more environmentally friendly choice, such as taking public transportation or grabbing a micromobility option like an electric scooter, electric bike or electric moped.
WHY THIS MATTERS
If cities start charging to park on their streets, it will make owning and driving a car more expensive and less convenient. It could push people to use greener forms of transport. In sidelining cars, cities will benefit from less congestion and pollution.