I am reading an absolutely wonderful book -- but it is a thick, academic book, full of graphs and statistics. I cannot recommend it because it is so full of statistics, but here a few statistics you can understand.
Imagine 470 parking spaces. These parking spaces are in a busy downtown, Westwood Village near UCLA -- University of California in Los Angeles. In just one day, cars cruising, looking for parking spots, drive 3,600 Vehicle miles. That is greater than the distance across the United States of America.
Like so many places in America, there are nearby parking lots, but people want to park for free. So in an attempt to find a free parking spot, people cruise around and around. In fact the car miles pile up: 3,600 car miles in just one day.
Think of the waste of gas. Think of the pollution, the congestion, the sheer waste of time, the aggravation caused by looking -- and of course the congestion and the jockeying for position. In fact, as the book, The High Cost of free Parking points out, as much as 20% of all car accidents occur because people are looking for a parking spot.
Let’s go back to the statistics. Those 470 free parking spots generate 3,600 vehicle miles of travel in one day. In a year, cruising creates 945,000 vehicle miles of travel, that’s equivalent to driving around the earth 38 times. It wasted 100,000 hours of drivers’ time, consumed 47,000 gallons of gasoline, and produced 728 tons of CO2. That, of course, is word for word from the book.
Think of it: 100,000 hours of drivers’ time, 47,000 gallons of gasoline, 728 tons of CO2.
Does the book offer a solution to all this waste? It does, but it would take me too long to explain in a way that you would believe it. Basically, the problem is free parking. As long as a driver can find free parking, he will cruise & cruise.
The book quotes George Costanza from the show Seinfeld. “My father didn’t pay for parking, my mother, my brother, nobody. It’s like going to a prostitute. Why should I pay when, if I apply myself, maybe I can get it for free?”
The essential point made throughout the book is -- why do cars get to park for free? That’s valuable real estate the car sits on -- often real estate in the most expensive part of town, the business district, downtown. We must charge cars to park.
This statistic filled book proves, to my satisfaction, that charging for parking does not discourage car owners. If you charge the right price, more parking spots will be available. Drivers won’t be frustrated by having to look for a parking spot. They get to accept the need to pay, and the trade off is less cruising, less frustration, fewer car accidents.
It is fiendishly hard to convince store owners that charging car owners to park is better than allowing free parking outside the store. This book, The High cost of Free Parking, by Donald Shoup is too long for me to summarize in one three minute talk, but you get the picture: free Parking is a big problem -- it consumes gas, it creates pollution and it increases car accidents.