Thursday, August 26, 2010

You think you have it bad

When I was a kid and I did not finish my vegetables, my parents would always remind me of the poor children starving in other parts of the world. Well now, parents who have children who complain about how long it takes to drive somewhere can say, "You are lucky you are not a child stranded in the 60+ mile traffic jam in China."
It appears China's new love affair with the auto combined with truck traffic has resulted in a 10-day traffic jam that may span into September. The WSJ reports that businesses popped up along the route to take advantage of the captive audience, and law enforcement was out in force to quell the unrest.
We in the United States have never experienced such a thing, and I hope we never will, but we certainly have felt the negative impact of our own love affair with the car, and it has resulted in new thinking around the way we develop and move around. For example, we have embraced mixed use developments that support alternative forms of transportation. The Chinese have their own ideas, and you can read about them here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Economics of Paid Parking

Here at Lanier, it is no surprise that we support the concept of paid parking. However, that is not only because our business is built on managing paid parking operations. Placing a monetary value on the availability of parking is also good for the environment, congestion and urban planning.
A recent article by Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, makes the economic case for more paid parking.
"Is this a serious economic issue? In fact, it is a classic tale of how subsidies, use restrictions, and price controls can steer an economy in wrong directions. Car owners may not want to hear this, but we have way too much free parking."
Cowen points out that zoning laws often mandate ample parking at businesses, effectively subsidizing car trips that the free market would have discouraged.
"If developers were allowed to face directly the high land costs of providing so much parking, the number of spaces would be a result of a careful economic calculation rather than a matter of satisfying a legal requirement. Parking would be scarcer, and more likely to have a price — or a higher one than it does now — and people would be more careful about when and where they drove."
Donald Shoup, professor of urban planning at UCLA, explains that 99% of all vehicular trips in the United States end up in free parking. Professor Shoup has been arguing for paid parking for the better part of a decade and has written a book that I have previously discussed called "The High Cost of Free Parking."