End Parking Mandates and Subsidies - Core Insights

Charles Marohn
Charles Marohn
  • Updated

Parking spaces are financially unproductive. Parking costs money to provide yet creates little to no tax base. At best, parking is an overhead cost that should be minimized. At worst, it is idle land that stifles opportunity and reduces the community's wealth.

Mandated minimum parking requirements are anti-competitive. They disproportionately impact small businesses and startups, forcing them to spend money in ways that advantage their corporate competitors.

Parking standards themselves are wholly arbitrary. As UCLA professor Donald Shoup demonstrates in his book, The High Cost of Free Parking, parking standards may look highly technical, but the numbers and ratios presented are not derived from anything scientific.

From a design standpoint, parking spaces are a non-place. Parking lots impair walkability. They may make a place easier for drivers to arrive at but at the cost of making that place less desirable to be in.

A community of increasing prosperity views existing parking as transitionary, something to be phased out as the land becomes too valuable to justify using it as vehicle storage. Professor Shoup recommends three steps for managing existing parking:

  1. Charge the right price for public parking. 

  2. Put the revenues from parking into a district or fund that supports value-added projects in the neighborhood where the fees are collected. 

  3. Eliminate minimum off-street parking requirements.

Parking revenues should not be used to support the general fund. Local governments should also not lose money providing parking. 

When developing a strategy for parking in a business district, focus on multiple strategies that increase the number of patrons instead of merely counting available parking spaces.


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