So for those that have difficulty wrapping their heads around the concept that parking has some sort of fixed cost. Even parking that is “free” as subsidized by your friendly local big box store or shopping mall. There is this great tool that was created by King County is Washington (think Seattle metro area) that shows how much it costs to build parking in their area and how much less you can develop for if you lower the parking minimums per development. This is for multi family residential housing but gives an idea of how much parking spaces cost and that the cost must be absorbed and passed along somewhere.
The tool is Right Size Parking and can be found at the web address I linked to. Knowing nothing about the Seattle Metro area I chose Mercer Island because, well, it’s an island.
I kept all the pre set values that were automatically inputed into the tool and this was the result:
So the monthly cost for surface level parking, the value just to purchase enough land to meet the demand to provide 1.21 parking spaces per unit is $11,611,467,117. Because everyone just assumes that all households (units) have at least one car. The monthly cost of maintenance and ownership per unit is $103. The cost to build a parking structure is even higher, but we don’t really do structure parking around here so I’m just going to ignore that number for now.
The fun thing about this tool is that you can input different numbers for parking spaces per unit to see how the overall cost of parking decreases.
If you are to drop the number of spaces required per unit you can see how the number drops dramatically for both the land acquisition and the monthly cost per unit:
And if you halve the number of required parking spaces:
In lessons learned from other cities, the whole idea of market rate parking in downtown areas is credited with revitalizing Old Town Pasadena, and yes Donald Shoup is featured in the article:
Nowhere will they feel more at ease than in the original business district, almost without exception called Old Town Pasadena on the street, but now zealously branded, for whatever reason, as Old Pasadena. Concentrated in the blocks around Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue, this historic building-rich core — called, in promotional materials, “The Real Downtown,” — has in recent years reinvented itself as a walking-friendly shopping district, thick with all manner of buying opportunities.
In Pasadena, the city had no parking meters, and wanted to put them into Old Pasadena. It was built largely before 1930, and it didn’t have much off-street parking. The on-street parking was occupied by the merchants and employees, who then complained about the lack of parking for customers.”
This at first sounds like a classically intractable American urban situation. “The city wanted to put in parking meters. The merchants said, ‘No way, it’ll chase away the few customers we have.'” And yet, after the debate had burned a couple years, “finally the city said, ‘If we put in the parking meters, we’ll spend all the meter revenue for public infrastructure and services in Old Pasadena. The merchants said, ‘That’s different! Why didn’t you tell us that? Let’s run the meters ’til midnight. Let’s run ‘em on Sunday. Let’s charge a high price.’ They knew the money coming in would come right out the other side and fix their sidewalks, put in new street furniture, put in historic streetlights, put in new street trees, clean up the alleys — just about everything a city can to do fix up the public part of a neighborhood. Once the city had done that, the property owners began to restore their buildings, which didn’t make sense beforehand. A lot of new restaurants and stores opened. And Pasadena had $700,000 a year, still, in parking revenue to steam-clean the sidewalks twice a month, to have added police protection, to remove graffiti every night. Now 30,000 or 40,000 people go to Pasadena to walk around every weekend.
Meter pricing in Old Pasadena is managed to reflect parking demand, a best practice in parking policy. More than 1,200 meters are enforced seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Parking is not allowed between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The meter cost varies by location, with $1.25 per hour in the heart of Old Pasadena, where most people visit, and 75 cents per hour elsewhere. The meters do not have time restrictions because the fees encourage relatively quick parking spot turnover. Even if a customer chooses to park on-street for an extended period, the area still benefits from both the meter revenue and because the customer is likely spending more money in Old Pasadena businesses. It’s notable that the meter rates work in tandem with Old Pasadena’s publicly owned garages, which are open 24/7 and are free for the first 90 minutes and cost $2 per hour thereafter, with a $6 daily maximum. These rates make the garages more economical than on-street for long-term parking, which in turn eases traffic congestion and makes more on-street spots available for those who want them most.
Finally, Donald Shoup suggests that for parking in business corridors that the “Goldilocks” method of not too high but not too low is the best method and cites 15% space availability as the best measure for how appropriately parking is priced. That is currently what SF Park in San Francisco strives for and — from all accounts — it appears to be working.