My cries have been answered.

In Canada, at least, there is such a thing as a free market think tank with a free market perspective on parking policy. The Winnipeg-based Frontier Centre for Public Policy recently published a concise little position paper, “How Free Is Your Parking?” by Stuart Donovan.

It makes three points, briefly:

  • 1. Parking regulations suppress economicactivity:

    Parking regulations suppress economic activity in a number of ways. Most importantly parking regulations tie up large areas of urban land and reduce the space available for other, potentially more-productive, uses… The Toronto Parking Authority estimates the costs for constructing parking in the central city at $20,000 and $40,000 per space for surface and underground parking respectively.

    2. Parking regulations undermine the transportation system:

    Parking regulations also drive down urban density and further exacerbate the need for motorized travel. This manifests in higher demand for parking, which over time has been reflected in ever-higher parking regulations, which then drive down density even further and in turn stimulate even more vehicle travel.

    3. Parking regulations disadvantage low-income households:

    …low-income households are likely to own fewer cars, carpool more often, travel more frequently at off-peak times (reflecting their propensity to work shifts and/or part time) and use alternative transport modes more often. Low-income households consequently derive less direct benefi t from parking regulations.

    Good stuff. The paper is hardly a magisterial treatment of the subject, but it does manage to limn the major reasons why existing parking regulations should be replaced with more market-oriented policies.

    Unfortunately, I still haven’t found anything similar from the right-leaning think tanks in the Northwest, but I can tide myself over with a good local example:

    …the City of Richmond, B.C., requires that new banquet halls provide 10 parking spaces per 100m2 of gross leasable floor area. Given the average parking spot requires 20-40m2 of space (including vehicle access-ways), banquet halls in Richmond are required to provide at least 200-400m2 of parking for every 100m2 of banquet space.

    This means that Richmond is effectively mandating that banquet halls dedicate a minimum of 2 to 4 times as much space for cars as for people.

    You’d think parking policies like this would raise eyebrows, but they’re incredibly commonplace in both the US and Canada. In fact, one thing you can learn from media coverage is that attempts to undo parking mandates like these are actually examples of “social engineering” (and here, too). Go figure.

    Hat tip to Michael Lewyn.