Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There is No Such Thing as Free Parking

There are no longer any free parking spots left on Towson's campus.

From an article in the Towerlight, Towson’s student newspaper. Over break it appears the county has installed parking meters for spaces on the only street with parking that borders the main campus. In the past this street has had free parking and was always filled with cars. Now I’ve notice the spots are around 50-75% full depending on the time of day.

So is free parking good from an economic stand point? Some questions to ask.

1. Are the people who park there now with a meter, the ones that would have parked there before when it was free. If that is the case, then the meters make things worse off for parkers (since some people pay instead of not paying and some people don’t pay, but no longer get free parking).

2. Are others, new parkers, using the spots that would not have parked there previously?
a. Do these people have a higher willingness to pay for parking?
b. Should the new parkers' happiness be given a higher priority than those in free parking?

3.Finally, are there unintended consequences, will this hurt demand for University garage parking passes? For faculty willing to move their car or students only on campus a few hours twice a week, metered parking might be cheaper than a parking pass in the campus garage.

Not a question, but economists know (good article here) there is no such thing as free parking, since instead of "free" parking spaces we could have an extra lane of traffic or a flower bed so there is an opportunity cost of having a parking space.
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