Here's What Parking Really Costs

A blog about business and economics.
June 14 2013 8:40 AM

Subsidized Parking Is So Ubiquitous That Paying Market Price Is Considered Newsworthy  

No parking here.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

Parking takes up space. And space is often quite expensive. Buying a house in San Francisco is expensive. So it should come as no surprise that a parking space—which, much like a closet, takes up space—in San Francisco is also expensive. But actual market rate transactions for parking are so rare that the sale price of one made news in San Francisco.*

Now I'll be the first to admit that $82,000 is an awful lot to pay for a spot in a garage, and no doubt the vast majority of urban parking in America isn't that costly. But the costs really are there. And not just in Manhattan or San Francisco. There are plenty of suburbs with expensive houses and widely available free parking. Which is to say there are plenty of suburbs with expensive land and a massive regulatory subsidy for automobile storage. In other words, we treat parking spaces as if they're public goods that would be underprovided by market transactions. But, of course, parking spaces are both rivalrous and excludable. Where conditions are right, the market price of parking can be quite high and creating and selling (or leasing) parking spaces is a perfectly reasonable line of business. It's simply that if people had to pay the full cost of parking there'd be somewhat less car ownership, somewhat less driving, and somewhat smaller vehicles.


Correction, June 14, 2013: This post originally stated that market-rate transactions for houses are rare when it should have said that such transactions rarely take place for parking spaces.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Global Marches Demand Action on Climate Change


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Americans' Inexplicable Aversion to the 1990s
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.