|Cartoon from |
New York Times
A key effect of many parking policies—and some of this is largely unintended—is to diminish our choices. I use the expression “diminish” in both senses. Our parking policies sometimes give us fewer choices, but more often they bias our choices in ways we do not often recognize. One example is employer-subsidized parking. If I have cheap or free parking at my place of employment, I am more likely to use my car. While I haven't been completely denied the choice to use transit or a bike, the fact that I have free or cheap parking makes the selection of those other modalities more unlikely than they already are. Another example is street parking that is dramatically less expensive than nearby garage parking. In this case, while I still have the choice to use garage parking, the low cost on the street encourages me to cruise around the block—an average of 3.5 minutes according to parking guru Don Shoup—to find a cheap spot. Again my choice is strongly biased by a parking policy. A third example is a policy that permits monthly parking (or better put, the lack of a policy which forbids the practice). In this case, given a choice of a discounted monthly parking pass versus paying the full daily rate, it is easy for me to purchase the monthly pass. What this means, however, is that during the month, if faced with a choice of, say, carpooling, biking or an SOV, I would be more likely to choose to drive.