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Why is Parking so Expensive, Top 3 practical ways to solve it

A new way of thinking in the rapidly changing ways we commute and travel

Vincent Chen, Data Scientist & Marketing at GoParkr

  • Half the new Apple HQ area is dedicated for a donut shaped parking lot

  • $225,000 for a parking spot in New York City

  • 3 tips to help you better navigate the ever-changing world of commuting and traveling

Parking spots around our cities seem to be innocuous. I mean, it seems trivial what a couple of lines on asphalt or a few traffic cones can do to our streets, our transportation systems, or our economy. However, if multiplied, and mismanaged, these incredible conveniences of a modern metropolis have major negative externalities. In short, the current parking systems in our cities are in dire need of change.

A hypothetical downtown Los Angeles building (source: Urban Land Magazine)

Before his death in 2011, a local businessman in Cupertino, California addressed a meeting to the City Council. He expressed his intentions to propose a new series of buildings for his growing company. This man is Steve Jobs, and after making one of his last public appearances despite his health conditions, he was planning for the future of his company, a “Mothership” of a campus that would “put a ding in the universe” for many years to come. But what about the parking?

Apple’s new campus will accommodate about 14,000 well-paid employees, and 11,000 parking spaces for the fancy Tesla model S cars most of them will likely drive. But get this, the new headquarters will contain 318,000 square meters of offices and an equally impressive 325,000 square meters of space allocated for parking and the lanes and ramps that come with it.

Apple's Spaceship Campus (source: fortune)

Apple did not build this many parking lots because it wants to, but it has to, according to city requirements. Cupertino is a city where “Parking minimums” are enforced. What does Apple and the local “Sex novelty shop” have in common? They are both required by law to have at least three parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor space. Municipal governments around the world have adopted the notion that imposing minimum parking requirements is somehow beneficial to everyone.

Autonomous Vehicles & The Evolution of The Parking Garage (source: cdn)

However, free parking is hardly free at all. The average American car park costs about $25,000 per space, while underground parking is even more impressive at $35,000 per space. In major cities, the price per spot can go upwards of $69,000 in Toronto or $200,000 in Big Apple. Not to mention, the parking space at 246 West 17th Street posted for sale at $225,000 in Manhattan. According to Shoup, a car park above ground adds about 67% of the cost of building a new shopping center in Los Angeles, and 93% more if it is underground. Where does this cost go to? The developer and the owner of the shopping centers have to pay for the building, cleaning, lighting and securing these assets. The costs are, of course, passed on to everybody else. In downtown areas, where parking is a commodity, everything is more expensive, whether you drive or not. Restaurant meals, movie tickets, apartment rents, and much more, become more expensive, not to mention other negative externality like noise, pollution, and less green space.

This is by no means an extensive research paper that aims to describe the current state of the parking economy of the world, nor do I consider myself an expert on the subject. As individuals, what we can do is little. While it is true that our cars are parked most of the time, these days it is 90% of the day, there is also no denying that much of our culture and lifestyles depend on driving. Besides buying fewer cars, and driving a little less, there are several things I think could benefit our society in the long run:

  1. Move to urban areas(see Tokyo and New York) where things are easily accessible by walking.

  2. Use Ride-sharing services like Lyft or Uber, especially their car-pooling programs to save money while having the convenience of a private ride.

  3. If you own a car, explore apps like GoParkr that connects you with a parking “host” for your car like Airbnb does for you when you travel.

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Author: Vincent Chen, Data Scientist & Marketing Lead at GoParkr