The free parking that Americans love isn’t really ‘free’ at all. A recent parking garage project in New Haven, Conn., for example, cost more than $30 million for almost 1,200 spaces – that’s more than $25,000 per space. If you were to finance it using a mortgage, the actual cost would be over $40,000 per space. This breaks down to roughly $135 a month, or $1,600 a year per space – not including externalities like the air pollution and congestion created by increased trips drawn by cheap parking. Even when garages and meters charge for parking, they rarely charge the real value of the parking space. (In Vauban, by contrast, drivers must purchase a parking space in the garages at $40,000 each.) All this amounts to a massive subsidy. Shoup calculates that in 2002 the total subsidy just for off-street parking was between $127 and $374 billion (for comparison, the budget for national defense that year was $349 billion).
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