As promised, I want to reprint the responses I got from Wendell Cox and Randal O’Toole, but first I wanted to invite everyone to a livechat that’s being organized by Tim Lee. Tim used to write for Cato, but now he’s pursuing a PhD at MIT and doing freelance writing on tech policy. He organizes these livechats occasionally and has been kind enough to ask me to be his guest, so if you want to participate (or just watch), go to Tim’s website on Wednesday between 9:30 and 10:30 pm EST, and click on “General Chat” on the bar in the lower right-hand corner. The audience should be relatively small, so if you have something you want to ask or discuss or debate, there’s a good chance that we’ll get to it.
Wendell Cox’s response was similar to Marc’s, so my disagreements are similar, but Randal O’Toole took a different approach, and one that I pretty much completely agree with:
I have no significant problem with liberalizing parking codes. My one caveat is that planners need to remember why those parking minima were there in the first place. In some cases, they were put in because some guru somewhere said that was the way to do it. But in other cases, there was a genuine concern about the need for off-street parking in order to prevent congestion around on-street parking.
In this case, I agree with Don Shoup that the remedy is for the city to charge market rates for on-street parking. Sometimes, of course, the market rate is zero. But other times parking should be metered to insure that everyone who really wants to park (as indicated by their willingness to pay) has parking.
In short, liberalizing parking codes should be combined with marketizing on-street (and any public off-street) parking. At the same time, cities should beware of using parking charges as a way to punitively oppress auto drivers, which would be tempting in places that have a strong anti-auto political lobby. But that would work itself out in the long run because places that are too anti-auto will lose businesses to nearby communities that are more auto friendly.
My only quibble would be with the punitive oppression part – unlike Shoup, I think that until we privatize on-street parking and sell off the land (with complete development rights) to the highest bidder, then the city’s should try to recoup as much of the opportunity cost of the space as possible by jacking rates until they actually start to take in less revenue (at which point I agree that the rates are oppressive). In other words, they should never set the price at zero unless not a single person would park there otherwise. But beyond that, I’m pleasantly surprised to find myself in complete agreement with Randal.
And so, with Wendell Cox’s response, I hereby conclude the first (and hopefully not last) market urbanist vs. market suburbanist blogospheric debate:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment. I generally favor liberalization of land use regulations. I am pleased that apparently they are not setting maximum parking regulations. The bigger problem in the Seattle area is the growth management policies that have established the urban growth boundary. This is where the liberalization really needs to happen. During the housing bubble, the Median Multiple (median house price divided by median gross household income) rose to about double what it had been at the beginning of the bubble, and double the historic norm. Increases of this magnitude occurred only in places like Seattle, where excessively restrictive land use regulations forced the price of land for residential development to unprecedented heights. Prices remain at least 1.5 times norm.
In the longer run, this bodes poorly for the Seattle area, where people will have less discretionary income as a result. This will be a particular problem if the economy fails to grow strongly and unemployment is not materially reduced. In this environment, the last thing government policy should do is raise the price of anything.