At Wabi-sabi, Sandy Ikeda (former Market Urbanism writer) has a great analysis of San Francisco’s pricing for parking. He points out that assigning prices to spots is not equivalent to allowing a market to determine a price. For a real price to emerge capital (the parking space) cannot be state-owned.
Sandy points out that the “shortage” of parking arises because no one owns street parking, so the appropriate incentives are not in place for someone to charge an equilibrium price for parking. While the San Francisco programmay be a step in the right direction, he explains that “more intervention usually doesn’t solve the problems that were themselves the result of a prior intervention.” In this case, the city is trying to set a price for something that it could instead auction off to eliminate the original intervention.
On yesterday’s post, two commenters pointed out other parking reforms in Austin and in Long Beach that go a step further than charging higher prices for parking. These cities have allowed businesses to lease parking spots for outdoor restaurant seating or retail. San Francisco has also tried turning parking spots into mini parks. This has several benefits, including allowing for land to be better-utilized by permitting a form of street narrowing. However, as long as curbside parking remains city-owned, prices for either parking or land leases will be determined arbitrarily, preventing the actual highest-value use from being discovered.