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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The High Cost of Free Parking

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Terrence Belford writes a rather one-sided article about Toronto’s impending parking crisis in the Globe. What is bad news to the Globe:

That is the spectre of Ontario cities, especially Toronto, not having surface parking lots at all and the impact that would have on all forms of commercial tenancies.

Sounds like good news to me. It means that real estate values downtown are getting to the point that it’s more profitable to build a building that run a parking lot. That is a sign of a healthy downtown. Who wants surface parking in urban areas anyways?

Other questions this article leaves unanswered:

If so many people are choosing to live downtown — why do they need a car to work in downtown offices? How many downtown offices have surface parking right now? Not that many.

Of course, offices leaving the downtown for the burbs is not good news. But parking costs anywhere add to the cost of doing business. It’s time to look for alternatives like paying people not to drive. Which, it turns out, costs a fraction of the cost of supplying free employee parking.

For a different perspective on parking check out Donald Shoup’s great book The High Cost of Free Parking. You can read the first chapter online for free [pdf]. Or just listen to this NPR radio show.