Friday, September 19, 2008

Congestion in the market for parking spaces

The NY Times has a story called The Year of the Parking Space that touches on many parking related developments in NY. The most interesting part concerns congestion: lots of resources are spent trying to find parking spots.

"Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation is trying congestion rate parking in Greenwich Village as well as in and around Midwood to reduce double parking and cruising for available spots this fall. A recent Transportation Alternatives study on underpriced curbside parking on the Upper West Side found that drivers on Columbus Avenue cruise a total of 366,000 miles a year, producing 325 tons of carbon dioxide, at a cost to drivers of $130,000 per year in wasted fuel and more than 50,000 hours spent circling in traffic.
Further down the line? The department is trying to allow people to pay for parking via cellphones.
But for high-tech parking, San Francisco trumps us. They are developing a wireless sensor network that will announce which spaces are free at any moment. "

The Transportation Alternatives report linked in the excerpt is worth looking at. It begins in a way that makes clear why this is a market design problem:

"Every driving trip begins and ends with parking. But the demand for curbside parking in New York City far exceeds the supply. This mismatch is greatly compounded by the fact that curbside parking is free or priced far below garage rates, which are 10-15 times more expensive .
The low price of curbside parking unleashes a torrent of bargain-hunting drivers. Those who find spaces stay longer to make the most of their find. And when all spaces at the curb are occupied, other cars looking for parking circle in traffic for an elusive space. The saturation of curbside parking is a direct cause of air pollution, illegal parking and traffic congestion, all of which exact high costs on New York City’s environment, economy, health and quality of life."

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