Transportation Institute Reveals High Costs of Free Parking

Ninety-nine percent of all U.S. driving trips end in a free parking space, but when the economic and environmental consequences are considered, these parking spots aren’t really “free” after all. Smarter parking management can benefit consumers and businesses in time and money saved, according to a report released by Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

U.S. Parking Policies: An Overview of Management Strategies, cowritten by Professor Rachel Weinberger of the University of Pennsylvania, John Kaehny, and Matthew Rufo, illustrates how parking management in most U.S. cities creates additional traffic and air pollution and feeds auto-dependence. As long as parking is considered independently of transportation policy, parking demand and traffic will continue to increase in the form of excess auto trips, on-street parking shortages, and a decline in the overall pedestrian environment. Traditional parking policy prioritizes private automobile use, undermining the use of public transit, walking, and bicycling as travel modes, spurring significantly higher household travel costs for Americans.

“The poorly conceived parking policies found in the majority of U.S. cities are a major impediment to creating an effective and balanced urban transportation system,” says the report’s author Weinberger. “There is a growing movement in many U.S. cities to manage parking demand with policies that encourage balanced transportation systems.”

In the last 5 to 10 years, U.S. transportation planners have become much more aware of the impact of parking on congestion, air quality, economic development, and the pedestrian environment. The report examines good parking management strategies that have been implemented in the cities of Boulder, Cambridge, Chicago, New York, Portland, and San Francisco, and makes policy recommendations to U.S. decision makers.