Lately I have been doing a lot of work on zoning.  If you have ever been involved with making zoning code, then you know that one of the biggest questions you face is "how much parking should we require for you-name-the-use".  

A better question to ask is how much parking do we need at "you-name-a-price".  Unfortunately we're so used to free parking that the price is assumed to be free. 

If you've read the other pages on this site, you probably have come to the conclusion that (where there's a parking shortage) the price of parking should not be free.  We need to wonder as well, in areas where there's not a parking shortage, do we even need parking minimums?

Back to the price of parking: This is not just about zoning.  It also applies to central business districts where there is *not enough parking*.  Often the assumption is not-enough-free-parking or not enough cheap parking.  Really the question is what is a target price for parking? Or better, what are the target prices for parking.  We need to price parking at the very least for different geographies (best spots more expensive than not-so-good spots), and ideally for different times of day.

Another key question is should we subsidize parking?  If yes, for everyone? For low income employees? In just certain areas?  In many communities we find that free parking is the bench mark and regardless of income, free parking is good.

What is the right *target* price for parking.  This goes beyond just setting the price to achieve a good occupancy rate.  Really we're asking: how high will we let price go before we build (or require a developer) new parking?

The answer to this of course varies by community.  I think there are some principles that we can follow.  The price of parking should:

  • cover the cost of construction and maintenance of the facility.
  • result in a target occupancy rate that includes both the facility and adjacent on-street parking (stay tuned for an upcoming post on the importance of pricing on-street parking right).
  • reflect broader policy goals such as encouraging people to park-once-and-walk or avoid driving to the location all together (transit, biking, walking etc).

I welcome your thoughts. In particular if you have any examples of places that have incorporated (or even thinking of it) the price of parking in to zoning regulations please let me know.