Whether you drive or not, you are paying a sales tax for parking amounting to about 1% of all your retail purchases.
…If, on average, rent is 8.5% of costs, and parking is 10% of rent, then parking is 0.85% of the retailer’s costs. The retailer covers those costs by passing them on to the consumer. You and I are paying that 0.85%.
If, like me, you live in a fairly dense urban or suburban area where land is expensive, the cost of rent and parking is higher (VTPI cites parking costs of 18% in Oakland). One percent is probably too low…
This subsidy is like a tax, as governments require developers to build parking. For consumers the effect is the same as if the government collected the tax and built the parking itself. This is effectively a privately administered sales tax.
As a result, drivers are being subsidized by those who walk, bike, or take transit. When you walk to your supermarket, 1% of what you spend is going to those who drive instead.
Parking also increases rental prices (boldface mine):
This happens on a likely larger scale in apartment buildings that include parking spots. There, the costs of parking are inevitably folded into the rent, even if you decline the option of paying an additional monthly fee for a parking spot. That’s because monthly parking fees seldom reflect the true amortized cost of creating and maintaining parking. Apartment buildings also frequently build more parking than they need, at the demand of regulation. And that additionally means that if you do pay for a parking spot, you probably also pay something extra for the empty spaces around it.
There are never any free-market libertarians around when you need them. I’m becoming more and more convinced this is a generational thing in cities: whenever I’ve gone to various planning meetings–whether in Boston or D.C.–there’s a distinct age divide in concerns over parking by local residents. Older residents want ample parking while younger residents want less parking.
The kids are alright. Or at least aware of the hidden costs of parking.