We Are Willing to Build Urban Housing–For Cars

When I lived in Boston, one of the major reasons I got rid of my car was the cost of parking. Street parking really wasn’t much of an option, so I had to pay for a spot (first at a nearby garage and then in my building when a space became available). It’s amazing how much we subsidize parking in D.C. (boldface mine):

Take one short block in Adams Morgan: Cliffbourne Place NW. The street is about 100 yards long and has space to park 19 cars.

A few yards away, someone is renting a parking spot in the alley for $15 per day. But if you have a residential parking permit, you can park on the street for only 10 cents per day.

$15 per day is $5,475 per year. Let’s say that you would get a 20% discount for buying a yearly permit, so the market value of one parking spot in Adams Morgan is $4,380. The difference between the market rate for parking and the actual price we charge for a parking permit—our annual subsidy of each residential parking spot in this neighborhood—is $4,345.

For Cliffbourne Place, the annual subsidy for these 19 spots is $82,555. Why are giving the car drivers of Cliffbourne Place such a huge subsidy every year? The District of Columbia has abundant and heavily subsidized public housing, except that housing is for cars

At $35 a year, some people store unused cars on the street. Why leave them anywhere else? At Cliffbourne Place and Calvert Street, there is a car with flat tires that hasn’t moved for months. The car is a rusting, leaf-collecting eyesore. But it does have a current Zone 1 sticker, and by all appearances, is not breaking any laws.

We encourage this behavior by giving the parking away for next to nothing. Why are we paying $4,345 per year to this car’s owner so they can store their non-functional car on our street? This parking spot—this public real estate—is no longer contributing to the city’s transportation system. It’s just taxpayer-subsidized junk storage.

Keep in mind, the street discussed is in a census tract with over 42,000 people/sq. mile. This is not a suburb. At all.

There are people who need cars to get around (the disabled, the elderly). And there are neighborhoods where mass transit options are extremely limited. Those areas will need cars. But the next time someone talks about the massive subsidies that mass transit receives, the correct response is one word: “parking.”

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2 Responses to We Are Willing to Build Urban Housing–For Cars

  1. plch says:

    I realized just recently why some people that in the US live in towns well served by public transport still own a car: they cannot afford an ambulance. Making ambulance free possibly could decrease the number of cars.

  2. Wendy says:

    Out here, anything on the street must be moved after no longer than 72 hrs and everything must be in clearly operable condition. Tagged is based on complaints and do show up at various times. This isnt the case in most urban areas then? (This is Bay Area of California)

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