How To Calm The Urban Parking Wars

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 04: A man walks through a parking lot on June 4, 2013 in Buffalo, New York, near the U.S.-Canada border.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

One of the main issues that leads people to oppose new real estate development in their neighborhood is parking. Access to street parking, in particular. Many cities massively over-allocate scarce public space to automobiles with the vast stretches of land set aside as on-street car storage being a key culprit. Incumbent residents enjoy access to that resource and fear that newcomers will compete with them for access to it. The traditional remedy to this concern has been growth-and-environment-killing minimum parking mandates, but in DC at least the hip new idea is to prevent residents of new developments from obtaining street parking permits.


That’s better than regulatory mandates, but I do think there’s an even better way. That would be to simply stop handing out new street permits altogether and turn the existing permits into tradeable private property owned by the people who hold them. Creating that kind of windfall for incumbent parkers would be moderately unfair, but precisely because it’s unfair it would actually accomplish the desired political objective of halting parking-related objections to new development. For incumbent permit-holders, development would no longer degrade the value of their parking permits. Since the total number of permits would be capped, there’d be no scarcity of street parking. And since the permits would be tradable property, new residents would actually increase the market price. Now everybody’s happy.