>Cherry Blossoms and Shoupian Pricing

>Those who know me well have heard me once or twice rant about how parking is too cheap. Here’s a great example of the phenomenon:

Washington Post on Cherry Blossoms Parking

Due to the mass of tourists trying to come to the basin to view the annual spectacle, people spend hours circling a tiny lot next to the basin, and according to the article, fistfights sometimes break out over the parking spaces there.

This year, no more. The National Parks Service will close the lot and instead encourage people, as they do every year, to take the metro, ride a bike, or park for free about two miles away on nearby Hains Point. They’ve even started a free shuttle which runs once per half hour.

I think this instance illustrates why parking pricing is so important. It’s readily apparent from the story that convenient parking is something that people are more than willing to go to great personal expense to get. They’re willing to circle for an hour, wasting time and fuel, and even occasionally assault each other over it.

Wouldn’t it be better just to ask people to pay something for parking up close? How about $2 an hour? If you had a van full of kids or you didn’t have much time to see the blossoms, would you pay $2 for convenience? I sure would. I bet most people would at least like the option.

I think that as suggested by Dr. Shoup in “The High Cost of Free Parking”, the Parks service should charge just enough that there are some empty spaces available whenever people show up. That way, if you were willing to pay for it, you could have as much parking as you needed. The money would go to a worthy cause: providing better shuttle service to the free parking on Hains point (how about every 8 minutes?) and to the Metro station.

If there were a charge, everyone would benefit: if you didn’t want to pay, you get a great free shuttle service, if you were willing to pay, you could park right away without having to circle for an hour, and if you were walking, taking a bike, or you breathe air, you benefit from less traffic, congestion, and pollution.

Anticipated objections:

“You can’t charge people for park land! It’s supposed to be a public resource!” We charge for public resources all the time. We charge for water, we charge for bridge tolls, we charge for logging rights and the use of other national parks. The key is that this may be public land, but it’s not, economically speaking, a public good.

“You’re making it so that poor people can’t see the cherry blossoms!” Are you honestly saying that people who can afford thousands of dollars to purchase, insure, maintain, register and provide gas for a vehicle cannot afford to pay a couple of bucks for parking? Besides, there’s a number of completely free options that get even better with the money provided by the parking fees. If you don’t charge for parking, all you get is a shuttle every half hour and no close parking lot. If you do charge for parking, you get the choice of free parking and a frequent shuttle, or paying for the convenience of parking up close.

I hope I’ve convinced you. Your comments are more than appreciated.


About perkinsms

I'm an engineer and father interested in transit, parking and economics.
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2 Responses to >Cherry Blossoms and Shoupian Pricing

  1. Mark says:

    >Society’s unwillingness to properly price-ration luxuries produces even less efficient situations.Consider how often sporting events or video game systems are not price rationed by the party selling them. “But it’s fair this way, because otherwise only rich people could buy them!” So what happens? People with nothing camp out for hours, buy as many as they can, and resell them at the price the market will bear.Perhaps this is logical for the reseller (as they can earn hundreds of dollars from ten hours work), but it is a shame they weren’t actually -producing- something which would benefit society.

  2. Michael says:

    >The great part of this particular instance is that the revenue generated would go to something that is more likely to be used by people priced out of the market for paid parking.Wife, kid and I rode the metro to the festival, it was packed, but the parking lot was used for vendors.it is a shame they weren’t actually -producing- something which would benefit society.You mean, except for the capability to wait in line for discount goods?MSP

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