Paying for Parking
By Bryan Caplan
I know less about Los Angeles, the city I grew up in, than any other place I’ve ever lived. Throughout my childhood, my dad’s mantra was, “Goddammit, we’re not going to downtown L.A.!” I always assumed drive time was the issue, but during my last visit, I made it from my childhood home to Hollywood in 25 minutes.
Puzzling. After a little detective work, I discovered that the real reason my dad refuses to go to downtown L.A. – even the nice parts – is that he hates paying for parking. And surely he’s not alone. I bet even a few Econlog readers live by the slogan: Thousands for gas, insurance, and maintainence; not one penny for parking! (But perhaps you prefer George Constanza’s slogan; scroll down a few lines here).
The perception of paid parking is that you are being “ripped off.” But the economic reality, of course, is that it’s a mutually beneficial transaction. You pay a little money, make your life easier, and give firms an incentive to create more parking. What could be less objectionable?
You could argue that there’s no way to change people’s minds, but I’m not so sure. Perhaps hostility to nominal wage cuts is deeply rooted in our psychology. But hostility to paid parking seems very culturally specific.
For example, my impression is that Europeans are used to paying for parking, and don’t have much problem with it. It all comes down to familiarity. Thus, to the long list of economic arguments for paid parking, we can add the psychological benefit of reducing resentment of paid parking.
But admittedly, it’s probably too late for my dad. He’ll never know the joy of opening night at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.