Parking Still a Bargain in Portland

A study reported in the Business Journal indicates that at $15, downtown daily parking is still pretty cheap when compared to other large cities. Likewise for the monthly rate of $185.

In related news, Streetsblog has a take on what I think is the same study, and notes how awesome the most expensive cities are. That makes Portland … ? Not awesome?

8 responses to “Parking Still a Bargain in Portland”

  1. The streetsblog piece was mostly to drum up support for [or, to rail pointlessly for] higher prices in New York City, where outside manhattan is still a paltry $0.75/hr (going up to $1 shortly, although there was a lot of pushback).

    Personally I don’t think Portland has the demand at metered locations to warrant a big rate increase without pushing people to hunt for free spots

  2. It is amazing to me how cheap parking for a month still is in NYC. With how much housing costs there it is surprising more people don’t live in vans.

  3. It should be clear that one of the main factors that causes someone with a car to take transit for a commute trip (or even a shopping trip), especially to a downtown business core, is the cost of parking. After all, most automobile costs are sunk costs (buying the car, insurance, fees, etc) and gas is only bought occasionally. So parking is the most common marginal cost of driving. If it is high enough, the cost of a bus or train fare plus the cost in additional time starts to not seem so bad after all.

    As many others have pointed out, cheap parking in downtown Portland is most likely the primary cause of Portland’s low transit trip percentage compared to Seattle or Vancouver. You can build a great transit system, but if driving takes less time and parking is cheap, most people will keep driving.

    The previous comment about the high cost of parking leading people to spend more time hunting for free spots simply makes the case that there should be no free parking downtown! That should be obvious, but apparently is not. Seattle has no free parking downtown (as far as I can tell), except on Sundays. This leads to very high transit usage.

    People will say that there is no way downtown businesses can compete with the malls with their free parking, but this is simply a myth. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that people choose where to shop based on the cost of parking. They just choose their mode of transport based on the cost of parking, so the same person might take transit to downtown but drive to the mall.

    On-street parking should vary with demand, as San Francisco is now doing, and off-street should be market-rate. Parking taxes should fund additional transit to give people a good alternative. If raising parking rates actually leads to under-utilization of capacity, that suggests that demand does not warrant having so much space devoted to parking, and we can start converting some of those garages to better uses.

  4. “Portland is most likely the primary cause of Portland’s low transit trip percentage compared to Seattle or Vancouver.”

    Seattle’s parking system is not vastly different than Portland’s. There is no “free” parking in either downtown cores except at certain hours. Our low modal split compared to Seattle has nothing to do with parking rates.

    People will take the most convenient method of transportation, and when transit through downtown is fairly slow, they drive.

    If transit turns into this punitive movement to coerce people to take transit, as you’re suggesting, it is doomed to fail. That is not what transit should be about…it’s not what transportation should be about. It should be about options.

    The “market” for parking needs to reflect the need and supply of parking for a given area, not the need to get more people to take transit.

    Re: Parking in cities

    On the topic of dealing with the glut of parking garages in cities, changing our silly property tax system to a 100% land based tax system (Land Value Tax) will reduce parking lots and garages in cities and allow developers to maximize the land to better uses without zoning or city codes.

    A good comparison of this in action in Portland is the total value (land + building value) of a Smart Park garage near the library to that of the Wells Fargo Tower.

    The difference is almost 100 million dollars in total value yet both consume the same amount of land. That’s unfair and arbitrary taxation.

  5. ws,

    Charging the market rate for parking is not a measure to make people take transit. It is a measure to save people time, and reduce emissions.

    I will occasionally drive to PSU for class at about 5pm. I usually don’t have trouble finding a spot this time of day. However, if I am looking for parking at 7pm, it is very different. I often have to hunt for 5 to 10 minutes for a spot. This is a waste of time and fuel, and people do it all over town every day. Parking should be priced to ensure at least 10% availability in all areas.

  6. Chris I:

    I never said anything that disagrees with your stance.

    Keep in mind, using market based parking strategies will also mean that some parking costs should go down or even be “free” during certain times because the demand is not there (usually early in the morning in retail heavy areas).

    My comment were in regards to zefwagner’s who appears to support increasing parking costs to make transit appeal more due it its higher costs. It’s possible I may be mistaken on my assertions.

    My retort is that’s not what market-based parking strategies are or should be about.

  7. It’s obvious that on-street parking is subsidized in Portland.

    Is off-street parking subsidized? Given that the City-owned SmartPark lots are a huge percentage of the available off-street parking, there is the potential for implicit City subsidies for off-street parking. This would be the case if, for example, the City keeps a parcel of land devoted to parking when a private developer would build a large office building on it because of the higher rate of return.

    Given that our parking rates are lower than other cities of comparable size, I’d say the City may well be subsidizing off-street parking too. Why does the City own off-street parking garages anyway? Stop the off-street parking subsidy, Portland!

  8. ws, you are wrong about the parking differences in Seattle and Portland. Portland has many subsidized, city-owned garages. Seattle does not. Portland has below-market prices for parking, Seattle has market prices for parking. Simple as that.

    The distorted low cost of parking (and most likely more total spaces) in Portland not only leads to the inefficiency of people driving around looking for spaces, it also encourages people to drive downtown instead of taking transit. People in Seattle know that parking downtown, especially as an employee, would be prohibitively expensive. Therefore even people who own cars are very likely to take transit. Portland subsidizes the parking in a way that explicitly encourages people to drive downtown.

    You misunderstood my general tone anyway. I think using market prices for parking will by itself lead to higher transit use, since many people who are unwilling to pay the price will instead take transit. I am just talking about ending subsidized parking. I also think it is reasonable to lower the total number of spaces, not as some kind of punitive measure against cars but because there are usually better uses of prime downtown land than as a parking garage or even worse a surface lot. At least bury the parking and put retail, housing, and/or office on top!

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