The cost of ‘free’ parking

Monday’s column, “New parking fees threaten Austin growth,” misses the mark on parking meters. Anyone who has ever tried to park downtown on a Friday or Saturday night knows that free parking spaces are usually either very difficult or impossible to find. It’s basic supply and demand: Parking is a limited resource, and if the cost doesn’t reflect that scarcity, there will be shortages. Expanded meter hours will increase the turnover and availability of those slots, increasing supply. Greater availability of metered parking spaces will offer a cheaper alternative to the more expensive garages.

It makes absolutely no sense that parking is free when demand is greatest, on Friday and Saturday nights, but costs money when there is less demand during the day. How will nighttime service workers cope? The same way as their coworkers that work during the day now and have to deal with metered street parking.

Contrary to popular myth, you don’t have to park downtown to go downtown. Plenty of buses go to and from downtown late into the night. If you want to park for a long period of time downtown, parking will still be free at nights north of 10th Street. Austinites need to get over the idea that they are entitled to free parking wherever they want to go. There is a cost to “free” parking spaces. They take up valuable land and have to be built. Free parking simply doesn’t work in a downtown setting when there are many more people who would like to park than there are parking spaces.

Timothy Bray, UT alumnus