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Is This Spot Taken?

Free parking and the Bill of Rights?

by on Aug.18, 2010

An American right?

It’s not mentioned in the Constitution or Bill or Rights, but are there any American motorists—except in densely urban areas– who doubt that free parking for their cars is a fundamental right?  Of course not, if there were, they’d be bounced out of town on a greasy frame rail.

Not so for a couple of college professors who, in a Sunday New York Times Business Section opinion, advocate that free parking be banished.  Ironically, both are faculty members at commuter colleges that would die without giant parking lots for their briefcase- or backpack-bearing students, most of whom arrive by car.

Donald C. Shoup, professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) pegs the value of a Los Angeles parking place at $31,000.  Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University in suburban Washington, DC, posits that “99 percent of all automobile trips in the United States end in a free parking space, rather than a parking space with a market price.”

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Eliminating these free spaces, argues Cowen, would “encourage a relatively efficient high-density use of space.”  Thanks but no thanks, if I wanted to be a “high-density” cliff dweller in New York City or Chicago’s loop, I would have made that choice long ago.  Like most Americans who have a choice, I treasure my suburban sod.

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