Who pays for parking?

September 14th, 2009 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

Like someone who has quit smoking, I find that ever since I gave up my car I have problems with other people who are still hooked on theirs. A certain intolerance sets in that I recognize to be irrational at times, but this frame of mind does give rise to realizations that I might not have reached otherwise.

Park and save?

Park and save?

My current obsession is parking, specifically validated parking for shoppers, which is such a fixture of consumer life that most people, whether they drive or not, take it for granted. But who actually pays for parking?

Parking lots are not cost-free, especially in big cities where land is a premium. Retailers have to pay rent on the land, or, if they own it, property taxes. They have to pay the concession that operates the parking lot. They have to pay for security and upkeep. All those expenses go into the prices of the goods they sell, which means their patrons pay for these expenses. But it’s only a benefit for those who drive to the store and who can park for free if they buy the store’s wares. People who walk or ride a bicycle or take public transportation don’t get anything, but they’re paying for the parking lot just the same. In effect, non-drivers are subsidizing drivers’ shopping activities.

This is the same basic complaint that non-homeowners have in countries where mortgage interest is tax deductible. People who buy houses or condos can deduct the interest of their housing loans on their income tax returns. Supposedly, this practice spurs housing sales, which are said to benefit the economy as a whole, but in some countries — France, for instance — it is considered unfair to non-homeowners, since in essence it amounts to welfare for homeowners. Non-homeowners subsidize their housing purchases.


2 Responses

  1. Big difference: If you don’t like paying for other people’s parking, you can shop at a store without a parking lot. Problem solved.

    Now, on the other hand, your tax dollars are going to pay for all those highways that are now free or very cheap to motorists. *There’s* something to actually get worked up about.

  2. Shopping at a store without a parking lot is becoming less of an option, especially if you live outside a major city. Since the passage of the so-called Big Store law more than ten years ago (as a result of American pressure) more and more shopping centers are being built in the suburbs and smaller merchants can’t compete, so shotengai (shopping arcades) are closing down and turning into shatta-dori (shuttered streets). Of course, parking at these shopping centers is free–you don’t even need to buy anything–but if you don’t have a car you have to find some other way to get there since they usually aren’t located in residential areas but rather in abandoned farmland.

    The shutter street syndrome is even encroaching on cities. The photograph above was taken at LaLa Terrace, near Minamisenju in Tokyo. Since it opened about four years ago, more and more local merchants have gone out of business in the area. The DPJ’s plan to make expressways free will only exacerbate the situation.


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