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When you live in Los Angeles, there are two things which make you cringe. The first is the traffic. The second is the parking.

los angeles parking

The traffic is obvious, and it has gotten steadily more obvious as time goes by. There is hardly any time during the daylight hours when the traffic isn’t horrific. But what about the parking? On street parking has become steadily more difficult to find. And off street parking has become steadily more expensive.

On street parking has become steadily more difficult to find. And off street parking has become steadily more expensive.

Suppose you want to visit the world class Getty Villa. It is an amazing place to visit, and they charge nothing if you want to visit. Unless you arrive by car. Then it costs $15 flat fee to park. Not only that, but the Getty forces you to park in their parking structure. If you park off-site (and there are places where it’s possible to do that) the Getty won’t let you come in. Why is that? The Getty claims that it’s an agreement with the surrounding neighborhoods that they won’t let visitors park locally and crowd the neighbors. “Visitors to the Getty Villa are not permitted to park anywhere other than the Getty Villa as a condition of the Conditional Use Permit issued by the City of Los Angeles.”

The situation at the Getty is just an extreme example of the parking problem throughout Los Angeles, where parking has become steadily more difficult and more expensive. What’s the real cost of parking? “[W]hile parking prices may take a palpable bite out of your wallet, free parking costs all Americans in other ways," says Daniel Shoup, an urban planning professor at University of California at Los Angeles. The author of The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup argues that free parking is not as free as it seems: “Taxpayers, neighborhood residents and consumers all pay for parking with every transaction. . . . [H]e posits the true cost of all the free parking across the United States adds up to somewhere between the cost of Medicare and the cost of national defense." Manhattan is the most expensive place to park in the U.S. ($41 per day), while Los Angeles is less than half that but still expensive.

How much does parking cost in Los Angeles? For one project just blocks away from Union Station, it could be as much as $28 million . . . Thanks in part to the city’s zoning codes, the project will also need to include a whopping 720 parking spaces. The price tag for the parking could end up being 20 percent of the project’s total cost.

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There are more than 260 million cars and trucks in the United States, and most cars sit parked about 95% of the time. And this is the real problem: we have lots of cars, and the cost of surface area on which to park them is costly. It is a hidden cost that we rarely think about. But if we could significantly reduce the number of cars on the road that would also reduce the need for parking (not to mention a host of other issues about automobiles). So – how do we do that?

Public transport is an obvious possibility. But in a sprawling city like Los Angeles, public transport is difficult in the traditional format, like subways and busses. Yet we could have public transport using something like the Uber and Lyft model – that is, larger cars directed by cell phones and guided by the internet.

Such a model would work if more drivers were willing to share their vehicles with riders so that there were a large network of drivers and riders in the city. The municipalities could encourage this by making parking more accessible and cheaper to those drivers in the pool. Another possibility would be to make auto insurance for such drivers cheaper. The federal and state government could exempt from income tax the money paid to drivers by their passengers.

A reduction in the number of cars on the road would mean a reduction in the number of parked cars and would lessen the need for traffic cops, plus it would lower the incidences of heavy traffic conditions and many of the other things that make living in Los Angeles less pleasing to life. It would also reduce air pollution.

The goal for Los Angeles should be to do everything possible to encourage higher ridership in automobiles, because that would lower the number of cars on the road and all of the negative aspects resulting from the growing number of cars. Directing our planning to reducing the number of cars would significantly improve life in Los Angeles and improve the economics of city life.

michael hertz

Michael Hertz