Parking policy as a mechanism to reduce car ownership and use

TitleParking policy as a mechanism to reduce car ownership and use
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsFarr L
Academic DepartmentDepartment of Urban Studies and Planning

The vast majority of Americans own a car, despite its high cost and low utilization rate. Through a stated preference survey in Washington D.C., Chicago, Dallas, and Seattle metro areas, I find that people value their car at $11,197, and the majority of that value comes from owning the car, rather than from using it. The ownership value comes in part from the “option value,” that the car is sitting in a parking spot, waiting to be used whenever and however the owner wishes. Parking enables this value. In the next set of results, I find that parking-related variables, like the built environment and employer-provided parking benefits, also impact car use. Though these findings point to the potential for policymakers to use parking policy to reduce car ownership and use, American cities are notorious for having an oversupply of underpriced parking. To investigate why parking policies may be underutilized, I interview and survey parking officials. I find that officials are not trying to use parking policy to reduce car ownership or to disincentivize cars. Officials face strong resistance to such policies by businesses and residents that live near to where they will be implemented. I conclude with several policy recommendations aimed at enabling policymakers to better utilize parking policy to reduce car ownership and use, including policies relating to reframed goals and metrics and shifting power to balance localized stakeholder needs better with recipients of larger scale benefits. Lastly, in order for parking policy to be truly effective in reducing car use and ownership, I recognize that land use policy and mobility system improvements must be deployed to provide truly viable non-private car alternatives that replicate the option value of car ownership.