Parking has been largely dealt with through regulations on developers, and this process has shielded consumers from the true cost of parking. Parking spaces add a couple hundred to your rent, make food at the grocery store more expensive, and increase your taxes. But because these policies do this whether you own a car or not, most people don’t associate these costs with cars.
America began its love affair with parking in the 1940s and ’50s, when car use exploded. Panicked cities realized they would soon run out of curb space, but they didn’t want to discourage car ownership or build enough public transit. So instead they passed minimum parking requirements: If a developer wanted to erect a new office or apartment building, it had to build parking. For residences, typically two spots per household are required. And in general, cities calculated the highest peak amount of parking a location might need and demanded that developers build it.
Way back in the 1960s, UCLA’s Shoup became alarmed by the massive growth of parking. As he saw it, the problem was that in most people’s minds, the spaces seemed to be “free.” When developers are forced to build parking, the cost is folded into the purchase price, be it a home, an office, or a restaurant. And when people don’t pay to park at the curb (only a tiny fraction of curbside spots in the United States are metered), it’s the city that pays to build and maintain that spot. These costs are passed down to consumers and taxpayers, but since they’re never itemized, they’re easy to ignore. In my neighborhood in Brooklyn, for example, housing prices are sky-high, but the city doesn’t charge me to park on the street. When I tell this to Shoup, he points out that if they did charge me, the odds are high that I’d never have bought my car. When a city provides free parking, it’s also economically unfair, since it’s a subsidy available only to those who are wealthy enough to own cars. (Source)