Friday, April 20, 2007

Parking Your Car is Worse Than Driving Your Car

University of Rochester economist Steven Landsburg (author of Armchair Economist) writes in Slate.com today about why parking your car is more environmentally destructive than driving it. Some excerpts:

Feeling guilty about your car's contribution to global warming? The good and bad news is that you and your car have got something far bigger to feel guilty about. My CO2 emissions cause about $50 worth of damage each year. But my parking—on public streets where I take up valuable real estate—imposes far greater costs.

It took until 2006 for someone to notice that the social cost of mandated free and underpriced parking is nothing short of phenomenal, the implied subsidy being comparable to what we spend on Medicare or national defense.

There's a general principle here: We get bad outcomes when damaging the environment carries no penalty. That's why the world has too much pollution and too many cars on the street. It's also why, whenever something exciting happens at the ballpark, everyone stands up to see better and nobody succeeds. We all jump up out of exquisite concern for our own interests and none at all for the damage we inflict on our neighbors.

Update: A controversial new plan is about to be implemented to improve the quality of life in New York City. This weekend Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to introduce an $8 congestion fee for drivers who enter Manhattan below 86th Street. Read more here.

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