Thursday, December 6, 2012

Paying for Parking in Two Ways

Bruce Ely/The Oregonian
One of the most important lessons economists try and teach new economics students is that costs are both monetary and non-monetary and that in economics costs include opportunity costs: the value of the next best thing you give up by choosing a certain economic activity.

I was reminded of this when I read Beth Slovic's article in The Oregonian about the proposal to bring parking meters to the NW shopping district of NE 21st and 23rd.  I was surprised at the local merchants apparent conviction that this would lead to fewer customers.

I am not convinced. I, for one, used to live at NW 23rd and Glisan prior to the gentrification of the neighborhood, when it was one of the only thriving neighborhood shopping districts and a real treat of a place to live (not that it isn't now just that back then - circa 1990 - it was a no-brainer to live there as a young 20-something with access to Escape fro NY Pizza, the Mission Theatre, Cinema 21, the Blue Moon, Coffee People and so on).

I almost never go there anymore, in fact I have a hard time remembering the last time I spent time in the neighborhood.  The reason is parking.  It is a nightmare and I really don't feel like driving around for 20 minutes looking for a spot.  So I would happily pay a few bucks for easier access to parking and would be more likely to shop there if I knew that parking would be easier to find. 

So for me the opportunity cost of searching for a free parking spot outweighs the cost of metered parking.  I suspect that, especially given the up-scale shopping featured in the neighborhood, the typical out of neighborhood shopper is similar to me in this respect.  I would be curious, therefore, to know where the merchants get their data.  I have no idea if my generalization is correct but I am suspicious of claims of a big negative impact.  


Jeff Alworth said...

I'm with you. My wife and I have resolved to avoid Regal Cinemas (price, onslaught of ads before movies) and so have to choose among the city's indies. Since Cinema 21 has a monopoly on certain first releases, it would be a no-brainer. We'd probably go there ten times a year or more. But parking on a Friday night?

I do wonder if there's a bit of protectionism going on. It's a heavily residential neighborhood, and as a former resident myself (21st and Hoyt), I know I despised people from other neighborhoods spoiling my cool life there. Maybe they're happy the way things are.

Unknown said...

Interesting, I couldnt have imagined that parking could be an issue in a state like Oregon with, a low population density (in my country population density is 370/1000). Your post is more of a common sense for me(but economics mostly is) as in India the first thing that comes to mind before going to shopping is parking space. So that is actually a strong reason why new shopping malls have taken over the traditional, age old shopping centres that were around there for more than 60-70 or more years. Not that people dont go there anymore, but now we look for proper time/ days when crowd would be minimum and parking space easily available. So I totally agree with u, parking meters dont spoil business, infact they would rather boost business, esp when the country is developing fast and middle class is becoming more pompous.