Parking for a Price

This article originally appeared in the Manhattan Institute. Click here to read the full article.

By Bryan Weaver and Ike Brannon

Last winter, a full week after the final snowstorm of the season, most of the cars parked on our block, in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C., sat untouched. It wasn’t the snow that kept the cars in place; a warm front melted most of it by the weekend, leaving a patina of ice on the cars not driven since before the storm. Fifteen of the 21 cars parked on the block hadn’t been driven in eight days. A few had been there even longer: a van was parked in the same place since last summer. A late-model canary-yellow Corvette, though regularly washed by its owner, hasn’t been moved in almost two years. Its blue-book value is $15,000. A genuine London Cab sat parked across the street, sporting the same “for-sale” sign for three years.

These cars and many others are essentially baubles for their owners in a pricey neighborhood where one-bedroom apartments rent for over $2,000 per month and three-bedroom homes start at $1 million. With proximity to downtown and plentiful mass-transit options, few in the neighborhood need cars to get to work. Nevertheless, many hold onto their vehicles because storing them on city streets is amazingly affordable. A yearly residential parking sticker costs just $25. By comparison, the going cost for parking a car in a private, reserved spot in the neighborhood is $250 per month—more than 100 times what it costs to leave it on city streets annually.