Future Of Driving

New Yorkers Spend More Than 100 Hours A Year Looking For Parking

Is. there. anything. worse. than. looking. for. parking? We prefer the strategy of starting in a tight circle and widening the net, but there's nothing worse than coming back to a spot you forsook in hopes of something better, only to find that it's been taken too. Despite our many hours of white-knuckling at a snail's pace through side streets, we were surprised to discover just how many hours we spend on the search for a spot.

A busy parking lot in New York City.

Parallel Problems

According to a study by transportation analytics firm Inrix, the cost of the average search for parking is much higher than you might expect. But you can probably guess which cities were the worst offenders in the U.S. New Yorkers get it the worst. In the Big Apple, the average driver spends 107 hours a year searching for parking. Los Angeles is right behind it, at 85 hours. In terms of gas prices, emissions, and wasted time, that's $4.3 billion and $3.7 billion respectively. The top 10 most vicious parking ecologies are all over 35 hours per year, but the national average is substantially better — something like 17 hours. That's one reason to make your home outside of the concrete jungle: you'll only have to hunt for a spot at malls and other retailers.

In the most crowded cities, the price of parking per driver is truly through the roof. An average New Yorker spends about $2,243 worth of time, money, and gas per year on parking, and for a Los Angeleno, that figure is around $1,785. But even in rural areas it's not an insubstantial sum. The national average puts the annual cost at about $345 per driver — not a fortune, sure, but enough for a couple of months' worth of gas.

Stopping The Spot Search

The situation looks dire, though checking busy times on Google and using apps like Waze might at least arm drivers with a bit more info before their expeditions. But some experts have a rather counter-intuitive solution on their minds. UCLA Law's Director of the Climate Change and Business Program, Ethan Elkind, wrote in an op-ed to the L.A. Times that what the city needs is less parking, not more.

The problem, in Elkind and co-author Mott Smith's view, is that L.A. requires every property to include off-street parking, but much of this parking ends up going to waste. In fact, 14 percent of Los Angeles county currently consists of parking — and that's 40 percent more space than the entire roadway system takes up. Still, since so much of this is private parking, the streets clog up with parked cars anyway. Their recommendation is to redirect the money being put into these mandatory, often wasted parking lots into a more reliable public transportation network. Come to think of it, not having to park might be the best parking solution of all.

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Written by Reuben Westmaas July 28, 2017

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