I am a new and enthusiastic listener to the Guardian’s Business Podcast. I slow my steps homewards to get to the end of it before the door opens and domestic maelstrom ensues.  For the second time in a week, I urge people to subscribe to a podcast.

I mention it because the one I linked to above has an interesting though short discussion between Aditya and some fellow in LA who is arguing for more intelligent and market-sensitive parking charges.* I can sense pulses racing. But this is interesting.  It is crazy how a car can squat in a piece of urban space for a dozen quid a day or so, while the housing rental yields for that area are far greater, and the many negative externalities of the parked car are utterly unaccounted for.  As a modest fan of Ken’s Road pricing scheme, I wonder whether a more intelligent use of car parking charges might achieve much the same, better.

Naturally, as a rich person***, I like the idea, because I can wade in and park in a London newly rid of cars squatting at too low a price, and unload hordes of difficult-to-Tube youngsters next to previously-unreachable London landmarks.  Seriously, being stuck in SW__ every weekend is not ideal.

And to prove it is interesting, Alix at the People’s Republic of Mortimer has been wondering aloud in a different direction about what re-privatising road would achieve.  Her (IMHO idealistic) forecast: a return to railways and all those good things.  I wonder whether her scheme has thought through all the property rights aspects, let alone distributional questions, and am too rushed to dive through all the comments to find out.  Furthermore I know that T Leunig has expressed scepticism about road pricing before, and he knows about 10 X as much.  But I love plans that (a) raise revenues, net**, since the bond market would like to know when it will be paid  (b) address missing markets, externalities, etc (c) annoy redfaced Tory petrolheads. So surely some variation is worth looking at, some time, by someone more qualified than me.

*there is also an excellent chat with a Steven Leavitt, quite breathless towards the end on his “Spritzing Sulphur Dioxide” idea.

**I do appreciate that fuel duty already pays several times over for many externalities, or so I read in some Policy Exchange document 2 years ago.

*** I am a Lib Dem Blogger, and ought to have pointed out earlier that a. they are in favour of road pricing and also in classic Liberal Democrat fashion, b. they are vocally aware of how it may be a Poll tax on Wheels:

Environment spokesman Martin Horwood said the party’s opponents would be able to level “unfair accusations” that Lib Dems were trying to introduce “roads for the rich”.


Transport spokesman Norman Baker said the road-pricing scheme was not unfair, as it would only be introduced where there were real public transport alternatives. And he spoke in passionate defence of his party’s ideas for revolutionising transport, saying he wanted to create a “rail renaissance” alongside green policies that promote fairness.

Lib Dem commitment to open debate brings tears to my eyes, from all sorts of proximate causes.


5 thoughts on “Quick one: charging more for parking spaces?

  1. There is no externality from parking spaces. There is from driving, but tackle that directly. There are some crazy planning decisions, and it may be that we should convert some parking into other uses, but a tax on parking is not obviously meritous.

    Prices work best when supply is elastic. Then a rise in price attracts more resources to the area, satisfying demand that is there. Simply auctioning a pre-set quantity of an item is not particularly welfare enhancing.

  2. Interesting thoughts re: road privatisation as (idealistic?) route to public transport use. While I think it’s only really feasible if the public transport infrastructure improvements come beofre road pricing (and that’s gonna be tricky for a year or two), I think it’s also got to be taken in wider context of a debate no-one seems to want to have about WHERE we actually want to/should go by public transport.

    There is, for example, a consensus that a hi-speed rail link Londn to Scotland would be a ‘good thing’, but especially in terms of the opportuity costs I’m far from convinced.

    Why are French motorways quiet? Because the economies are much more regionally self-sufficient., isn’t it (no figures to hand to back that up). Is regional self-sufficiency, and therefore less miles spent on roads and trains by all, desirable? Yes, I think it is. Will a hi-speed rail link simply suck in commuters and businesses towards London (and maybe edinburgh) and even further de-regionalise economies? There must be a risk of that. Should hi-speed rail monies be diverted to massive local public transport infrastructure instead, ie. reversing Beeching for the mid 21st century, so that regional economies work better and people go less far to work? Yes, maybe.

    T’would be great if your thinky thanky thinky could open up that wider debate on what the transport/economic geography of 25 years hence should be like. Maybe link in with whoever got the localism researcher post at resPublica (you said you wanted to engage) – that kind of thing should be their job, (alongside a decent research project on public procurment supply chain localisation which I have all ready to go if anyone’s interested….)

  3. I promise, that if it were not PBR day, I would try to make a 1% chip in this huge block of a challenge. not sure I like the protectionist connotations (too much localism) but well worth thinking on.

  4. 1. Superfreakonomics is wrong on many many levels in its global warming chapter. For example, see:


    There are many many other posts in the blogosphere and MSM that argue similar things too.

    2. The one thing you don’t address about the Lib Dems’ road pricing scheme, is the privacy implications of it. The government knowing everywhere we drive? No thank you. The Lib Dems (rightly) oppose government invasion of privacy in other areas like the DNA database etc, so why not on road pricing?

    Not to mention that nearly 2 million people signed the petition against Labour introducing a road pricing scheme (which makes it the all time most popular petition on the No. 10 website).

  5. Yeah, the sheer effectiveness of that policy was scary, though the angle “we know where you’ve been” very effectiive; it’s why I kinda like ideas like higher parking charges, as a blunt instrument,.

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