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The Continuing Story of the High Costs of Free Parking

A new study has found that despite higher monetary incentives, most commuters won't ditch their cars as long as their parking remains free.
February 22, 2016, 10am PST | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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This year, following Congressional approval, individuals who take transit to work will now receive the same monetary benefit ($255 per month) as those who drive alone and park at their place of employment. Despite this change, a new study casts doubt on any impending shift in how people commute. Eric Jaffe of CityLab reports that the study conducted by TransitCenter found that people are only likely to shift commute modes when the monetary benefit is there and the free parking is taking away.

The TransitCenter study reflects research conducted by Andrea Hamre at Virginia Tech. Hamre research again found that free parking was enough incentive to make people commute alone to work.

When no subsidies are offered, 62.3 percent of people drive to work, as per the model. But when both parking and transit subsidies are offered, slightly more people take their car—63.8 percent. Slightly more people take transit, too, but fewer people carpool or walk or ride their bike, so on net traffic would be worse.

Removing free parking ultimately shifts more cars off the road, reducing congestion and as the Transit Center notes, freeing up "billions of dollars a year in tax revenue that could be used for other public services."

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Published on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 in CityLab
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