For a Better Brisbane

Free parking 1: It’s very expensive

Housing affordability and space for residences is a major issue in Australian cities. Economist and columnist Ross Gittins explains in a recent Brisbanetimes article that rapidly rising and unaffordable house prices are not necessarily a good thing. More recent ‘fixes’ have focused on home owner boosts, increasing the supply of affordable housing (social housing), subsidy schemes, plans for new cities (Ripley, Flagstone and Yarrabilla) and the like.

But did anyone look at the high cost of providing mandatory car parking?

A temporary, but tranquil-looking lake has formed at 321 Montague Road, West End. Eventually a lake of carparks will replace the water.

Providing free car parking, whether on the street or more often, in giant underground car warrens is very expensive. First there is the cost of constructing the car park itself. For underground car parks, this means excavation and transport of massive amounts of rock and soil and expensive earthworks. For above ground car-parks, in addition to the costs of construction, there are opportunity costs because if land or space is locked up in a car park, that is space which cannot be used for residences (which can be sold), play areas, landscaping or other things.

In areas near good public transport, such as railway stations, busway stations, ferry terminals, major bus interchanges,  or light rail stops and possibly along BUZ routes it might be time to consider accommodating low-car and no-car transit-oriented developments in city planning codes. (However, with mixed traffic BUZ routes and other high frequency buses there is a potential problem to do with the permanence of the system; the subject of future posts). Many cities overseas already feature low-car and no-car developments.


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June 20, 2010 at 3:55 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Agreed. It could be like Subway- where you select what you want, and leave out what you don’t want, and then pay for it.

    Sounds like a good idea.


    June 21, 2010 at 12:16 pm

  2. yep, it could be getting off the point.

    but coming back to your original point – rather than excluding car parks all together i think it would be a good idea to push for inner city car parks to be “optional add ons” – that way people actually consider whether they need a car park or not, and can associate a price with the value they get from having the car park.


    June 21, 2010 at 11:59 am

  3. A good point.

    A number of economic externialities are associated with that ‘investment’,
    in particular traffic congestion, air pollution and noise pollution as well
    as accidents, costs of traffic calming, signage, signalisation and court costs if the number of car parks initiates concerns.

    Such costs are not necessarily obvious at the time of purchase and
    often fall on third parties, such as the council or ratepayers.

    The return on a car park also has to be compared to the return on other
    investment alternatives, such as shares, bonds, other properties and their liquidity.
    In addition, persons may also prefer to invest their money in Ethical and Sustainable
    investment schemes rather than something like a car park.

    The BrisUrbane blog is not arguing that any party should be ‘forced’ to provide
    less site parking. Indeed, it is arguing the opposite case- that developers and their
    customers near good public transport should be given more freedom and choice over how many car parks to provide and should be allowed to provide less, or in some cases none at all if appropriately


    June 21, 2010 at 11:53 am

  4. it is a fair sized discount, yes – but like the apartment, the car park can also be considered an investment that most reasonable people would expect to increase in value. especially with car parks expected to become increasingly scarce in future.

    there is also the rental return to consider if you purchase a carpark but don’t intend on using it. an inner-city carpark rents for around $50pw, giving you a 6.5% gross return if you paid $40k for it. that’s a pretty good return!


    June 21, 2010 at 11:10 am

  5. A $30-50K discount for going car-free would be very large- larger than any homeowner boost! A typical car might cost $25 000 or so, if a car park costs just as much as a new car, that is a big saving.

    Its important that quality public transport attracts “choice riders”- that is people who can afford a car and would otherwise expect to have one.


    June 21, 2010 at 10:58 am

  6. An interesting point, but i would not say that these carparks are free. it is like saying that the apartment comes with a “free oven” or a “free carpet” – it is not free, it is built into the price.

    In most large developments the lower-priced apartments, typically the studios or 1bdrm, will often not come with carparks, but there will be a limited number of carparks that are available for sale with this apartments – meaning you need to pay extra to get a carpark, typically $30 – 50k. and they always sell. in the higher priced apartments it is something that 95% of all buyers expect – much like they expect to get an oven in their apartment, or air conditioning in their new car.

    However, to take your point further – it would be interesting to make carparks optional on all apartments, not just the lower priced one. perhaps some 2bdrm buyers do not want a carpark and would be happy to take the 30 – 50k discount on their purchase price??


    June 21, 2010 at 10:46 am

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