Monkeying Around


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

Related Post Roulette

109 Responses

  1. Murali says:

    Well, the way it is now, it seems like parking spaces are severely underpriced. I think that once the market settles, people will factor in the true price of parking. I’m seeing this as a positive development. If parking space is so limited but so cheap that a lot more people want to park than there are lots available then something has gone wrong. Exploiting the difference is good overall. If this makes driving less affordable, so much the better.Report

  2. Kolohe says:

    Meh, this is one of those cases where Yglesias is exactly right.

    The city is stupid for not metering or otherwise charging a price for (what appears to be) a highly in demand public good. Logically, this app isn’t going to be able to charge any more for a spot than the closest available paid parking (municipal and/or private) – and if there is insufficient paid parking, that is yet another market failure that may or may not be laid at the feet of the city. (depends on how much zoning policy and price controls are to blame)

    If the city wants to really give away ‘free’ parking, they could always undercut these guys business model by installing a sensor network to determine open street spaces and feed it into their own app.

    This app is little different from the practice of paying people to wait in line at high demand events, where queueing may start hours or even days before tickets (or whatever) go on sale – Iphones, audience seats at US Congressional committee hearings, applications for a liquor license (these days it seems the majority of these lines are for government programs, not for rock concerts like they use to be)Report

  3. j r says:

    The existence of this app strikes me as the result of a sub-optimal policy and a case of the city of San Francisco leaving a bit of money on the table, but I’m not sure why it would be appalling. I suppose you could argue that it is a breach in etiquette, but no more appalling than holding multiple seats at the movie theater while your friends go for popcorn or putting your bag on an empty subway seat.Report

    • Kim in reply to j r says:

      That’s about what I thought, too.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

      I don’t know the specifics of SF’s parking situation, but I’m happy to concede that there is a market failure of some sort or another at play. That said, were I to pull up to a spot that someone was planning to leave but which he refused to because someone was on their way with $20 to pay him in exchange for it, I’d want to slash that guy’s tires. I wouldn’t… but I’d want to. Trying to sell something that does not specifically belong to you — and which really belongs to the public — feels really wrong.

      It also just seems like, practically, it is going to lead to real problems. I’ve seen people throw down in mall parking lots when no money was involved.Report

      • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

        What if he weren’t selling it? What if he was waiting for his wife to pull up, so they could switch the spots between their two cars? Or what if one person saw a friend looking for a spot somewhere that he was leaving and told the friend to follow him and take his spot.

        In other words, is it people exchanging access to public provisions among themselves that bothers you or is the involvement of money?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I would be bothered by holding the spot for any reason. When I see someone standing in a parking spot while they wait for a car to arrive, I find it irksome as well.

        I don’t think the movie theater analogy holds. The saved seat has (theoretically) been paid for; it is simply the specific spot being held. Plus, our social expectations for the two venues are different.

        Putting your bag on a seat on public transportation? If seats are in demand, that is wrong (and will get you fined in some cities).

        Basically, I struggle with anyone unilaterally asserting control over something they are not in position to assert such control over. If this was being done in private lots without the okay of the owner, I’d find it appalling. That it is being done in public spaces — which either belong to the government OR to the people, but not to any one individual — is similarly appalling.

        The government isn’t blameless in this. As many have pointed out, they should be doing more to address the supply/demand issue with regards to parking. But this is one group of people punishing another group of people — violating the generally accepted social norms (and perhaps even legal prescriptions — I don’t know how the law handles claims to parking spots) — for their individual benefit.Report

      • Reformed Republican in reply to Kazzy says:

        I would be bothered by holding the spot for any reason. When I see someone standing in a parking spot while they wait for a car to arrive, I find it irksome as well.

        When I was 16 or 17, I was going to the movies. The parking lot was packed. I was going down the aisle when I saw an open space and began to pull in. Then I realized there were a couple of little girls standing in the space, holding it for their parents. “Screw that, you can’t hold a space!” I said to myself, and continued pulling in, trusting the girls to get out of the way (which they did). Looking back, it was a shameful moment (though I still think holding parking spaces is wrong).Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Had you run those girls over, it was have just been the market correcting itself.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        I would say it was as shameful for the parents as for you. Presumably they were small enough that you didn’t see them right away, which means they were small enough not to be unattended in a PARKING LOT WITH CARS. You can’t use your toddler as a road cone.

        No matter how much you may want to sometimes.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        But you can use a road cone as a toddler… If you squint hard enough.Report

  4. Jim Heffman says:

    Keep in mind that SF just deactivated the SFPark system, which used smart meters to identify open parking spaces and used variable-rate pricing.

    So, basically, the city *had* a system where they were using technology to improve parking availability, and allowing market demand to influence pricing.Report

    • Kim in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      So, um, why did they deactivate it?Report

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      I hadn’t heard that they had deactivated it. It seemed to be working pretty well. I think it got a lot of flak from SF residents, but overall it seemed to be a really efficient system. It created the usage patterns they were shooting for, produced huge amounts of traffic data, and it looks like it substantially reduced the percentage of revenue that came from parking citations.

      Anyway, if people use this app heavily, it seems like another really good source of data on usage patterns and the real value of parking spaces. I love it.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        The street sensor batteries have run out and there’s not currently a plan to replace them. Garage-based sensors still work but aren’t really relevant to the street parking issue (and even that data feed is no longer being made available to outside customers; only the SFPark app displays it.) They’re still doing variable parking rates, but it’s not something that’s updated real-time in response to demand, so it is of necessity quite simplified.Report

    • To expand (read: say something useful):

      It’s already been expressed in the threads that this demonstrates errors on the part of the city. Parking is in great demand and the city isn’t taking the necessary steps to ration it through pricing. Further, by providing parking at below-market rates, they’re encouraging driving which means: (1) greater pollution (2) congestion (3) increased demand for public (or private) space to be turned into roads (and, likely, more parking!). It’s a clusterf*ck.

      And I agree with @kazzy that this trend is apalling. People are selling the use of public space–potentially holding it for ransom, as in Kazzy’s hypothetical–when they really have no claim to that space, other than I drove my externality-spweing maching on subsidized roads, taking up space and causing congestion so I could dump it on this bit of paved public space. It’s gross. When corporations do this sort of thing on a grand scale, most of us recoil in horror.

      I don’t know the specifics of San Fran, but most cities seem to overly-subsidized driving and parking, and they waste public space (or space that could be private!) for driving and parking. There might be a larger problem here (but, again, I don’t know SF well enough to say for sure).Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        I agree. The parking space a person’s car occupies is not “theirs” in the sense of being property that they are entitled to sell.

        It’s like standing in the doorway to a building holding your arms out so people can’t get in, and making them pay you to move. If you tried that, security would escort you off the premises.Report

  5. Burt Likko says:

    Similar to what the others have said. I don’t see anything either illegal or unethical about this. It seems rude and arrogant, and it’s generating a private profit from a public good, which yes, is ultimately unsustainable.

    But it’s the result of a failure by the City of San Francisco to address the supply-demand issue: there is immense demand for parking spaces, and a scarcity of spaces to go around. A freshman microeconomics student could tell you that the way to handle that is to increase the price. Will that mean that only rich people can afford to park their cars on the street? Yup. Which will mean fewer cars on the streets, and thus less traffic, and more use of public transportation by people who can’t afford to park in the city (at least, in high-demand areas), and the creation of more off-street parking structures, etc. etc., until equilibrium is reached. Manhattan seems to get by like this without it being a drag on commerce, livability, or desirability.

    And private homes with off-street garage parking will increase in price too, increasing property values… Seems like there’s even more money on the table for San Francisco than just increased meter rates. If SF uses the power that is inherently its to take that money, the douchey MonkeyPark app gets driven out of business.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:


      Does the law offer anything in the way of formal policy around parking spot claims? There was a famous Seinfeld episode where one of the main characters and another person were embroiled in an endless battle over who had rights to a spot they were both half pulled into. One person had pulled past the spot and attempted to back in; the other was trying to pull in head first. Even the police were flummoxed over what to do.

      I assume in reality, the cops would have simply deemed one person to have the spot and instructed the other driver to move along, eventually citing them if they failed to obey. But I wonder if there are any real laws or if social norms simply dominate.

      Similar issues play out in some northeastern cities when spots need to be shoveled out. The people who clear them will often put chairs or other markers in the spots to claim them. Should someone else park in the spot, it often results in damage (which I think is wrong regardless of who you think has legitimate claim to the space). I believe the government generally just stays out of such matters. But it is usually a hot debate in places like NY, Boston, and Philly.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy says:

        I don’t know what the law is on such matters.

        There may be some wisdom on the part of law enforcement to permit the rough justice of social norms to prevail in the shoveling situation, although of course I’m not endorsing vandalism or other criminal activity.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        Is it wrong to “water” the car? Thus encasing it in a quarter inch of ice, but doing no physical damage?

        PGH is such a small town:

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Part of the issue is that there is no agreed-upon norm around shoveling. Most people seem to base their position on which side of the situation they find themselves on.

        My general rule is that if I see an available spot, I take it. If it were blocked by something, I probably wouldn’t move it, but I would grumble about it. I may consider moving it if no other alternatives are available. Then again, if I find myself in such neighborhoods at this point, I’m usually only there temporarily.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        Of course it is. First off, ice can do damage. And even the (relatively) temporary inconvenience of not being able to access one’s own property makes the practice abhorrent. My car is my own; don’t fuck with it. Period. That parking spot? Not yours. Not the same way my car is mine. And while I respect the labor one put into uncovering it and the value created therein — such that I would generally not move a “marker” — I would not consider it sufficient grounds to do harm to another’s property. The claims are not identical.Report

      • Mo in reply to Kazzy says:

        The person who backs in has priority. They were there first, by dint of going past the spot in order to back up.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        @mo is full-on trolling. See the well-established common-law precedents w/r/t ‘snoozing and losing’, as well as blackjack and The Price is Right – you can’t overshoot or you lose, homey.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Kazzy says:

        Backing up has priority.

        Of course, there is an added tie breaker of six foot tranny in heels who looks ticked off and what will she do to your car?

        Not that I have any experience in that (she says with a faraway look).Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        Wait, are you guys talking about parallel parking? If so, then I agree the backer has priority. But not in perpendicular parking.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Where is the cutoff? If the guy obviously missed the spot and is high tailing it backwards down the road, does he still maintain supremacy? What if he went further than someone normally would to back in but not all the way down the road? Does signaling matter?

        You can see why this made for such a great Seinfeld episode.

        I will also say that in the almost-6 years I’ve lived in and around NYC as an adult, I have paid for parking in a private lot just once and at meters only a handful of times. Fortune favors the patient!Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        I would say signaling definitely matters. The minute he sees the space he needs to signal. Otherwise you may be following him close enough that by the time you realize his intent, he doesn’t have room to back up – and you may not be able to do so to accommodate him, if someone is right on YOUR tail.

        So: in parallel parking (since in parallel parking, you HAVE to back up to do it right, unless the space is really long): the backer has priority, but he must signal. And I would say if he has proceeded more than one car length ahead of the space, he loses it (because that is theoretically far enough that YOU could back into it, even if you choose to go headfirst).

        But people who back up for perpendicular spaces should be shot with no trial.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        For once, @glyph , you and I might be in perfect agreement.

        I also believe in a 3-strikes-your-out rule. If you can’t get into the spot after three attempts — even if the spot would fit your car but you’re to inept to make it work — you’re done.

        This presumably would entrench a certain amount of local privilege but I’m okay with that. Watching suburbanites try to parallel park is one of life’s secret joys… if you’re not in the car behind them.Report

      • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

        acchhhh…Backing up into perpendicular spaces is trend here and especially at my work. I don’t get it. Do these people think they are sporking Batman and might have to speed out of their spot at maximum to rescue someone.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        I don’t know what the laws are like in AK, but I have been told that backing into a perpendicular space can actually put you at a legal disadvantage here in some situations. I knew a guy who hit a passing vehicle as he (the guy) was pulling out of a space that he (the guy, again) had backed into. The other vehicle was (probably) speeding, and the cop supposedly told the guy that if the guy had been backing out, the other vehicle would have been cited for failing to yield to a vehicle in his path; but since the guy was pulling out forward, it was *the guy* who had failed to yield, when entering the thoroughfare.

        Not sure if this was BS on the cop’s part (or the guy who told it to me) but it does make a certain amount of sense.

        OTOH, it seems like the position of the shifter knob or the direction the headlights are pointed is a weird thing to turn culpability on – at least theoretically, if I can fulfill all other legal driving/safety requirements w/r/t speed, signalling, and right-of-way, I should be able to do it in reverse?Report

      • Mo in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy Once your rear bumper passes the front bumper of the car in front of the spot, you lose it. Signaling definitely matters.

        Hi my name is Mo and I’m a back-in parker. Back in parking is safer. You’re less likely to hit someone/thing when you’re backing into a space and your field of view is much less constrained. OTOH, my wife hates it.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        I wonder if having backed in creates a presumption of the person “pulling through”, which certainly should put the puller-througher at fault (even though I take part in the practice, it is indeed riskier). If the adjacent spot is open, there is no way for the cop to know if the guy backed in and pulled out or if he was pulling through.

        I probably should back into spots more. I’m quite adept at driving backwards… arguably better than I am going forwards!Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        Mo and Glyph,
        Or you could be like sane people and park as far away from other cars as possible.

        If I am stuck parking where there are cars on both sides, of course I’m pulling in headfirst. Otherwise it just doesn’t matter (although backing in might make more sense if I thought i’d get crammed in).Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

        “Or you could be like sane people and park as far away from other cars as possible.”

        Which is San Francisco is called ‘Oakland’Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        Yes, I think driving around most major cities is mostly daft and dunderheaded.
        I hardly drive around my own city, in fact.
        (and at any rate, I was talking about parking lots, where (I would assume) there is still generally a dearth of cars at the outlying areas. Maybe that’s not true in SF?)Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy says:

        No one sane would park their car in Oakland and then leave it unattended. Unless they wanted the insurance money.Report

      • Mo in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy Street parking in NYC is only free if you value your time at $0.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        And I make no bones about valuing some of my time at $0.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        Mo is right, everybody disagreeing with Mo is wrong. That is all.Report

      • Mo in reply to Kazzy says:

        I knew I liked you Will.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        Oh, go back up into a room, you two.Report

  6. Patrick says:

    Close half the lanes on every street in San Francisco to car traffic and open them up to bikes.Report

    • I think I love you.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        I’m dead serious on that score, actually.

        That’s not a viable option for some cities, but San Francisco is a terrible ‘burg to drive in, and it’s one of the ones that would operate much better with streetcars and bikes as the primary methods of locomotion. Build a couple of huge parking structures just off the freeway, have a streetcar circuit through the city, and you’re done.Report

      • I live on a fairly main street in Ottawa (well, at the corner thereof). It’s four lanes, though it’s usually functionally two lanes with all the parking. The sidewalks are not nearly wide enough for the amount pedestrian traffic (and occasional bikes). It would be great if they took it down to two lanes, eliminated parking (they’re building a new parking garage just down the street, so it’s no biggie), widened sidewalks and put in raised bike lanes.

        So, I’ll amend my earlier comment. I’m pretty sure I love you.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick says:

      Have you ever seen Taylor street? Motorized bikes.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Patrick says:

      “Every” street is overkill, but in general, yes. Are you familiar with Streetsblog San Francisco? They recommend that approach. They go overboard sometimes, but as a guy who put in thousands of bike miles on SF’s streets, I’m generally on-board with them.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to Patrick says:

      I always approve of more bike lanes, but Isn’t central San Francisco made up predominantly of steep hills?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Yes, but in general there are relatively flat routes around them. It requires a fair amount of zig-zagging, but the routes exist. Experienced SF cyclists know them well. Unfortunately, some of them involve some pretty major thoroughfares.Report

  7. Brandon Berg says:

    Well, it’s rent-seeking—people are expending real resources like time and gas in order to get other people to give them money—so that’s bad. On the other hand, it allocates parking more efficiently by making it easier for people who really need a parking space to find one. Whether the waste from the rent-seeking outweighs the efficiency gains is not clear. As others have pointed out, the ideal solution is for the city to price parking correctly.Report

  8. Jim Heffman says:

    Also, keep in mind that underpriced parking spots are a subsidy to business owners. And business owners are the ones speaking most strongly against weekend metering.

    So we have dueling class-warfare responses. On the one hand, expensive parking is hard on poor people. On the other hand, cheap parking is a business-owner subsidy, and business owners are obviously part of the upper class, right? Quite a dilemma!Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      That is why I thought this situation didn’t neatly fit into partisan boxes!Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

        It doesn’t but not for that reason. Contrary to the left-wing smears, conservatives and libertarians do not, in general, actually want to subsidize businesses. But I suspect that many do see high prices on public parking as a form of tax and oppose it because of that. Use fees are the good kind of tax, but that sort of nuance is lost on many people.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        My issue with parking meters is primarily with the change-only format (which thankfully is changing in most locales). NYC can charge several dollars an hour and before the Muni-Meter (centralized machine that takes coin, change, credit cards, or vouchers and prints out a dashboard ticket) were ubiquitous, this meant pockets full of coins or haggling with local store owners for change. It was a real annoyance. Now that they take cards and cash, it ain’t so bad.

        I’d rather not pay for parking so I usually spent the extra time looking for a free spot if I’m not in a rush. But I don’t object on any principled grounds provided the fees are reasonable.

        I do have an issue with the privatization that some cities have undertaken, but that is for other reasons.Report

      • Reformed Republican in reply to Kazzy says:

        I believe the libertarian would prefer the have private ownership of the roads and parking lots, and the owners would be free to charge as they wish. I generally prefer usage fees to other types of taxes.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’d rather not pay for parking so I usually spent the extra time looking for a free spot if I’m not in a rush.

        This is a bad thing. When you pay for parking, the city gets the money, which ideally (hah!) means that some other taxes don’t have to be so high. But when you drive around looking for free parking, nobody gets the time or gas that you wasted. It just goes to waste. It would be better if all parking had congestion pricing.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’m not saying you’re doing anything wrong, just that providing free parking creates bad incentives.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        You bring up an interesting point. As a non-resident of the city, I am minimally impacted by its taxes. So I am incentivized not to pay for parking, no?Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Kazzy says:

        Cruising around looking for a spot is exactly the sort of behavior that smart meter systems are trying to avoid. The economic efficiency thing is great, but the real goal is to tune the meter price so that there are spaces available on every block so people can park immediately if they want to instead of driving around contributing to congestion while they look for spaces (or worse, wait for a space to clear out).Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        Contrary to the left-wing smears, conservatives and libertarians do not, in general, actually want to subsidize businesses.

        After their owners out themselves as racists, anyway.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy You’re incentivized not to pay for parking regardless. Even if you were a resident of the city, the fraction of the parking money that you’d get back in government services would be very, very small, whereas if you find free parking you get to keep all the money you would have spent on parking.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’d rather not pay for parking so I usually spent the extra time looking for a free spot if I’m not in a rush.

        How often does this actually save you anything? There’s a time cost, although evidently you’re putting a very low value on that (myself, if I’m someplace early I’d rather spend that time strolling than driving around looking only at a line of parked cars along the curb), there’s the cost of gas, and there’s the cost of wear-and-tear on your car. Each of those by itself is fairly low, but cumulatively they may add up to more than what you’d pay for parking. The problem is that we generally don’t have full information so we can’t make a proper estimate to compare to the fully information alternative.

        I’d need to go back and look at the behavioral economics research, but iirc, people tend to underestimate costs, rather than overestimate them, when there’s lack of clarity. After all, that’s why we’re all so mad about payday loans, right?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I feel like I’ve “won” if I get free parking. You can’t put a price on that, @james-hanley .Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        I feel like I’ve “won” if I get free parking. You can’t put a price on that

        Didn’t you know the whole raison d’etre of economists is to blow up such pleasing illusions? Economists are never happy until everyone else is as dismally embittered as they are. 😉Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Do economists really completely devalue the intangible?Report

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        The intangible is just noise, unaccounted variance in the model (r2=.21).Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        Not at all. They actually insist that those intangibles do have value, but that because they’re intangible we don’t really estimate their values very well, so our behavior departs from what would be strictly rational. Prospect Theory, for example, is precisely about discerning the value of an intangible, specifically loss aversion, in which a person values an object they already possess more than one that they might gain.

        For example, if you give a laboratory subject some money, then offer to sell them a coffee cup, the amount they’re willing to pay for it is $X, but if you give them the cup, then offer them money for it, their price is >$X. From the strictly rational perspective, the cup should be valued the same either way because nothing about the cup (or the availability of cups) has changed .

        Your thrill of winning does have a price–whatever you’d take in exchange for it. E.g., if you wouldn’t accept parking at a price of $5 but would at $3, your price of the thrill of winning is $2 (assuming the time/gas/wear costs remain unchanged). That doesn’t mean the thrill of winning is stupid, and it’s the opposite of saying it doesn’t have value.

        But if your real valuation of the thrill of winning is $2, but you spend $2 worth of time and 50 cents worth of gas and wear/tear on your car to get a free spot rather than take a $2 spot, then you haven’t really won.

        See what I mean about sucking the fun out of it?

        For myself, I hate the looking aspect so much that any thrill from winning has been wiped out by the irritation costs. I’m the guy who parks in the back of the grocery store lot instead of driving around looking for a space. My mom is the type to spend 10 minutes looking for a spot up close, which drives me bonkers. It is, after all, like everything else, a subjective valuation.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I had this conversation with Zazzy when she informed me that the Zazzy family never got delivery growing up. “It’s a waste of money!” “You mean if I were to tell you that someone would bring food directly to your house instead of you getting in the car and all it cost you was $3, what would you say to that?” “Well, we never thought of it like that! All we knew was we didn’t have to tip when we picked it up.”

        The problem with NYC is that metered spots tend to have limited time (e.g. 2 hour limits) and parking garages are obscenely expensive, especially for shorter terms. $30 for a day isn’t bad, but it might be $25 for the first four hours. So if you need to park for three hours, you can’t take the cheaper meter and are stuck paying $25. No dice for this guy. If I’m parking short-term, I’ll take a meter if spots aren’t readily available.

        I also have a really good sense of the general parking availability in a given neighborhood. So I handle different neighborhoods differently.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:


        Yeah, my mom’s like Zazzy’s family. She grew up in the Depression, so I guess the penny pinching is understandable, but I’ve been working on making her aware that paying for convenience is not always a bad thing. Still, at my brother’s and my combined birthday party last week, he and I ended up driving to Pizza Hut to pick up the pizzas we’d ordered on-line, because it cost less than getting in an argument with my mom. 😉

        As to your fuller description of the situation, it totally makes sense. Obviously for several hours of parking time the garage parking is more costly than driving around a little longer (unless you’re late for a court date or something crucial like that), and the time-limited meter means you’d have to factor in the time/inconvenience/aggravation of having to hoof it back to your parking spot to feed the meter, or accept the expected value of a parking ticket (cost of the ticket multiplied by the probability of actually getting ticketed). In that case, the time/gas cost of cruising around looking for free parking is often cheaper, especially if–as you say–you know the neighborhood, so you can generally minimize that cost.

        See, economics really does explain all our actions.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Kazzy says:

        Would you pay a higher price for better-quality food?

        Because, unless the delivery driver only delivers your order and goes directly to your house, then driving to the store for carryout *is* paying a higher price for better-quality food. Or, more specifically, you’re paying a higher price (in personal effort and fuel cost) for better-quality food (in the sense that it hasn’t been sitting in the delivery car, slowly cooling off, for an hour while the driver goes everywhere else first.)Report

    • Murali in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      parking is a luxury good. Its okay for the poor to have less of it the same way its okay for the poor to have fewer pradasReport

      • Kim in reply to Murali says:

        in sf, I agree. Elsewhere? not so much.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Murali says:

        I first read this as “fewer parades”.

        It is MUCH funnier that way.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Murali says:

        That doesn’t seem fair, though. But then, just giving away free parking to the underserved won’t work either. (i.e. how do you define ‘underserved’ and how to avoid people either gaming the system or falling through the gaps in eligibility)

        What the city should do is set up ‘parking exchanges’ so that all residents are equitably served. People with less economic resources will get credits and subsidies to pay for their entry in the system Enrollment should in any case, be mandatory, even the car-less, as one never knows when they will come to need a car-sharing service at the last minute and need a place to park – and we wouldn’t want free riders. (it would bankrupt the system). Putting a tax on Escalades would be useful in the funding scheme, as those are vehicles that have no business being in city to begin with.

        True, it’s going to be hard to get people with adequate parking facilities on board – so we’re going to need to promise ‘if you like your parking space, you can keep your parking space’.

        The whole thing shouldn’t cost more than 250 million, tops.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Murali says:

        NYC has some roads that are metered and some that are not. Meter rates and rules vary by day, time, and location. Often times, I’ll drive pass open metered spots hoping to find a free one. If I were so inclined, I could spend the money and save the time. Usually, I’m not, so I spend the time, save the money, and always end up finding a spot.

        Boston and DC were much more difficult. Often times, the non-metered spots were reserved for residents (either of the neighborhood in the former case or of the district in the latter). Non-residents could usually park for a few hours. Then again, I’d venture to guess that the proportion of the citizens owning cars was much higher in these two cities than in NYC (in part because NYC has a far superior public transit system). NYC isn’t perfect, but it seems the best balance of public transportation, free parking, and paid parking.Report

  9. Kolohe says:

    Parking would be somewhat easier if fewer cars arrived in the city every day. I mean, imagine how much better things could be if people left their cars outside of town and took some sort of bus service into the city center.

    Oh, right.Report

    • Saul DeGraw in reply to Kolohe says:


      There are very few people who protest google busses vs those who feel passive aggressive dislike of the busses. The bigger issue is getting transportation into SF, not out of it and getting people to use the busses instead of their cars on the weekend.Report

  10. Murali says:

    Public parking in Singapore is managed by two systems. All cars in Singapore are outfitted with a in-vehicle unit which contains a cash card (a card that contains money). Money is directly debited from the card when you pass under an electronic road pricing gantry. Most private car parks deduct money from your cash card when you approach the barrier. Many public car parks in Singapore are being converted to this system. Where this is not possible (because the lots are along the road) or has not been done yet, there are parking coupons which people can buy at 7-11 and which they should display on their windshields for the duration of their parking. There are usually random inspections to catch anyone who has parked beyond the time set out on the coupons.Report

  11. Saul DeGraw says:

    I will counter and say that it is somewhat unethical precisely because it is making a profit off a public good. Lyft and Air B and B at least involve private property and private transport systems. Parking is a public good and no city or place can have infinite parking spaces. Most cities will also have demand outreach supply as many people dislike taking public transport in. The social contract of parking spaces is or should be first come, first serve.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      @saul-degraw — Yep, this totally.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      I agree, @saul-degraw . Have you heard any talk about this?Report

    • Murali in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      I think you mean that it is unethical because it is making a profit out of public property.

      Some public properties can be private goods (that is to say, that they can be rivalrous and excludable at the margin of use)

      But honestly, given that the government (or at least my government) tries to make profits out of public property all the time, I don’t see why I have to stay out of the game. As it is, due to regulation of car supply and extensive building of public carparks, this particular problem is not one that I face.Report

      • Jonathan McLeod in reply to Murali says:

        Your right, @murali , about the definition of “public good”, but no one (outside of economists and academics) seem to use that technical definition. A public good tends to just be something that the public provides or that the speaker thinks the public should provide (and, yes, I know even “provide” has definition issues).

        The battle’s been won, Murali, and we’re on the losing side.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Murali says:

        You’re right, @jonathan-mcleod, but as the snarky examples below show, outside of the correct technical definition, the complaint is incoherent because it can’t be generally applicable.

        As well, because government can potentially make nearly everything public property, which would mean there are no private resources off which to make profits, there’s not even a theoretically available line on which to say “people ought to be able to make profit off this, but not off that,” because everything potentially is “that.”Report

      • Jonathan McLeod in reply to Murali says:


        You say “the complaint is incoherent”. Do you mean that complaints or statements of what is (or is not) a public good are incoherent? Because I’ll totally agree with you.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Murali says:

        What I actually meant was that the complaint that people are making money of a public amenities/property are incoherent, because people do make money off all sorts of public amenities that we don’t get upset about (say, restaurants in national parks, for example), so the principle at work has to actually be something different than “people shouldn’t make money of public amenities/property.”

        I’m not so sure the statements of what is/is not a public good is actually incoherent. It’s just a different definition than the technical one, and so the statements are probably coherent enough from the perspective of that definition. The problem is just that what it means in that case is satisfactorily covered by different terms–“public amenities and public property”–and so it unnecessarily obscures the proper meaning of an important technical term, “public goods.”

        For those not immersed in the things I’m talking about, “public goods” is an important technical terms because it helps us distinguish different types of goods–private, public, toll, and common pool goods–which have importantly different qualities, and so have very different outcomes when left to markets vs. regulated by governments, and where regulatory outcomes are generally improved by fitting the regulatory scheme to the type of good under consideration.

        Public goods, by definition, are not well supplied by the market because non-payers can’t be excluded from the benefits, which puts them in marked contrast to private goods, which are well supplied by markets because non-payers can be wholly excluded from the benefits (would you start a business trying to sell something that all non-payers could enjoy, or something every individual has to pay for to enjoy?). Public amenities could be any of the 4 types of goods. E.g., a school is a toll good, a public lake is a common pool good, public bikes are private goods, and clean air is a public good.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Murali says:


        I haven’t thought through the entirety of “Making money of a public good”, but I would put this in a different category than restaurants in national parks because, presumably, those restaurants gained their positioning through some time of, again presumably, fair or at least fair-ish system.

        I guess I’d say this is “Making money of a public good by violating the social norms around use of that public good.” I realize that risks putting us into, “I know it’s wrong when I see it’s wrong” territory.Report

      • Jonathan McLeod in reply to Murali says:

        OK gotcha.

        I was thinking the complaint about “public goods” was incoherent because so many people define what is a public good differently. It makes throwing the word around kind of meaningless.

        I see what you’re saying about making money off of public property or “public goods”, but I think there’s a level of nuance here. The argument about taxis on public roads doesn’t really hold because (I presume) taxis pay the same taxes as everyone else (or different taxes, depending on tax regimes, but whatever). And the taxi isn’t stopping other cars from driving on the road (other than through congestion, which is why road pricing really needs to happen more). But, regardless, they’re using the public good in the same manner as everyone else… just more so.

        I don’t know much about restaurants in national parks (I plead Canadian), but up here, if someone were to want do such a thing, there’d have to be a specific tendering process that would allow for an open competition, and the government would be getting something out of it (either direct payment or the best deal in terms of upkeep, or being a draw to the park, or whatever criteria they deem important).

        In the parking scenario, we have a “public good” (let’s just go with this term) that everyone has already paid for (through taxes), and we have someone trying to make money directly by selling access to this public good. That’s different than using public amenities to facilitate your business, or proceeding through a fair tendering system*.

        *We can argue about what constitutes “fair”, but that seems beside the point. If the city government has determined what the tendering system should be, then it’s the one we have to use. If it’s unfair, that can’t really be held against the prospective vendors.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Murali says:


        How about this? Anyone can take anyone on a tour of the park for pay. Hell, I could give you a better tour of Yellowstone than most professional tour guides (my brother excepted, who’ll do vastly better than me). I don’t need a license, I could be lying my ass off to you, the Park Service will never know I’m getting paid and would have no means to do anything about it if they did, and if I persuade you to take the chance on me, I can make money off that great public amenity.Report

      • Jonathan McLeod in reply to Murali says:

        @james-hanley Rules are often different for Value-Added services. Plus, everyone can offer to be a guide at the same time. And, finally, visitors can just go alone (right?).

        Only one person can sell the parking spot. And if s/he doesn’t sell it, then you can’t park.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Murali says:

        @jonathan-mcleod nails my objection, primarily by noting that parking spaces are limited in a way that touring people is not.

        The parking spot seller is essentially holding the spot hostage, refusing to allow others to utilize it for monetary gain. The social norm dictates that those spots are to be used for parking cars. In much the same way you can’t store your furniture there or setup a hot dog stand* there or live there.

        * I don’t know about elsewhere, but in NYC, vendors are required to be licensed/permitted and generally setup in approved spaces along the sidewalk. Food trucks utilize the roads but, again, are usually licensed/permitted and in approved spaces. Some food trucks buck this (the approved spaces part, not the licensing part) and receive parking tickets, which they pay. They see it as a cost of doing business. But no one just claims an open parking spot and sells food without incurring a cost of some type. And, yes, there is room to criticize the licensing/permitting/approving system, both in theory and in practice.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Murali says:

        Eh, I don’t share the objection. The scarcity of the spots is exactly why they’re valuable. Following your line of thought, if someone knocked on my door and offered me $20 to vacate my parking spot so they could use it, I’d be in the wrong to say no. Unless there’s a difference in whether buyer approaches potential seller vs. seller approaching potential buyer, and I’m not sure why that’d be relevant.

        I mean, nobody’s really going to just keep their car in their parking spot to freeze out non-payers, right? It’s just that when they’re ready to leave home and drive somewhere, they’re offering someone else a service that other person is willing to buy. No third parties are actually harmed. Someone might be mildly inconvenienced if it takes them slightly longer to find a parking space, but no more than they’re inconvenienced in a multitude of other ways (that person who doesn’t make a left turn quick enough to let you get through the signal, that person in front of you at the grocery who’s quibbling about coupons, etc.)

        The idea that someone’s making money off something that’s supposed to be freely available to the public doesn’t really bother me. If anything we should just recognize that we’ve been given a clear signal that the current policy has created an inefficiency.

        Now if somebody buys a bunch of junkers and starts parking them in strategic locations as their actual business, then we’re probably talking about something a little different.Report

      • Jonathan McLeod in reply to Murali says:

        “The idea that someone’s making money off something that’s supposed to be freely available to the public doesn’t really bother me. If anything we should just recognize that we’ve been given a clear signal that the current policy has created an inefficiency.”

        First, I totally agree that it’s a signal of inefficiency.

        Secondly, I’m not saying you should agree with me (though, c’mon, you probably should!); I’m just saying that there is an argument against this activity that doesn’t track with taxis.

        Regarding the thing of someone coming up to offer you $20 for your parking space, that’s a case of you profiting off a parking space… but one that you’re truly using (not just leveraging). So it’s an interesting comparison, and (as you say) will depend on how the app is used, but it’s still something different.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Murali says:

        Let me go further. We should applaud those who make us aware of such inefficiencies by exploiting them for gain (assuming they harm no one). If we were already aware of them but did nothing, we should applaud those who exploit them (assuming they harm no one) in ways that move us to action.

        The whole complaint looks to me like it boils down to “but they’re making money off something paid for by the public and they’re not repaying the public anything for it.” To which I say, that’s a public policy failure, not a wrong action by the money-maker. It’s entirely fair for the public to get their cut, given they paid for the necessary infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean that in the absence of a requirement to give the public a cut that the money-maker has done anything worthy of condeming.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Murali says:

        “If anything we should just recognize that we’ve been given a clear signal that the current policy has created an inefficiency. ”

        But the inefficieny is intentional. As I said earlier, the city is intentionally underpricing the parking spaces in an attempt to support business owners by attracting customers, accepting the reduced parking revenue in return for increased sales-tax revenue (which, they assume, will be greater than what they’d make by charging more for parking.)

        The error comes in assuming that the system starts and stops with the parking space. The city is trying to create a downtown retail/tourism environment, and parking is only one part of that.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Murali says:


        I used to deliver food. Multiple orders on one run were rare, in part because we were cognizant of the effect you describe. Then again, we were a mid-tier Italian restaurant (versus a straight-up pizza joint) and we charged a delivery fee, so we needed to be a bit more focused on quality control.

        Certain foods I won’t get delivered. French fries? No way. They just steam in the bag and get soggy. I’ll go pick those up. If I go to the burger joint across town and am driving them home, I won’t even get fries; the 7-minute drive is enough to ruin them. But Chinese? Pizza? These foods hold up well, even with a longer delivery.

        So, you’re right that delivery vs. takeout isn’t always an apples-to-apples comparison, but it is usually close enough to make the difference negligible.

        Another factor is delivery time. For some reason, the Chinese place in my town is always 45-60 minutes for delivery, but 10 minutes for pickup. It is just down the block (5 minutes round trip) so I’ll usually pickup from that spot because I usually want it STAT. The delay is usually the result of too few delivery people than it is him making multiple runs at a time.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      “I will counter and say that it is somewhat unethical precisely because it is making a profit off a public good.”

      You mean like all the contractors making money off of implementation of the Affordable Care Act?Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

        Like cabs making a living off of public roads?

        Like textbook publishers making a living off of government funded education?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Kolohe says:

        Lemme try.

        Like Nevada ranchers making money off BLM land?Report

      • Patrick in reply to Kolohe says:

        Presumably cabs making a living off of public roads is partially compensated for by the license to drive the cab. Textbook makers *should* have to compete with other textbook makers. There are mechanisms here to correct for their access to public property and funds.

        This particular case would be closer to the BLM rancher case, but not quite. There he’s been told to GTFO, and he’s still hanging around.

        Here this is just a case of a mismatch of presumptions. You’re presumed to have fair access to a free parking spot to facilitate whatever access it is the municipality is trying to facilitate: they’re providing subsidized parking for the merchants that are within walking distance of the spot, or whatever.

        It’s generally not assumed that the access to the space is more than a convenience for you.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Kolohe says:

        Like the broadcast networks making money off the public airwaves?Report

      • Patrick in reply to Kolohe says:

        No, they paid a licensing fee for access to their bandwidth commensurate with the profit they make off of that access.


        Much like the BLM land-licensing arrangement, the FCC-managed licensing process is hugely tilted in favor of the purchasing agent, not the common good.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Kolohe says:

        Auctions, man, auctions.Report

  12. Roger says:

    Guess I am way late to the conversation, as usual. Still, here are some thoughts which I think need to be stressed…

    1) markets need to be evaluated not just on primary effects. But secondary and unseen ones. This is almost certain to result in the ability to make a profit by capturing a spot and subsequently selling it. This will reduce, not increase supply.

    2) I think we need to be wary of blurring the lines between social problems which are solved via etiquette rather than markets. Creating a market in an etiquette arena is going to lead to unintended consequences.

    Epic fail.Report