Thursday, December 13, 2007


I am a big fan of Witold Rybczynski. He writes books (such as City Life and Home) that are insightful, whimsical, and blessedly short. Yesterday, he had a wonderful slideshow in Slate about the state of garage architecture:

It actually makes sense for parking garages to go upscale. In Washington, it costs around $200 per month to rent a space downtown. A typical parking space is about 170square feet. The costs of maintaining a garage are pretty minimal, so let's say that a parking garage owner nets $170 per month, or $1 per square foot per month, or $12 per year. At a cap rate of 8 percent, this means that parking spaces are worth $150 per square foot, or around $25,500 per space: this is not chump change for something that requires no interior walls, no heat, etc. [Update: of course this is value per space. Because garages have lots on non-leasible space, the value of the entire garage will be less]. Washington is not remotely the most expensive city for parking, either. New York (of course), Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia (!!) are more expensive places to park.

Given the expense of parking spaces, one does begin to wonder why garages don't start charging by the square foot rather than by the space. Part of the garage could be configured for Honda Fits and Cooper Minis; another to Hummers and Escalades. I know this adds a layer of complexity, but all other types of real estate come in various configurations.

In my ideal world, Hummers and Excalades would pay higher tolls on East Coast Turnpikes too--they do, after all, take up more space, and therefore impose higher marginal costs of congested roads. I think people should be able to drive whatever they like, so long as they internalize the costs of doing so.

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