HOW WE COMPARE
Downtown daily parking rates, private garages
The jeers have resounded over City Hall’s pricey and mistake-plagued deal last year to lease Chicago’s 36,000 parking meters, but pulling into a garage downtown is no bargain, either.
Chicago’s median daily garage parking rate is $31, fourth highest among American cities (New York, Honolulu, and Boston are higher), according to a study by Colliers International, an affiliation of real-estate companies that compiles an annual list of various parking rates for large cities. Its 2009 study also reports that the median monthly rate in Chicago for a private, unreserved spot in a garage is $325, also fourth highest, trailing only New York, Boston, and San Francisco.
In comparison, Loop meters are a relative bargain—for now. At the current rate of $3.50 per hour, if you spent an eight-hour workday parked at a meter in the Loop, it would cost you $28. (Of course, you’d have to deal with other possible irritations, such as lugging a small mint of quarters around, illegally feeding the meter, or searching for a new spot every time the meter expires.) By 2013, the rate for Loop meters is scheduled to rise to $6.50 per hour, an amount dwarfed by the 2009 median first-hour rate for private garages, $17 (which, by the way, is third highest in the country, after New York and Boston).
That expensive first hour proves that the price of the meters isn’t so bad. “The reason [garages] can charge that much is nobody can find a meter,” says Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in the economics of parking. That is, despite grousing about meter prices, drivers swarm the curbside spots, parking in the garages only when they get desperate. Some cities are now adjusting prices to strike a balance between meters being well used and readily available. “If all the spaces are full, the price is too low. It’s the Goldilocks principle,” Shoup says.
At least one thing is universal, Shoup adds: “Nobody will ever want to pay for parking anywhere.”