More frontiers in dynamic pricing: New York parking

Lynne Kiesling

Felix Salmon has a very nice microeconomic analysis of a proposal for New York to lease out its parking meters and facilities to a concessionaire, with a contingent contract based on the lessee’s implementation of dynamic pricing. A sample of what makes the analysis good:

The masters of variable pricing, of course, are the airlines, and while people are often resentful that they paid five times more for their ticket than the person sitting next to them did, the fact is that they would be much more resentful if they regularly tried to buy air tickets and found that all the flights were sold out. And conversely, of course, the airlines would lose even more money if they regularly wound up flying half-empty planes. Without variable pricing, one or the other would certainly happen.

In New York, as we’ve seen, Broadway is great at variable pricing, while the Yankees and the Metropolitan Opera are still in the pricing dark ages. But there’s one much more important area of New York life which is in desperate need of variable pricing: on-street parking.

San Francisco recently introduced variable pricing for on-street parking, and it’s an idea which ought to have been implemented in New York years ago. The basic idea is incredibly simple: you just price parking meters so that there’s always one empty parking spot on every block. The effect is electric, for two reasons. Firstly, drivers no longer have to pad their journeys by some unknowable amount of time to account for the time spent looking for a spot. And secondly, the whole city speeds up, since a huge proportion of congestion is caused by cars driving around in circles, looking for one of those precious spots.

He has more to say about municipal budgeting and how this transaction would help, so do go read the rest, and watch his video too.