Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Curious Economics of Bike Parking

The WSJ’s Ralph Gardner, a hesitant city cyclist, writes:
Last year, the city passed a bill that went into effect several months ago requiring commercial garages with space for 100 or more cars to also set aside places for bicycles. The ratio is 10 spaces for the first 100 cars. After November 11, 2011, garages with only 50 spaces will also have to allow bicycles.

Sounds great. except for one thing: The law allows the market to set the going rate. My garage is charging—no joke—$175 plus 8.875% tax. That’s almost $200 a month to stow a bike! You probably won’t be surprised to hear it has no takers. As one attendant observed, “You can buy a new bike” for that amount.

Well, yeah, but on some bikes that price wouldn’t cover a single pedal. But in any case, perhaps not surprisingly, there seem to be few to no takers for $200 a month bike parking. The first question that came to my mind was why it was so expensive (when presumably you could fit upwards of a dozen bikes in a standard car spot), and then, secondly, why garages would charge such a high amount if no one seemed willing to pay it. Wouldn’t it better to make half (or anything above) the theoretical profit than no profit at all? I don’t know how these garages are set up, but if parking that bike means having to have an attendant park and retrieve it for you, I suppose the garages want to make sure the transaction costs are covered — i.e., if they charged cyclists ten bucks a month but then had to send attendants in search of bikes (when they could be retrieving more lucrative cars). In other words, do they essentially charge that much to not have to deal with the aggravation of dealing with parked bikes? But maybe the attendants don’t always have to fetch bikes; aren’t there some garages where the bikes are right within view? Do the city regulations on garages having to have a certain number of spots stipulate where and in what form those spots have to be?


inc123 said...

Is this garage the norm or an exception?

I would if the author got the questions answered--and what the explanation ws.