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How to Turn a Public Parking Space Into a Private Storage Locker, Legally

10:41 AM EST on March 6, 2013

Given the extent to which we subsidize car parking in the United States -- take a public asset and essentially turn it into an under-priced, private commodity -- it's surprising we don't see the system abused more often.

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Rob Pitingolo at Extraordinary Observations offers this compelling question: What's to stop someone from using a street parking space as a private storage locker? It would be easier than it sounds, he says:

Occasionally I joke on Twitter about my plan to buy an old, beat-up Chevy Astro Van, park it on the street near my house, and use it exclusively as storage space. It sounds ridiculous, but it's actually an interesting thought experiment.

People typically react by saying that doing this would be an abuse of the public parking system. Street parking is supposed to be for parking cars, not storing stuff, they say. But in essence, street parking (public space) is used to store automobiles (privately owned things) for little to no cost (it would cost me $35 per year for a residential permit in my neighborhood). Using a van for storage would cost significantly less money than renting a space at one of those self storage warehouses, and it would be a lot more convenient.

Using an Astro Van as a storage locker would cause some pain for drivers in my neighborhood. Since I'd never move the van (except when legally necessary for street sweeping or an emergency no-parking permit holder) the space would never turn over. I'd single-handedly eliminate a valuable parking space from the neighborhood. And yet -- doing so is perfectly legal and within my rights, under the current law.

Imagine 300 square feet of storage space in Washington, DC, for just $35 dollars a year! Just another example of the innumerable favors and privileges bestowed on motorists in the United States.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Carfree USA says Portland businesses are flocking to streets with bike infrastructure. Bike Portland reports on the nascent bike lobby and how direct donations to political candidates may be necessary for political progress on cycling. And Reinventing Parking says excellent transit is not a prerequisite to parking reform.

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