Downtown Phoenix parking costs soar, but can light rail compete?

[Source: Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic] — The price of parking in downtown Phoenix grew faster than in any major U.S. city, according to a recent industry report.  The median cost of an unreserved monthly parking space was $65, up from $35 two years ago, reports real estate consulting firm Colliers International.  Phoenix rates are still low, on par with Fresno, California and Columbia, South Carolina.

Charles Miscio, senior vice president of Colliers in Phoenix, tells the Business Journal that the Metro light rail and newly expanded Phoenix Convention Center have helped drive up parking rates – 24 percent in monthly rates and 12 percent in daily rates.  He says the trend will continue.  “With the light rail’s capability of moving more people in and out of downtown, we are beginning to see entertainment venues and businesses shift from the Camelback Corridor and other metro areas to downtown Phoenix to take advantage of light rail traffic,” Miscio said.  “This shift is also driving more auto traffic into downtown, increasing parking garage usage and rates during both the daytime and evening.”

Three years ago I wrote a piece explaining how low parking rates can undermine light rail.  Metro is trying to attract riders who chose to take the train over driving their personal car.  By the economic laws of supply and demand, cheap and plentiful parking those riders can get to work cheaper in their cars.  Metro can’t compete.

A downtown office worker who drives a car that gets 20 mpg now pays $70 a month to commute one mile, not counting upkeep or insurance.  That’s significantly more than Metro’s Platinum Pass at $55 a month.  Had Metro been in service two years ago, that same commuter would have paid $40 a month to drive – less than the $45 cost of a monthly pass.

Now the tables seem turned, with rail being the cheaper, but necessarily more convenient option.  It’s a little more complicated because many downtown employers offer deep discounts on parking and transit.  And cost isn’t the only factor in deciding how to commute.  But it will be interesting to see how the competition plays out.  Will parking garages charge less to capture some of the rail riders or will more people turn to the trains?  [Note: Read the full blog entry at Downtown Phoenix parking costs soar, but can light rail compete?]

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