The High Cost of (Bike) Parking

4341004500_c0ae87894e.jpgAre garages charging bike parking prices that the market is unlikely to bear? (Photo: Bicycles Only via Flickr)

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt writes at How We Drive about the cost of bike parking at Manhattan garages. (New York’s larger garages have been required to offer bike parking since late last year, and they haven’t always been happy about it.)

Vanderbilt’s post is prompted by a piece in the Wall Street Journal about one East Side garage that is charging a cool $175 (plus tax) for a monthly bike parking space. The WSJ’s Ralph Gardner basically thanks the garage for charging so much because he’s terrified of riding his bike in the city to begin with.

Vanderbilt wonders what kind of economic thinking is behind the garage’s decision to set such a high rate:

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?

Good questions all. Has anyone out there found a good garage rate for parking bikes in Manhattan? Or, perhaps more to the point, has anyone out there found a garage that actually seems to see this as a business opportunity rather than as an obligation to be avoided at any cost? Will prices shake out if and when demand becomes more apparent?

By the way, Vanderbilt is hosting a very cool forum over at Slate called Nimble Cities. Here’s the idea: They’re looking for smart new ideas about transportation within and between cities. Submit your own brilliant solution, vote on the ideas of others, and see what rises to the top. Vanderbilt will write about the best concepts in more depth as the month progresses.