Greater City Providence

ecoRI: ‘Free’ Parking is Bundled Bag of Goods

As I look for a campus to get my graduate degree, a surprising factor weighs into my decision: How much am I going to pay for parking? As a non-driver, Rhode Island College may end up charging me the most of all.

The Rhode Island College website boasts that parking is a free service offered to all students. Economists have a more accurate name for “free” services that are included with the cost of something else: bundled goods. The price of parking on campus is not actually free, it’s just bundled to the cost of tuition. Students pay for a parking spot whether they want one or not, even if they don’t own a car.

In fact, 99 percent of parking spots in the United States are bundled, from groceries to restaurant service, and at almost all of our jobs — so few of us think about parking’s cost. It’s not chump change. The median price of just one parking space is $15,000. With four parking spaces per car in the United States, the real-estate value of all those asphalt rectangles adds up to far more than the total value of all the country’s vehicles.

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1 comment

  • Thanks for posting this.

    As yet, I have tried, with only limited success, to actually find some people at RIC who are interested in pushing a campaign for change like this one. I emailed the RIC environmental group, but to no avail. There seems not to be a faculty for environmental sciences. Seems like RIC groups keep congregating to follow my Twitter, but I’m not sure how they’re finding me, since this never made it into The Anchor as I wanted it to.

    If people have thoughts on how to really push this beyond an abstract notion into something concrete, I’d be open to it. You can submit your comments either here or at the original article.

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