Commuters rise at the crack of dawn to get early-bird specials. Schedules are organized around street-cleaning for curbside spots. Smartphone apps like PrimoSpot map spaces, and Twitter feeds are devoted to tracking meter maids. The smaller the urban center, the fewer open spots and the higher the prices for a parking garage.
Not surprisingly, the most expensive place to park in the United States is in Midtown Manhattan, averaging $41 a day, or more than $540 when you pay by the month, according to Colliers International annual survey of parking rates. Beantown isn't cheap either. Bostonians pay an average of $34 for daily parking or $438 for a monthly rate. Even Pacific island life isn't so great when you have a car: Honolulu's daily rates add up to $38, but monthly rates drop to $217. Other pricey cities for drivers include San Francisco, where parking averages $26 for the day and $375 a month; Philadelphia, home to A&E's Parking Wars, at $26 a day on average and $304 a month; Seattle, which averages $24 a day, and or $294 a month; and Chicago, where Bears fans have to shell out $32 a day, or $289 a month. That's a lot of hot dogs.
Here is the silver lining for American drivers: Nowhere compares to London, where monthly parking costs a whopping $1,084, followed by Zurich at $822 and Hong Kong at $745.
Yet while parking prices may take a palpable bite out of your wallet, free parking costs all Americans in other ways, says Daniel Shoup, an urban planning professor at University of California at Los Angeles. The author of The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup argues that free parking is not as free as it seems: Taxpayers, neighborhood residents and consumers all pay for parking with every transaction.
In the video below, he posits the true cost of all the free parking across the United States adds up to somewhere between the cost of Medicare and the cost of national defense.