Free parking in Portland will be increasingly harder to find, expert predicts

Look for the price of parking to continue to rise. (KATU)

Free parking is getting harder to come by in Portland, and a Portland State University professor who studies transportation and urban behavior says that could be a good thing for the city and for residents.

Professor Kelly Clifton believes it’s only going to get worse for drivers here.

“Free parking is going to be harder and harder to find not just in Portland, but anywhere in the United States,” Clifton told KATU.

Part of the problem with free parking -- is the price.

Time limits help cycle people in and out, but when you give something away for free, it gets snagged up pretty quickly.

"It's been underpriced as a commodity, as an asset for almost as long as we've had cars," Clifton said. "And I think now we realize that we have to manage it like any other resource."

Clifton says limited parking at businesses will make drivers look for spots in neighborhoods.

That will make parking scarcer outside your home and at newly built apartment buildings.

But that could be good for your rent, she said.

“When you look at the cost of parking relative to say housing, supplying parking in these multi-family apartments makes it more expensive for the developers,” Clifton explained. "So those are spaces that could be developed more intensely to provide more units.”

In other words, freeing space for parking reduces the space for housing.

Clifton says more density will encourage people to find other ways to get around -- like ride-shares, public transit, and bicycles.

For areas requiring parking permits, Clifton says the money should be cycled back into the neighborhood to give commuters more options, and to improve public transportation for everyone.

“While you may lose something in terms of the ability to park for free, you'll be able to gain something in terms of ultimately better access to and management of that parking resource,” Clifton said.

Still, the lack of parking may be seen as a thorn in the Rose City. But people like Clifton say finding other ways to move around will help the city blossom.

She said Portland city officials are working to increase those transportation options every day, as is the private sector.

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