The Washington City Paper has a (rather lengthy) post on parking in D.C. Fair warning: it’s pretty wonky with zoning rules, ordinances, etc. However, the numbers caught my eye:

An underground parking spot costs between $30,000 and $50,000 to build, and residents pay for it one way or another.

“Let’s say it’s $100 per month. If you built the parking space, and it cost you $40,000, $1,200 per year doesn’t cover it,” says Four Points Development’s Stan Voudrie.”


On the supply side of the parking problem, costs are fixed: You can’t dig a hole and line it with concrete on the cheap. Demand is more dynamic, and to some extent, it responds to price. Unlike in suburban areas, most District landlords don’t pair spaces with the unit, which means that tenants pay between $100 and $300 more per month for their cars.

As these numbers appear, I suppose it’s more of a simple equation problem, but I feel like we could easily transform this into a nice, in-depth linear systems problem. For example you could contrive or find the cost of a garage parking spot and monthly fees, and figure out which one will pay itself off faster.

Basically, I’m just excited to finally find a potential systems problem that doesn’t involve cell phone plans.

Guiding Questions

  • How much do underground parking spots cost in our area?
  • How much do parking garage spots cost?
  • And what are the monthly costs of renting a spot?
  • How long would it take to pay off each spot?

Suggested Activities

  • Depending on how in-depth you want to get into this, you could turn this into some sort of apartment building project, or you could restrict it to a few-day investigation, having student find when each type of spot will pay for itself.
  • Again, if you really want to dig into this, you could ask student to develop a pricing system for their parking spots (i.e. would underground spots be worth more? what about spots closer in?).

Aside: this is like my fourth post on traffic or parking and mathematics. I’m starting to wonder if PBL could stand for “Parking Based Learning”.

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