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4 Blocks or 80 Dollars


There is a parking deck right next to our office building. The monthly fee is $80. Cheap, in comparison to most cities. Affordable.

Four blocks away from our office building are the bridges going over the railroad tracks that bisect Birmingham. The bidges are lined with parking spaces whose parking meters have all been removed. So parking is free. There are almost always spaces available.

birmingham railroad bisect

  • Do you pay $80 for the deck? Walking into the office from the parking deck takes maybe 1 minute. Presuming being at the office 23 days a month, and 2 minutes daily of walking, that’s .8 hours a month spent walking back and forth to a car parked on the bridge.
  • Or do you walk the 4 blocks? Walking to the office from the bridge probably takes 5 minutes. Presuming being at the office 23 days a month, and 10 minutes daily of walking, that’s 3.8 hours a month spent walking back and forth to a car parked on the bridge.

By parking on the bridge, you are cutting an extra 3 hours out of your month. Even billing bargain basement rates of document review at $50 an hour, it makes economic sense to pay the fee to park in the deck. It would pay for itself in an hour and half of billing. After that you are making money you would not be by parking 4 blocks away.

Plus there a number of other factors to consider when parking on the bridge. There are the occasional homeless accosting you for money. Construction. Bad weather. Today it’s 30 F and sleeting. Likely snow* later.

mind-maze-growBut I walk those 4 blocks everyday. I enjoy feeling the city. It acts as a buffer to my day before and after work, a chance to clear my mind and stretch my legs. I don’t talk on the phone to anyone or listen to music or podcasts. I think. It’s a time to plan or reflect on my day. No distractions, no interruptions. Time alone with my thoughts. There’s no economic, tangible value to it. But it feels invaluable to me.

Where would you park?


* (In Alabama snow means utter disaster. Runs on milk and bread at the grocery store. Mass hysteria by the local weather reporters. Schools and businesses closing. An uptick in car accidents. How much snow? 1-2 inches.)




  1. I don’t think your analysis is right. By walking, you’re not having paying clients come in at the start of the business day, see you’re not there, and then leave. You just get in to the office 5 minutes later, work 5 minutes later, bill the same amount, and arrive home 10 minutes later than normal. You’re not losing billable time, but rather free time.
    You’ve also left off the health effects of walking. Sure, 10 minutes a day isn’t much, but it only takes about 30 minutes a day to see noticeable health gains, so 10 isn’t negligible.
    There’s one other factor which comes into play that you didn’t mention. Can you pay for a single day at the parking deck, or is it all or nothing? To me, the biggest perk in the parking deck is avoiding the rare terrible weather. If you can park there for a daily fee whenever the weather requires, then you get the biggest benefit of the parking deck without paying the full cost.
    You can also use Case Western Reserve Law’s Dean Mitchell’s solution, which is to park 12-18 blocks away, at which point everything magically works out.

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