Notes From “Everybody Wants A Spot: Why Free Parking Is A Bad Idea” With Donald Shoup 02.24.2010

Donald Shoup - The High Cost of Free ParkingDonald Shoup lectured in San Jose to promote his new book The High Cost Of Free Parking. The event “Everybody Wants A Spot: Why Free Parking Is A Bad Idea” (PDF) drew many people inside San Jose City Hall on Wednesday night (24 February 2010).

(In present tense…)

He acknowledges his moniker as a “parking guru” or “parking rock star” and that maybe he might one day change his name to “Shoup Dogg.”

Americans park free for almost 99% for all vehicular trips.

Parking requirements for building permits seem arbitrary. To build a swimming pool, one would need to provide one parking space per 2,500 gallons of water.

There is a bias in mental math of drivers when it comes to parking availability. There should be no false impression of availability.

Proposed reforms that should work together:

  1. Charge right price for curbside parking (i.e. performance-based)
  2. Return parking revenue to street-specific neighborhoods
  3. Remove off-street parking requirements

Donald Shoup lightly compares the challenge of parking reform to the Reformation and other social upheaval events.

“No one no longer believes in Santa Claus.”

The quantifiable goal would be an 85% occupancy rate on any street or lot. It’s the Goldilocks principle where the price can’t be too low or too high, but just right.

Visible public benefits vs. $$$

Donald ShoupThere is a need to fight the driver behavior of willing to cruise for cheaper parking. This breeds unsafe habits. Shoup shows a video of a crazy driver doing a 180 turn into a vacant spot. The driver explains a willingness to “do whatever it takes.” A picture of Sarah Palin flashes on the screen.

You have to find the right price for the right space for the right time (might be in a different order). A city’s task is to measure and track parking in real time.

Shoup references San Francisco doubling its parking rates without any research as “political malpractice” for its mismanagement.

Free parking skews transportation choices.

Everyone pays for parking whether they drive or not.

Shoup mentions the ramifications of the Supreme Court deciding not to hear the Barton Vs. Sacramento case, especially as it pertains to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He claims that cities are just waiting to be sued for non-ADA compliance.

He cites BlueBus with a travel card that has seen a 134% change in passenger rate with versus without the card.

During the Q&A portion, Shoup mentions permit parking as a way to hinder drivers using free parking areas so that only residents can use. Another solution is daytime parking permits that people can buy without some revenue return to the neighborhoods, since most people work during the day.

UPDATE: Carlos from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition posted his own synopsis of Shoup’s lecture. Also, the Greenbelt Alliance, which sponsored the lecture, released Shoup’s presentation (PDF).

[photo via Cooperative Individualism]

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