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Free parking fallacies: A conversation with Donald Shoup

| April 18, 2013 | 6 Comments

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shoup-portrait

Donald Shoup

Parking shares some of the disorienting beauty of fractal geometry – the more closely you examine it, the more bizarre the underlying economics and planning issues become. Engineer and economist Donald Shoup has been examining parking systems for the better part of thirty years, and his seminal book, The High Cost of Free Parking, is considered by many to be the last word on how America’s parking is broken, and what steps we might take to fix it. Polemical and stat-heavy but also anecdotal and even funny in places, The High Cost of Free Parking transforms an asset we take for granted into one that has urgent implications for how we live, where we live, where we shop – and how much we pay for all of the above.

In this wide-ranging conversation, Catesby Holmes spoke with Professor Shoup about the state of American parking, what he sees as the potential for market-priced parking in the United States, important technologies that are beginning to take root, and how much we really pay for America’s most underappreciated land.

Donald Shoup is Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, where he has served as Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. Donald Shoup is also a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, an Honorary Professor at the Beijing Transportation Research Center, and the Editor of ACCESS magazine.

Click to listen to the podcast, or read the transcript below.

The politics of dynamic pricing

Catesby Holmes: Okay. So we’ll start sort of general here. I think I gave you a little bit of background on what we’re doing, but just to give you a little more sense of it, we are going to do a four-part series, and each of it examines parking, and more importantly, excess parking from a different angle. I was talking to my godmother about this series of articles, and she’s a New Yorker who does not own a car, but even she got very defensive about the idea that parking wasn’t sort of a human right.

Donald Shoup: Yeah, I think that’s sort of an example of the Stockholm Syndrome where people . . . does everybody know what the Stockholm Syndrome is?

CH: Yes.

DS: Well, that would be where you sympathize with your captor. This is quite common. Often, bus riders are opposed to the idea of charging for parking at work and if even people who ride the bus are opposed to charging for parking, you can’t expect analysis and appeals to your good nature to change people’s minds. You have to aim really for their self-interest.

Say like your grandmother, she lives in New York, is that right?

CH: Yes.

DS: Okay. Well, if she lived in Manhattan, I was talking to — there’s a guy who’s the Manhattan Borough President.

CH: Scott Stringer.

DS: Yeah, well, I met with him on one of my trips. Maybe he doesn’t have any power at all, but he has a very nice office. But a couple of his aides called me, and I guess a lot of people want to do something, and they don’t know what. If you have a Manhattan-centric audience, I would say, well, I told them is just a thumbnail of what I would tell anybody was that if you wanted to make performance parking prices politically viable in Manhattan, that is charging the lowest price you can charge and have one or two open spaces on every block. But the way to convince your grandmother would be to say, “We’re going to spend the meter money on the blocks where the revenue’s collected.”

What I suggested to Stringer, and I guess his aides, was there would be such a torrent of money in Manhattan, there’s not so many street trees you can plant or sidewalks you could power wash, but if you told people that we would clean to immaculate condition the subway station in the area where the parking meters are because I think New Yorkers have become hardened to how filthy the subways are.

CH: We don’t even notice.

DS: I recently stayed in Washington Square. The nearest station was 4th Street.

CH: The 4th Street stop is one of the worst, yeah.

DS: And I said that was awful. He said, “Oh, that makes the one under our building look beautiful.” So I was thinking but you have to show people the money, as they say, show it to them and say, “We’re going to spend every dime that we collect in these higher meter revenues to clean the nearest subway station, so maybe for power washing or painting or just litter collection or something like that,” and they thought that sounded good. I think so. I was speaking in Beijing this spring because I get invited around to a lot of places at least to talk. I don’t know if they listen, but they pay me to talk. Have you been there?

CH: I have been to Beijing, yes.

DS: Yeah, well, there are these famous hutongs, which are traditional housing. “Hutong” both means the neighborhood and the little streets are called hutongs. They’re very narrow and we went through them and there are a lot of cars parked in them even though the streets are very narrow, all paying nothing and all illegal.

I have Chinese students who helped me with this research,–and they are so old they don’t have washrooms. They don’t have bathrooms. They rely on public washrooms, which in a survey of Asian washrooms turned out to be the filthiest in Asia. There are not that many of them, so I said, “Well, what you want to do is what they call in development how much you “regularize” the parking, meaning not just ban it but say it’s already happening, let’s make it legal and charge for it and spend all the money to improve the washrooms.” And just about everybody I talked to said, “Well, that would be wonderful because there’s a few people who own cars, and they don’t even all live in the hutong, would be paying for something they’re using, and the money would all go to washrooms.”

So basically getting back to what’s going to make this popular is not to tell people it’s a good idea or it will stop global warming or stop pollution but is it say, “There’s a package. The meters come in a package with the services that the meters provide. If you want clean sidewalks on your block or extra snow plowing or extra police patrol or extra power washing, and you agree to have meters, it comes together. You don’t have the meters, you don’t get the power washing. And if you do have the meters, you do get it.”

CH: Now how do you reframe that then for suburban folks for whom meters are an unheard of concept and everything’s a big parking lot? What angle do we take for that audience? It’s just not the same as an urban crowd.

DS: That’s exactly right. I think that’s a different issue. But getting back to your grandmother, I think that we ought to start in the areas where it will do the most good. I think you ought to start with the forums where everybody will just be bowled over by the improvements, and then slowly let it seep out. To say, we’ve done this in places in California. Pasadena’s the famous example that I’ve written about, which used to be a commercial slum and now it’s one of the most popular destinations in Southern California, in large part, because of putting in the parking meters and using the revenue to rebuild all of the infrastructure, all new sidewalks, all historic streetlights, cleaning up all the alleys and making the pedestrian walkways.

In the areas where it’s a good idea, where it’s a no-brainer, like in the washrooms in hutongs or maybe around the 4th Street subway station, if you can show people that this is the result of charging the right price for curb parking and spend the money on the metered streets or under the metered streets, then you can do it someplace else, but I don’t recommend starting in the suburbs.

I don’t know if you have my book. I did show how it would work. I showed what it looks like in Silicon Valley. I said that if you could remove the off-street parking requirements, you can build all these parking lots and that’s sort of happening in some areas. So that’s what I would recommend for the suburbs. It mainly is to reduce off-street parking requirements.

I recommended three things. One is to reduce or remove off-street parking requirements. The second is to charge the right price for curb parking, and the third is to spend the money in the metered districts. One has taken off. I just have to respond to what people do is mainly the charging the right price and spending the money in the metered districts.

CH: Okay. And you think that that really convinces people that this is a public good and that we should be paying for it and that it should be returned to the public sphere, essentially?

DS: Yes, I think so. I think that you could consider that land for curb parking an endowment that the neighborhood owns, and we should manage it properly and use the revenue to improve the neighborhood. Then, everybody when they step out their front door, they’ll see the improvement. They’ll see the meter money at work, and I think in places like Manhattan, the number of people on any block who live there so vastly outnumbers the people who own a car, in any democratic vote, the people will say, “Oh, well, I like that.” Then even the car owners have something to gain because they don’t have to circle the block for a half-hour hunting for an alternate [side] space.

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The trouble with parking prices

CH: Okay. I think I know the answer to this question, but from your perspective the biggest problem with parking in the United States right now is that it’s not correctly priced?

DS: Yes, priced or managed is another way of saying it, yes, I think so. It’s incorrectly priced. You know, a part of that is the fact that the supply is so pushed up by regulations that . . . the supply of off-street parking is so, well, it’s forced up so much that most of it is free. I mean, people park for free at the end of about 99% of their trips and that is just not a market solution. That’s an outcome of our regulations.

Conrad Lumm: Do you think that if, in the suburbs, you reduce the supply by changing the off-street parking requirements, that parking would still be free or do you think that, at that point, those lots, like for example in a mall in Indiana or something would also be subject to market pricing?

DS: Well, I think it would be a very slow process of adaptation. But I’m not recommending reducing parking. I’d recommend reducing parking requirements. That’s something very different from that. I’m just saying I want to reduce the parking supply. I’m not saying that I want to reduce the floor under the parking supply, so that you can’t open a barbershop unless you have four spaces per barber or you can’t open a bike store unless you have three spaces for 1,000 square feet. Reducing parking requirements is not the same thing as limiting parking or removing parking. It’s just sort of getting out of the way.

But I guess, getting back to your question, I think it would slowly happen that because the spaces are so expensive to provide, and they yield no revenue, that people making decisions on whether to open a restaurant would probably say, “Well, I’m not going to provide 10 spaces per 1,000 square feet,” and, yes, I think that will slowly reduce the supply of off-street parking. That’ll push up the price of on-street parking, and then I think it’ll lead to more priced off-street parking.

A nifty new scheme that’s emerging in California, maybe it’s happening elsewhere, is that some nice, older areas, San Diego’s a good example or suburbs of San Francisco, they do want to have [in-fill] development, but they don’t have the land for a lot of off-street parking and any development they allow with very little parking leads to a shortage of parking, a shortage meaning that because it’s free, the demand is greater than what’s available. So several bar operators have entered into agreements with store owners, people who own property, the occupant of the store is not always the owner of the lot.

In fact it rarely is, I suppose, but they convert free customer parking into a paid lot. But the operator offers to manage the parking lot as a paid parking lot and puts in meters or a charging system and splits the revenue half and half with the property owner. The guy who manages the parking gets half the revenue, and the guy who owns the land gets half the revenue, and the customers get validated parking. So it converts all of this sea of parking slowly into paid parking.

CH: And the parking is being used in a much more efficient manner because it’s not going to be unoccupied at night or unoccupied early in the morning, right?

DS: Exactly.

CH: Sort of like lot-sharing in a way.

DS: That’s right. Sometimes the lots are only open to the public when the banks are closed. Sometimes they’re open all the time. When the bank is open, it’s customer parking only. When the bank is closed, it’s paid parking. So it means that restaurants or patrons of restaurants can use it. So I think that these parking transactions are sort of seeping in where the government allows it. Instead of forcing up the supply of off-street parking or not allow anything to happen that doesn’t have this off-street parking, that they say, “Well, we have all these older buildings that are unused. We’ll allow you to use them without meeting any parking requirement, and your customers can either park in the paid parking or they can carpool, also pay for paid parking or they can walk. They can take the bus. They can bike. So I think it just allows most of the things that every city says that they want to have.

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The evolution of parking technology

CH: So in terms of pricing parking adequately, if smaller cities or just less prosperous cities and towns can’t afford the upfront cost involved in market-based pricing and sensor system and all of the digital stuff places like San Francisco are doing, for example, what is the simplest single thing that most towns could do to reduce the impact of parking on the urban environment? Or contrarily, to render what they have more efficient?

DS: Well, I was kind of inspired by the history of the parking meter. When it was invented, nobody knew what a parking meter was. It was invented in 1935. It was first installed in Oklahoma City, which was going bankrupt like so many cities. They wanted the meters to manage curb parking but also because of the money and nobody had ever seen a parking meter or knew what it would do, and the city didn’t have the money to pay for it, so what happened was that the parking meter manufacturers offered to put them in free and collect the revenue until the meters were paid for. So that’s how they were originally financed is called “build-operate-transfer”, I think. They do it for many public facilities now.

But this is happening with the new meters, say, in Los Angeles, hadn’t raised parking meter rates for 17 years until recently, and some of the meters were so old that they couldn’t buy parts for them, so they contracted with this hot, new meter company called, “IPS” in San Diego that makes a single space meter. But it’s high-tech; it’s solar-powered, and it takes credit cards and has remote update, things like that.

So this company agreed to put in all the meters at its own expense, and it took only the increase in revenue from what the old meters had been doing until they were paid for. So I think there are ways for cities to finance collecting revenue from land they already own. See all it takes, all you’re asking for is to pay for the means of charging for something you already own. That can’t be difficult, and I think the technology is getting so much better so fast, and the miniaturization has made such a difference that even in a small, little meter head, you can have as much brain power as Apollo 8 had or the moon shot had. The miniaturization means you can put it an immense amount of technology into a parking meter, and they do things that hardly anybody can imagine.

I was an electrical engineer when I was an undergraduate, and I thought we were just at the head of the world and all kinds of technology, and now I realize we’re not, especially in parking meter technology. Most of the advanced stuff we get comes from abroad.

CH: Which countries did we import the most exciting technology from?

DS: Well, Canada’s a real hotbed of technology. The meters we use here on campus come from Canada. I think they were the ones who did the newest things. It’s called “Autoviews”, the license plate recognition, that’s the hot new, well, there’s so many hot, new things. They have these vehicles that drive around covered with cameras and they record license plate numbers and they know how long every car has been parked and whether it’s been stolen or not registered or has 18 tickets or something like that so they can boot it if the people are just scofflaws. That’s from Canada too.

One of the nifty new things is this license plate recognition that some new meters, it’s taken off, certainly in Holland, where I first saw it is that when you pay for parking, you go to these, you call them “muni-meters” in New York. Is that right? Yeah, you go to a muni-meter and the way you pay for it is you key in your license plate number and then you put in the money for the time you’re going to stay and then these license plate recognition vehicles drive around and they check every license plate number and see if it’s paid for.

The U.S. is kind of slow to pick up on this kind of thing, but it’s happening. In Boston, they did wonderful things there. One of the hot new things is pay by cell phone. You have to register with the company and when you park, using a smartphone, you just connect and say, “I’m going to pay for three hours.” It’s called the MTA in Boston?

CH: MBTA.

DS: Yeah, their transit system has a lot of commuters who park in park and ride lots and they now charge for parking in them but it was very inconvenient. People either had to buy, I think, a monthly permit or if they wanted to pay by the day, they’d have to go to the kiosk and pay for it and wait in line if their train is leaving.

So what they can do now is they can just get out of their car, run straight to the train and pay by cell phone from the train with their license plate number and then they have these vehicles going around the lots saying, “Is this car paid for?” They read the license plates. It’s all unbelievably automatic, and they see that somebody has paid for the day.

I think it’s the kind of new technology that is right out there, that is ready to be adopted. What’s that?

CH: I said it’s like a combination of convenience and technology, right?
DS: That’s right. I think my book came out just at the right time in several ways. One, I had worked on it for decades, and I laid out my proposals. Half the people thought I was crazy. The other half thought I was daydreaming. Both groups were probably half right. But just at that time, there was this flowering of technology of the sensing–that’s a big new thing as well, the occupancy sensing. I didn’t even mention it in my book. I just sort of took it for granted that it would be available, and it came along and just about all the technology that would allow the things that I recommended came along. And to some extent, my book created the demand for the technology, so we’ve been kind of symbiotic in a way.

A lot of what I recommended wouldn’t be very easy if it weren’t for this wonderful new technology, and I think cities wouldn’t be demanding this wonderful new technology unless–there have been challenges from, I guess, at least by age, I’m a senior member of the profession, and I just came along and said with a slash and burn strategy saying, “Everything you’re doing is exactly the wrong thing, just 180 degrees from the direction we should be going.”

CL: They’ve had this stuff in Europe for a while too now, so it’s nice that we’ve been able to use them as our sort of testing ground.

DS: Well, the funny thing is, I would say that London has aimed for sort of occupancy goal for a long time, but they’ve never really tried to get there. They have the same rate for during the daytime, and it’s free in the evening. But they’ve aimed for that and the technology there for multi-spaced meters or the pay by cellphone and things like that have been very good.

But when I go to Europe, they’re fascinated with SF Park because SF Park is going all the way. They’re saying, “Well, we’ll have different prices at different times of the day. We’ll change them every six weeks. We’ll aim for an occupancy rate, and this is how we’re setting our prices.” San Francisco’s the first city that says, “Here’s how we set our prices.” They explain it. I mean, in New York, they couldn’t possibly tell you how they set the prices . . . or parking requirements.

But in San Francisco they say, “Here’s what we’re doing,” and there have been a couple of new articles in the Chronicle, one today or yesterday, about a guy named Reisman, I think, is the journalist and last week or last month he pointed out that . . . Have you seen the SF Park movie?

CH: The street film?

DS: Well, they’re doing that pricing adjustment for 17 municipal garages, and the prices have declined in almost every hour at every garage. On average, the price has gone down 20% since this has started because the garages weren’t anywhere near full, and, previously, they had no way to explain how they set their prices. Now they’re doing it through dynamic pricing or demand-responsive pricing or whatever you want to call it.

They also, I just finished an evaluation of the first year in the article, we found out that the average price of on-street parking also went down by 1% and the citation revenue’s gone down because they increase the time limits and make it easier for people to park. So if the on-street prices on average went down and the off-street prices went down and the citation revenue went down, you can’t claim that the city was grabbing for more money. People will continue saying that, but San Francisco has stated this is our data-driven, transparent policy. We want to have the lowest price we can charge and have one or two open spaces on every block and some empty spaces in the garages and the data will tell us what to do.

New York is so totally the opposite of that.

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Garage economics

CH: I’m glad you brought up garages, actually, because I wanted you to discuss them very briefly. They’re sort of the parking form that I know the least about and I seem to recall that they’re quite expensive, especially for municipalities that end up doing any subsidy or investment in them and they’re a bad investment and people end up losing money in them. Is that true? Am I remembering correctly? And if so, why are parking garages so expensive?

DS: Well, they’re expensive because they’re very hard to build. You’re saying that nobody builds free-standing parking garages because they lose money?

CH: No, I mean, I think they actually get built a lot, but I seem to recall from one of my classes that they get built because people see them as a way to attract people downtown and say, “We have plenty of parking,” but then because the occupancy is often so low, it ends up having been a bad decision for the municipality to allow that garage to have been built?

DS: That’s not my interpretation. Almost every garage, except outside in Manhattan, almost every garage is built not because people think it’s a good investment, but because he forces the developer to build it. That most of these garages were required. Nobody builds freestanding garages to make money because they don’t make money. The supply is already so huge that the price is low enough that you can’t make money on a new garage. The most recent garage they’re planning at UCLA costs $84,000 a space. Now you need a revenue of about $600 per space per month to even get anywhere near paying the mortgage on that.

CH: So you’re saying that minimum parking requirements force people to build garages and then the garages are just very expensive.

DS: That’s right. They’ve very expensive to build, especially underground ones. So I would say that most of them are free, outside of the biggest cities. Most times you go to garage it’s free or validated or just free. But the same cities have minimum parking requirements even for campuses. UCLA is exempt because it’s a state university but USC isn’t. If they want to expand, they have to provide more parking.

The garages are not built because people think they’ll make money and then they’re surprised that they don’t make money. They build them because they have to.

CH: Okay. Okay.

CL: So in effect it ends up being a transfer payment from the state to local property developers.

DS: Well, I think it’s just the other way around. It doesn’t cost the state anything. These garages don’t enter into anybody’s budget. It gets submerged in the cost of a new apartment building or a new shopping center or a new barbershop or anything. That’s the nice thing about it is the government can provide free parking for everybody at no expense to the government. See all they’re doing is requiring the developer . . .

CL: Right.

CH: The expenses go to the developer. Okay.

CL: Okay. Got you.

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Regional parking tendencies

CH: That helps me understand a little. Okay. I want to get down to some of the nitty-gritty because I don’t want to keep you too long so I’m just going to sort of ask you a rapid series of questions that I’ve been wondering about that are just the data that I want to make sure to get right in my articles.

So, I’ve seen you cite Houston as a place that has a very high minimum parking requirement and has resulted in a severe excess of supply. Can you give me the names of a couple of other cities that you see as just really exemplifying how minimum parking requirements are negatively affecting the urban density and environment?

DS: You mean the poster child kind of cities?

CH: Yeah, in addition to Houston. Maybe one or two other poster child cities I can look into?

DS: Well, I don’t know if I would put Houston at the top of the list. Houston has just, I think, almost adopted what I call “parking benefit districts” where you put in meters and dedicate the money to pay for public services on the metered streets. Houston is doing that.

CH: Oh, okay.

DS: Austin has already done that.

CH: Okay. So I don’t want to vilify Houston then. What are the ones that are doing a bad job with the parking minimum that have ended up with a real excess of supply because of parking minimums?

DS: Well, I mean, so many of them have. Is there a geographic area you want?

CH: No, just whatever you would put on your top five list of cities that I could use as an example saying, “We definitely have too much parking in America. Look at “Blank City.”

DS: Well, there are a couple guys up at University of Connecticut you might talk to. I forgot, what was his name? He has a wonderful map of Hartford showing how it’s been eaten away by parking requirements. I think New Haven. I spoke with New Haven not long ago. There’s always plenty of parking there. I would say that Detroit would be a good example. Phoenix.

CH: Oh, gosh, yes. Phoenix is bad.

DS: Minneapolis? Minneapolis certainly has a lot of . . . just Google it. I mean, if you Google these cities, you’ll see that just immense amounts of parking. I don’t know that their parking requirements – if you go to any city, you’ll find some parking is very high. San Jose, that’s where the Cisco parking lots were that I showed in my book. San Jose is certainly reforming.

CH: Okay. That’s good. Yeah, that’s five cities, that’s good. Now I have to change. I had been vilifying Houston. I’ll have to change that. Another question I have, so with your Home Depot study, which I think is fascinating, or the Home Depot study that you cited where they found that they had about 50% excess of parking in most Home Depot stores . . .

DS: Well, that’s what their consultant found.

CH: Yeah. I think that was such an interesting part of your book. I’m wondering though, if you reduce, so let’s say I’m Home Depot and I reduce my parking lot size by 50% so that it’s at occupancy most of the year, what does happen during the holiday season? Where do people shop? Where to they park in order to shop at your store if you’ve reduced your parking?

DS: Well, more and more people are shopping online. That doesn’t take any parking except at home.

CH: But what if I go to the mall and the mall has taken everybody’s advice, and we have 100% occupancy at the parking lot because it’s been priced correctly and because there’s an in-fill, etc., etc., and it’s Black Friday or whatever. What do we say to people who say, “Okay. If you end up with smaller parking lots and higher occupancy, what happens when I need to park, and I can’t find a space?”

DS: Well, then I would say that it’s about time to charge, if you’re talking about when the parking is free and there’s not enough of it. Well, then you go someplace else.

CH: Charging solves this problem, okay.

DS: What some shopping malls have begun doing is to have, certainly in LA, they charge for parking in the malls. They charge after three hours. The first three hours are free. Some of them have no free parking. You have to pay if you want to go to the Beverly Center. Century City is a big one in LA. First they started charging for the first three hours and now next year, they’re going to charge everybody.

But I think if they start doing that at malls, then I think they ought to do what San Francisco is doing is that it ought to be cheap in the morning and it ought to be cheaper on the weekdays than it is on the weekend and they should have higher prices at times when you say that there’s no parking.

CH: Okay.

DS: But I think that’s what will ultimately happen is that the mall parking garages are very well set up for charging for parking if they want to, and I think that if they’re going to charge for parking, they shouldn’t have a uniform price all day, all year. They should have a lower price most of the year, maybe a higher price at that time when you say, “Well, I can’t find any spaces.” Well, the idea of the right prices is you’ll always find a space.

That’s the idea of the right pricing. You’ll always find a space, and nobody will be able to say there’s a shortage of parking because everywhere they go, they’ll see a few spaces, just as there’s no shortage of fur coats or iPads or anything else. The only thing there’s a shortage of is parking. There’s no shortage of gasoline or telephones or eyeglasses or Pepsis. The one thing there’s a shortage of that people complain about is parking and that’s because cities have decided that it ought to be free.

The reason that I like to work on parking is it’s so easy to . . .

CH: I don’t know. I think you’ve taken up a tough topic and you’re doing a great job of making it sound easy.

DS: Well, that’s right. A professor couldn’t be a loose cannon on this and politicians can’t say what I’m saying, but I think what has happened is a lot of younger people who, they’re disaffected in many ways, especially the people who are anti-car, which I’m not. I think they’ve been emboldened by the things that I’m saying is that they can also start criticizing the car, criticizing parking policies. I had estimated the subsidy for off-street parking. I think I estimated something like . . . let’s see, the revenues for off-street parking in the United States paid for between 1% and 4% of the cost of the off-street parking, and the subsidy was a minimum of $127 million a year. That was 10 years ago.

But Zhan Guo recently wrote an article. He tried to find out the subsidy for on-street parking. How much does on-street parking cost and how much revenue does it bring in? And he estimated that the cost of the on-street parking in the United States is at least a trillion dollars. Now we’re used to the idea of a trillion dollars. And that the maintenance cost is at least $20 billion a year.

The difference between the cost of the parking, the cost to provide it, and what people pay for. Yeah, I think that on page around 200 in my book I try to make the case there’s a huge difference between what this parking costs and what the drivers pay for it. Somebody pays for it. We all pay for it in our role as an investor or an employee or a tax payer or a diner or somebody going to a restaurant or a movie theater or a grocery store. We use parking just about everywhere in suburban areas but we never pay for it as a driver. We pay for it every other role in life except as a driver.

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Goodbyes

CH: Well, Conrad, do you have anything more you want to ask? I don’t want to keep Mr. Shoup on beyond what we promised him.

CL: I don’t think so. I think I’m all set. Listen, we really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for talking with us.

DS: Okay. Well I look forward to seeing your articles. I know that there’s been some good journalism about parking recently.

CH: Yeah, the New York Times did some good stuff so we, I think, are sort of hoping to capitalize on this growing interest. So we have a little while yet before the materials get online, but I’ll be sure to send you the link, obviously. And can I follow up with you as I’m writing the stories if I have any follow-up questions on these responses?

DS: Oh, sure, I’d be happy to talk to you. This is my favorite subject and I realize that I’m a parasite on journalists in the sense that journalists write so much better than academics do. I suppose you learn something in journalism school.

CL: Professor Shoup, I think you write a pretty mean editorial yourself, if you don’t mind my saying so.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Seth Goodman says:

    Thanks! Great interview, I enjoyed listening.

  2. Lindsay Bayley says:

    I am a regional planner in Chicago and have to disagree with the section on parking garages. We have municipalities all over the region who are using public funds (taking on debt) to build parking garages to attract development. And many of these are communities with NO minimum parking requirements. And when one community does it, the others say, “Well, look at our neighbor. They have a parking garage! We need one.” And it becomes a race to the bottom. Many of them are paying for garages through taxes on retail. So you end up punishing the bicyclists and pedestrians who now have to pay more for goods to pay the debt on the garage. A lot of times, our commuter rail agency says, “You need to provide xxx number of parking spaces by 2040, based on population growth.” They have a formula that basically assumes that any new people will be driving (even if 25% of the people are currently walking). And then they won’t let the community raise to cost to park because they’re afraid it would hurt their ridership. I say lower the cost of your tickets, raise the cost of parking! We have some communities with 10- and 12-year waiting lists for commuter parking spaces! Insanity. Thanks, nice interview!

  3. Conrad Lumm says:

    Lindsay, I just noticed this comment several years later. 🙂

    First of all, I think there’s plentiful evidence that building parking garages to attract development is letting the tail wag the dog, and unlikely to accomplish its aims. If you’ve ever been to downtown Buffalo, you might recall the incredibly surfeit of parking garages that only a few beleaguered local employees use, while the rest of downtown is a relative ghost town. You end up with people relying on public transport to get them away from the garages!

    Chicago is a bit of an odd duck, parking-wise, admittedly. Garages can be helpful when they involve minimal public investment and there aren’t too many, but in many munis, rezoning that encourages infill and dense development seems to me like it’d be a way more economically productive path. It’s tough in Chicago, though, where IIRC there’s a strong, persistent (and possibly misled) park-to-ride orientation and city politics tend to reinforce that, for reasons I don’t entirely understand.

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