A book authored by Donald C. Shoup, UCLA professor of urban planning is starting to gain some traction, as are his transformational ideas about how to fix the economic ills brought about by far too much free parking. For example:
- Higher priced parking spaces would limit trips by car
- Cut emissions
- Alleviate congestion
- Improve land use
Tyler Cowen, a reporter for the NY Times wrote a terrific article in Sunday’s paper about Professor Shoup’s book.
The price of a parking space should be set by the demand of the driving public. This is rarely, if ever, the case. Shoup analogizes this to free ice cream. If you provided everyone with free ice cream, there will be a line around the block to consume the free ice cream, and you’d go bankrupt trying to make sure you had sufficient supplies. The solution is to charge the market rate for ice cream. Shoup would do the same for parking spaces.
The technology today allows parking meters to communicate with each other and figure out how much parking is available; and automatically adjust the price to ensure that 15% of the spots are always free. Imagine: no more looking for parking, a parking space always available. See book review of Aaron Swartz
Land use planning
About 99% of all automobile trips in the USA end in a free parking space, rather than a parking space with a market price. Think about how much land at huge prices is wasted on enormous parking lots that provide free parking, period. What a waste of expensive space.
Shoup suggests, the chain reaction caused by permitting fewer parking spaces, at higher prices, would result in lower land costs to developers, lower rents to businesses, and lower prices to consumers.
Carrying this a bit further, higher cost of parking spaces would result in less driving, less cruising around looking for available spaces, less congestion, less use of gasoline, and so on, and so on…
How about NYC?
Shoup believes in densely populated cities, like NYC, people are accustomed to paying high prices for parking, which has helped to encourage a relatively efficient, high-density use of space. “Yet even NYC is reluctant to enact the full social cost of the automobile into policy. Ergo, proposals to impose congestion fees have failed politically, and on-street parking is priced artificially low.
“Manhattan streets are full of cars cruising around, looking for cheaper on-street parking, rather than pulling into a lot. The waste includes drivers’ lost time and the costs of running those engines. By contrast, San Francisco has just instituted a pioneering program to connect parking meter prices to supply and demand, with prices being adjusted, over time, within a general range of 25 cents to $6 an hour” See NYT article.
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