Sunday, May 08, 2005

The high cost of free parking

While carshares would like to get their hands on free parking to reduce their costs, it's a public subsidy for driving and car ownership - a huge one between $135-$386 billion a year. And it's one that is enshrined in zoning codes, reducing the affordability of new construction, both commercial and residential and providing incentives to drive more. Carshares will find a huge ally in this issue and need to support parking charges and maximum parking requirements in local building codes (most cities have requirements that at least a minimum number of off street parking spaces be built in new construction. If you're not familiar with it, Prof. Donald Shoup of UCLA has been studying the subject for some years and is a great resource, inlcuding a new book on the subject. He's been a tireless advocate for "parking cash out" incentives which allows employers to provide an equivalent subsidy to non-drivers (i.e. walker, bicyclists and public transit).

What's the problem?
• Drivers park free for 99% of trips
• Free parking increases solo driving by 60%
• Charging for parking reduces congestion as shoppers and employees use other modes to get do their business
• After instituting parking cash out program, 11% fewer employees drove to work
• If considered as an impact fee, minimum parking requirements in zoning codes increase development costs by more than 10 times the impact fees for all other public purposes combined.

For background you may want to review some very good material from Dr. Shoup that's available on the internet, including an early (1997) PDF version of his paper The High Cost of Free Parking Donald C. Shoup Reprint UCTC No. 351 Or, for a quick version of his argument in this Powerpoint presentation Dr. Shoup presented at TRB, which includes great before and after pictures of what happens to on-street parking when you start charging for it. TRB: The High Cost of Free Parking Dr. Shoup has also demonstrated how effective using parking meter revenues for urban redevelopment in Old Pasadena in his report Turning Small Change into Big Business.

Information about the his new book on free parking can be found at the link below.