Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The High Cost of Free Parking

Making shopping areas less auto dominated is an important step to encourage people to walk and cycle more, making carsharing more practical for more people. Over the years Professor Donald Shoup of UCLA has promoted the idea that free parking is one of the ways our society, through its planning and zoning requirements, unwittingly provides incentives for people to drive.

Shoup argues that even cities with meters price their parking too cheaply, encouraging driving. Shoup showed the City of Pasadena how they could redevelop their downtown core using revenues from parking meters and wrote about it his landmark book "The High Cost of Free Parking".

I've mentioned Prof. Shoup's ideas to many people over the years and, if you're not familiar with him, here's a 6 minute video interview with him recorded during a visit to Manhattan. It's from an excellent website, a project of Manhattan Renaissance, which promotes "re-imagining the city's public spaces and making our streets safer for pedestrians, bicycles and non-vehicular modes of transportation."

(As an aside, if parking shouldn't be free then why shouldn't carsharing pay as well? My response is: why "tax" something you want to encourage? Arguably, carsharing has as much social value a bus stops and taxi zones, which don't pay. But if you feel you really have to charge carsharing companies for their on-street parking then be sure you're charging other non-public users of the curb space appropriately, as well.)


Salon Magazine has printed an excellent, short overview about parking that's well worth a read, quoting Shoup and others about the impacts of free parking.