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Funds for San Diego “Park” Go Mostly to Free Parking for County Employees

Nobody’s going to give San Diego County an award for park planning — we hope! — on its “Waterfront Park project,” which is more accurately described as the “subsidized garage project.”

Bike SD

The top photo shows the county administration building pre-park. The bottom photo shows the site of the new $36 million garage built with park funds. Images: Bike SD

Grinning county officials recently cut the ribbon on a $36 million parking garage that will be free for county employees. With 640 spaces, the cost works out to $56,250 per space. The parking garage cost about three times what was spent to build the actual park on the nearby surface lot that the garage replaced, writes John Anderson at Network blog Bike SD

He explains:

The new county parking garage is the second portion of the “Waterfront Park project” that created a 12-acre park across Harbor Drive from San Diego Bay, replacing 8 acres of surface level parking lots adjacent the County Administration Building. That project cost $49.4 million dollars after an initial project cost estimate of $44.2M with $19.7M for building the park, $18.5M for building underground parking, and $6M for design and administration costs.

In total, between the two projects $54.5M was spent on moving parking spaces and $18.5M was spent on the actual park that people enjoy. This is excluding the $5.2M of difference from the original estimate to the actual construction costs and the $6M of design and administration costs. Those cost breakdowns yield a result of 75% of funds used to move spots for empty cars and 25% of funds used to build a park. For purposes of this article let’s assume the admin and cost over-run figures split on the same lines. The vast majority of the funds used for these joint projects was for moving parking spaces, not for building a park.

This project was sold as a project to build a great park – it would seem fitting if most of the funds were actually used to build a great park. Instead we spent 75% of the funds to relocate parking spaces, not creating new spaces but moving existing parking spaces. 251 spaces moved approximately 15 feet, they were undergrounded in the same location as the previous surface level lots.

To make matters worse, a beautiful historic building was demolished — of course — to make way for the subsidized garage with the extra-wide stalls. Little Italy was thriving without it, and the giant monolithic structure will probably just make the neighborhood less attractive, writes Anderson. Well done, San Diego!

Elsewhere on the Network today: You’ll never believe what’s blocking the bike lane in Louisville, via Broken Sidewalk. And Seattle Bike Blog says that voter approval of the “Move Seattle” transportation levy will lead to an “unprecedented effort to end traffic violence.”

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Parking Reforms Advanced By L.A. City Council Transportation Committee

Parking reform will likely including citywide expansion of L.A. Express Park

Parking reform will likely including citywide expansion of L.A. Express Park

As expected, a suite of far-ranging parking reforms was heard by the Los Angeles City Council’s Transportation Committee yesterday. The committee was broadly receptive to the reforms, directing the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT) and other departments to further investigate a number of key reforms. What was perhaps most revealing was individual city councilmember attention to specific parking issues.

As previewed earlier this week, the reforms were proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Los Angeles Parking Reform Working Group in a report [PDF] entitled “Proposals for Parking Reform in the City of Los Angeles.” They include:

  1. Dedicate all parking revenue for mobility and parking purposes only
  2. Change zoning code to address problems created by minimum parking requirements
  3. End handicap placard abuse
  4. Expand use of performance-based pricing
  5. Charge drivers for only the amount of time parked
  6. Charge tiered fines for parking tickets
  7. Adopt a freight parking program
  8. Re-evaluate street cleaning parking restrictions
  9. Re-evaluate Preferential Parking Districts (PPDs)
  10. Use technology to improve parking

None of the proposals were at a point where the committee could just vote to put them into effect immediately. Instead, largely at the direction of Transportation Committee chair Mike Bonin, numerous items are moving forward with departments evaluating them and reporting back to future Transportation Committee meetings.

The committee moved forward with the following reforms, numbered as they are above:

1. Dedicate all parking revenue for mobility and parking purposes only

In city parlance, a dedicated fund is called an “Enterprise Fund” (as opposed to the General Fund.) Bonin and the committee directed LADOT and the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) to report on the benefits and costs of establishing a Parking Enterprise Fund, including a proposal for a pilot that would return a portion of local meter revenue to the locations where it was generated for transportation improvements.

Additionally on a separate but related item, the committee laid the groundwork for using city parking revenue to finance expansion of Express Park, a “Code the Curb” inventory (see 10 below), and a pilot enterprise fund.

Councilmember Jose Huizar asked a couple of questions on how a Parking Enterprise Fund could be targeted toward improvements specifically in the areas that generate the revenues.

4. Expand use of performance-based pricing

L.A. already does variable or performanced-based pricing as part of L.A. Express Park, which has been in effect for most of downtown Los Angeles for a few years, and is expanding to Westwood later this year. Bonin and the committee directed LADOT to report back on what is needed to accelerate Express Park implementation for Venice, Expo/USC, Hollywood, and to expand it to all parking metered streets “citywide.”

7. Adopt a freight parking program Read more…

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Previewing the Future of L.A. Parking: 10 Parking Reform Recommendations

Map of parking meter districts in the city of Los Angeles. Image via Working Group report

Map of parking meter districts in the city of Los Angeles. Image via Working Group report [PDF]

Tomorrow’s 1 p.m. Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting will be the first public airing of the final report of Mayor Garcetti’s Los Angeles Parking Reform Working Group. In February, the Working Group delivered “Proposals for Parking Reform in the City of Los Angeles”: a 40-page report [PDF] outlining an extensive series of parking policies tailored to solve parking problems within the city of Los Angeles. The recommendations are far-ranging, including parking revenue, parking minimums, freight parking, parking ticket fines, street sweeping restrictions, and much more.

The Working Group grew out of agitation from the fairly-conservative Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative, but the mayor appointed a broader cross-section of parking reformers, including a handful of Shoupistas. As a result, the Working Group’s recommendations, like parking expert Don Shoup‘s, center on common ground, good-government reforms which would go a long way to fostering greater livability.

At this time, the Working Group’s report is just a set of recommendations. It will take political will, on the mayor and council’s part to enact these into law, and to embed them into an already strained city budget.

Below are ten of the top recommendations from the Working Group’s report.

1. Dedicate all parking revenue for mobility and parking purposes only 

The report calls for dedicating all city parking revenue – from meters, lots, and tickets – into “a secure, segregated Parking and Access Fund.” The Fund would be only used for two purposes: managing parking and improving mobility. Parking could including building additional lots or structures, upgrading technologies, etc. Mobility improvements could include pedestrian facilities, such as sidewalks and streetscape.

Shoup has long asserted that dedicating parking revenue to visible street improvements is a key way to generate the political will for pricing parking appropriately.

2. Change zoning code to address problems created by minimum parking requirements

The report criticizes outdated parking minimums for hurting small business, making housing less affordable, and worsening traffic congestion. The specific zoning reforms are not spelled out yet. Generally, the report states that parking requirements “should be balanced with other transportation goals in order to enhance transit accessibility and parking availability” with additional specifics forthcoming.

3. End handicap placard abuse

Handicap placard abuse sabotages parking meter pricing strategies. Allowing some drivers to park indefinitely for free makes it difficult to ensure an adequate supply of street parking at any price. Illegitimate placard users squeeze out space for people with disabilities who actually need it.

Though California and Los Angeles have done occasional stings targeting placard abuse, other locales have had dramatic success in reforming placard laws. The city of Portland, Oregon, ended free parking for disabled drivers in 2014. Severely disabled drivers, including actual wheelchair users, have an exception that allows them to park for free.

The city of Los Angeles cannot, on its own, end rampant placard abuse. Placards are governed by state law. Nonetheless, L.A. electeds have allies in the state legislature, and the city pushes for a state legislation agenda to solve L.A. problems.

4. Expand use of performance-based pricing 

The report urges the expansion of performance-based pricing, Read more…

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October Metro Committee Meeting Updates: Bus Service, TOC, Measure R2

Metro's Transit Service Policy Update is summarized in this presentation [PDF]

Metro’s Transit Service Policy Update lays the groundwork for a frequent bus service network, expected in July 2016. Changes are summarized in this presentation [PDF].

The Metro Board of Directors held its monthly committee meetings this week, in advance of next Thursday’s board meeting. Below are a handful of news bits gleaned from this week’s committee meetings. Final decisions still need to be approved by the full board next week.

Frequent Bus Service Network

Metro’s System Safety, Security and Operations Committee approved a new 81-page “2016 Transit Service Policy” document [PDF]. The changes are summarized in this presentation [PDF]. The document primarily lays the groundwork for implementing the not-yet-well-defined Frequent Bus Network, also known as the Strategic Bus Network Plan (SBNP.) SBLA analyzed the draft network proposal in this earlier article.

There are two main policy changes in the new Transit Service Policy. Both were recommended in Metro’s March 2015 American Public Transportation Association review:

  • Increase Load Factor: Load factor measures how crowded buses are. Currently Metro has a single load factor for all bus service; buses (at least as scheduled/planned at peak) hold 1.3 times their seated capacity. That means that generally 23 percent of riders are expected to stand at peak hours. The agency is adopting a new standard that it characterizes as “wait a long time: get to sit down.” It is a more complex standard that takes into account frequency of service. Peak service load factors increase to 1.4, meaning 29 percent of peak hour riders can expect to stand. This is a somewhat delicate balance to strike. Transit expert Jarrett Walker emphasizes that maintaining a low peak load factor is costly. On the other hand, overcrowded buses can become so full that they pass by waiting riders.
  • Eliminate Bus Stops: Metro reports that, over the past five years, average bus speeds have declined from “12 mph to less than 10.91 mph.” One low cost way to address this is to eliminate stops, especially local bus stops that are close together. See this earlier SBLA article on the benefits of bus stop thinning.

As this earlier SBLA article outlines, many questions remain regarding the SBNP, especially regarding canceling lines that may be picked up by municipal bus operators, including Foothill Transit and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus. The timeline specified in the presentation shows Metro detailing service changes in December, and holding hearings in February 2016, for a planned implementation in July 2016.

Map of planned new North Hollywood to Pasadena freeway bus. Image via Metro.

Map of planned new North Hollywood to Pasadena freeway bus. Image via Metro.

New NoHo-Pasadena Express Bus Line

Metro’s Operations Committee approved $784,000 to fund a new North Hollywood to Pasadena express bus, connecting the Orange and Red Lines with the Gold Line.  The new freeway bus line will be called Line 501. It is expected to begin a 180-day pilot at the same time that the Foothill Gold Line opens in the Spring of 2016. The route roughly parallels LADOT Commuter Express line 549, which operates only on weekday peak hours. Additional details in Metro staff reports.

Read more…

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Guide To Park(ing) Day 2015 Parklet Sites – Plus Metro Parking Update

Four Mid-City Park(ing) Day parklet locations hosted by L.A.'s Mid-City West Neighborhood Council.

Four Mid-City Park(ing) Day parklet locations hosted by L.A.’s Mid-City West Community Council.

International Park(ing) Day is not the massively humongous event it has been in past years in L.A. Nonetheless, there are still parks popping up in mid- and downtown. Below is a list of some Southern California park(s) to check out. (updated with additional sites! Some additional locations at parkingday.org)

  • In Mid-City L.A., the Mid City West Community Council hosts four parklets open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.:
    – District La Brea, at 115 S. La Brea Avenue – features three full street parking spaces, furnished with seating, a foosball game, ping-pong table, graffiti art demo, and yummies from TWIST and Front Porch Pops.
    – Miracle Mile Toys & Games, 5363 Wilshire Boulevard
    – OpenSpaceLA, at 457 N. Fairfax Avenue – open until 8 p.m.
    – Melrose BID, at 7753 Melrose Avenue
    Additional details at MCWCC.
  • In Hollywood, join HR&A LA will be park(ing) to celebrate Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets initiative. The park takes place at Hollywood and Vine, outside the Hollywood Pantages Theatre from 12 noon to 6 p.m.
    There will be three spaces: a Think Tank to brainstorm Great Streets solutions with the Mayor’s team at a pop-up office with free WiFi and cold brew coffee, a “Barklet” with dogs up for adoption, and an L.A. Philharmonic virtual reality orchestra performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Details on flier [PDF].
  • In downtown L.A., Alta Planning and Design will be on the corner of 7th and Grand with “The Sweet Spot.” Attendees are invited to come and relax with their lunch or a snack from 12 – 2 p.m., share their knowledge on hidden public spaces in Downtown Los Angeles, and eat some sweets! Attendees are invited to help populate a map of public spaces downtown. Share ideas and pose for pictures in Alta’s Sweet Spot Photo booth! Details on flier [PDF] below.
  • In Larchmont Village, Rios Clementi Hale Studios’ parklet will educate the public about the benefits of rainwater capture. Their parklet, open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., is located  across the street from the firm’s office at 639 N. Larchmont Blvd. More details here.
  • In Pacoima, Pacoima Beautiful hosts a parklet from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pacoima Branch Library at 13605 Van Nuys Blvd. More details here.
  • In Westwood, there will be a parklet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in front of Simplethings at 10874 Kinross Avenue.
  • In Eagle Rock, there will be a parklet from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in front of Bloom School of Music at 2116 Colorado Blvd.

Alta Planning hosts The Sweet Spot Park(ing) Day parklet in downtown Los AngelesDo you know of other locations we didn’t mention? Please post in the comments below.

Streetsblog L.A. will be touring some of these sites tomorrow. Follow @StreetsblogLA and #parkingdayla on Twitter for updates.

In other parking news, today Metro’s Executive Committee approved the agency’s revised Parking Ordinance [PDF] and Parking Fee Resolution [PDF], which is unfortunately even less nimble than the already rigid version that had been proposed in July. Instead of trusting Metro’s CEO to raise or lower parking prices, the modified parking ordinance requires a vote of the agency’s board of directors.

Yesterday, Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee approved a 12-month $620,000 contract [PDF] with Walker Parking Consultants to develop a Parking Strategic Implementation Plan for managing station parking for the next five-to-ten years. Perhaps a year from now Metro’s consultants will recommend a more nimble parking strategy.

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Metro Saddles NoHo Station Redevelopment With $48M Parking Expansion

Metro's North Hollywood parcels, now up for possible redevelopment. Image via Metro

Metro’s North Hollywood parcels, now up for possible redevelopment. Image via Metro

In a recent post at The Source, Metro announced a new call for joint development at four large parcels of land at and adjacent to its North Hollywood Red and Orange Line Stations. Curbed L.A. reports that the NoHo parcels could include an estimated 750 to 1,500 units of housing, up to 12 stories tall. Hopefully, plenty of that housing will be affordable, based on Metro’s recently adopted joint development policies.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) will be a good thing for North Hollywood, for Metro, for Los Angeles. But is this truly TOD?

The issue here is parking.

Lots and lots and lots of parking.

The Source article completely misuses the term “replacement parking.”

The current NoHo lot has 957 spaces and another 194 spaces are in the process of being added on the north side of Chandler Avenue east of the current lot. Parking at NoHo Station is heavily used with most sites taken each morning and many NoHo riders say the parking makes it possible for them to take transit. If the current lots are developed, Metro plans to ask for 2,000 replacement spaces for transit riders in parking lots and/or garages to be constructed in addition to parking needed for residents and retail. That would almost double the current parking available at the station for Red Line and Orange Line riders.

What is “replacement parking”? When a development takes away existing parking, the developer may be required to replace parking spaces that have been taken away. Is asking for 2,000 spaces to replace 1,151 spaces credibly “replacement parking”? No. It’s a massive expansion. Cities and transit agencies (for example, BART [PDF]) generally require 1 to 1 replacement parking. Even 1 to 1 replacement hurts walkability, livability, and affordability.

Metro isn’t asking for replacement parking. It is asking for a massive parking expansion. A massively expensive parking expansion.

At an estimated cost of $24,000 per parking space in an elevated structure (amount from Don Shoup – and it will likely be upwards of $34,000 per space for any underground parking) then Metro is saddling this redevelopment with an up-front cost of $48 million, just for parking for Metro. As The Source mentions, that’s not counting additional parking for people who will live or shop there.  Read more…

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This Week’s L.A. Transportation Committee: Vision Zero, Parking, CicLAvia

Los Angeles leads big cities in crash deaths. Image via L.A. City Vision Zero report [PDF]

Los Angeles leads big U.S. cities in crash deaths. Image via L.A. City Vision Zero report [PDF]

Yesterday’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee touched on a number of items related to Los Angeles livability. Below is a brief recap of highlights. All these committee actions still need to be approved by the full city council before going into effect.

Vision Zero and Pedestrian Enforcement – Council File 15-0546

This is the second committee hearing (June coverage here) for the laudable Bonin-Huizar motion that seeks to curb LAPD’s “fish-in-a-barrel” ticketing of pedestrians who violate antiquated state crosswalk laws.

Given that Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent Vision Zero directive has brought departments together to focus on reducing collision deaths, committee time for this item was dedicated to a Vision Zero presentation by L.A. Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds.

Reynolds’ presentation was compelling, drawing from the city’s extensive Vision Zero report [PDF]. City departments are engaging a consultant to do a “detail dive into crash data.” The internal city Vision Zero Task Force will meet for the first time on Thursday, September 24. Also on Thursday, the city will host a public event featuring Reynolds and Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the national Vision Zero Network. Event details here.

The pedestrian enforcement aspect of the motion will be heard at a subsequent committee meeting.

Expansion of Express ParkCouncil File 13-0586

The committee approved extending Xerox’s contract to administer the city’s demand-based parking program, L.A. Express Park. Express Park will continue in downtown Los Angeles. It will also expand to Westwood (in the “next two months”) and to Hollywood (in about three years.)  Read more…

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Some Thoughts On Metro’s Modest New Parking Policy Proposal

Should Metro parking policies

Metro is voting on a proposed update to its parking policies this Thursday. Metro Gold Line Atlantic Station parking structure. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At this Thursday’s meeting, Metro’s Board of Directors will be voting on modest changes to the way the agency manages parking. Theoretically, these changes are expected to set the stage for increased parking revenue, which has positives for walkability and livability, but the devil may be in the details.

According to the staff presentation [PDF], Metro currently manages more than 70 parking facilities with more than 22,000 parking spaces. In 2016, with new Gold and Expo Line extension parking lots opening, this will rise to more than 25,000 spaces. 330 more spaces are added when the Crenshaw/LAX line parking lots open in 2019.

Metro Boardmember and Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana, at last week’s Executive Committee meeting, remarked that parking spaces cost Metro “$40,000 a pop.” And that’s just up-front costs, without ongoing maintenance and operations. Metro’s overall 25,000 space parking portfolio, assuming parking expert Don Shoup’s industry standard of $24,000 per space instead of Fasana’s higher number for above ground structures (some spaces cost a lot more than this, probably some cost less), cost the agency at least $600,000,000.

So, even under conservative estimates, Metro has spent more than half a billion dollars on parking spaces. Metro gives more than 93 percent those spaces away for free. Metro CEO Phil Washington and other Metro leaders increasingly frequently speak about budget shortfalls and the need for increased revenue, cost-cutting, and likely fare increases.

I’ve often written critically about Metro’s free parking as a massive unfair loss leader for the agency. What might be given more weight is analysis by transportation experts. Metro’s recent peer review by a panel of American Public Transportation Association (APTA) experts made the following recommendations that bear repeating here: (full APTA review coverage here)

  • Station parking is expensive to build and maintain, so parking costs should be [at least] partially recovered.
  • Easy parking encourages driving that first last mile; it’s better to re-direct parking resources to instead fund convenient, frequent bus service.
  • Free park-and-ride subsidizes higher income riders and decreases transit’s air quality benefits.

So… with looming deficits and expert recommendations, Metro is retooling the way it does parking.

Not quite.

The new Metro parking ordinance is unfortunately not so different from current practices. Read more…

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A Look at Downtown L.A. Parking Enforcement Riding with LADOT

Officer Guerra and Sgt. Smith ticketing a parking violation on Spring Street. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Officer Guerra and Sgt. Smith ticketing a parking violation on Spring Street. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Earlier this week, I accepted an invitation to do a downtown Los Angeles bike-along with City of L.A. Transportation Department (LADOT) parking enforcement officers. LADOT also uses bicycle officers to do parking enforcement in the Valley, West L.A., and Hollywood. The parking enforcement staff downtown is 30 strong, all on bicycle.

Traffic Officer Michael Guerra has been doing parking enforcement in downtown Los Angeles for 17 years. Also accompanying us was his supervisor Sergeant Rodney Smith.

Officer Guerra rode Los Angeles City bike number 75

Officer Guerra rode Los Angeles City bike number 75

The officers rode on Giant brand bicycles, complete with the city seal and vehicle numbers. This got me thinking that there’s a system in place for managing a city bicycle fleet, perhaps other city staff could use a city bike fleet for short trips.

My first question to them was about handicapped placards. Is handicapped placard abuse really as prevalent as I’ve read? Parking expert Don Shoup has asserted that widespread abuse of handicapped placards is a serious barrier to making variable pricing work in downtown L.A. The officers responded that handicap placards were typically on 75 to 80 percent of cars parked in the Little Tokyo and Historic Core, where we were going. And they said it’s worse in the Financial District.

This was confirmed during our ride. Many blocks on streets we rode, including on First Street and Third Street, had all but one or two cars displaying a handicap placard. It’s difficult to tell if some or all of these are legitimate. Other LADOT officers have been involved in placard enforcement sting operations typically headed by the DMV. Based on the headlines, both media and law enforcement have little trouble finding widespread abuse. Sgt. Smith mentioned that, in the past, LADOT had tried to push for placard reform via the state legislature, but that it had not yielded any results, and it was no longer a top priority.

I also asked about how the city’s L.A. Express Park variable pricing program has affected their work. Though they were aware that prices were sometimes changing, the program had not really made things perceptibly different from an enforcement end. I thought to myself, perhaps the placards do impact managing pricing; with so much placard use, most drivers pay nothing and it doesn’t matter how much the going rates are.

It didn’t take long for the officers to find and ticket illegally parked vehicles. Guerra said that it varies a lot, but that he writes 20-30 tickets on a typical day, though typically a lot fewer when it’s raining, and sometimes more around the holidays when drivers frequently park illegally to run in to get last-minute shopping done. On weekends, he writes more tickets, typically 40-50 per day, but that is because there are fewer officers deployed than on weekdays.  Read more…

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Donald Shoup Interview, Part 2: Pasadena, Ventura, Mexico City, A.B. 744

Joe Linton and Donald Shoup. Photo: Streetsblog L.A.

Joe Linton and Donald Shoup. Photo: Streetsblog L.A.

Donald Shoup, parking’s one and only rock star, is retiring from UCLA this year. Tomorrow, the college is sending him off with a fundraiser retirement dinner atop parking structure number 32. You can attend, and hobnob with Shoup himself, by donating to the Shoup Fellowship fund for future UCLA planning students.

Below is part two of my big exit interview with Don Shoup. Part one is here. The interview took place at the UCLA Faculty Center on Friday, May 15, the day after UCLA’s Complete Streets Forum, where Professor Shoup had been impressed with a presentation on the soon-to-be phased out car congestion metric, Level of Service.

Joe Linton: Many progressives want people to do the right thing for the right reason. If you look at New York City and how healthy people are, it’s because they walk. They’re not healthier because they’re choosing some healthy option. They’re healthy because the neighborhood around them was built for walking. I think you’ve managed to avoid that pitfall. 

Don Shoup: When it comes to public policy, doing the right thing is more important than doing it for the right reason. The best way to get people to do what’s right collectively is to make it the best thing for them to do individually. You have to give individuals a personal incentive to do what’s right for society.

When it comes to parking, you have to figure out how to stop giving everyone incentives to do what’s wrong for society. Removing subsidies for parking is one of the best ways to convince people to walk, bike, or ride the bus rather than drive solo.

For example, employer-paid parking is an invitation to drive to work alone. Parking cash out is a policy that makes it individually rational to consider all the alternatives to driving to work alone. I studied employers who began to offer commuters the option to choose the cash value of free parking rather than the parking itself. At these firms, 17 percent of the solo drivers shifted to carpooling, biking, walking, or riding the bus to work.

For many people, the only reason to do anything is that it’s best for them individually. And I think that’s why planners have to be more realistic about devising policies so the stakeholders will say, “I see what you mean – that’ll help me.” I think expecting people to do the right thing for the right reason leads to a lot of failure in public policy.

Most people who ride a bike do so because they enjoy it and want the exercise, not because it’s a sacrifice for humanity. But many people don’t mind driving or even like to drive, and parking subsidies increase the incentive to drive.

In my retirement, I want to live the way hobbits did; they spent all their time visiting all their friends who lived within a half a day’s walk. And if you are lucky, you can live almost that way in L.A. I live near campus and usually don’t leave Westwood. When I do go to other places like West Hollywood, Culver City, or Pasadena, I see there’s a whole other ecosystem going on in each neighborhood. There are a lot of little villages and you can have a wonderful life without traveling far from them. I’ve even seen real estate ads for houses saying “Park on Friday, walk all weekend.”

Because of traffic congestion I think more people are leading their lives in their own villages. But I do think we can greatly reduce traffic congestion. I’m a big fan of congestion pricing – which I think is the only thing that will reduce congestion.

Linton: Where do you see congestion pricing taking hold in Los Angeles?

Shoup: It already has taken hold – the High Occupancy/Toll (HOT) lanes on the Harbor Freeway. Solo drivers can use the ExpressLanes if they pay. The tolls adjust up and down to prevent the lanes from getting congested.

Linton: What’s interesting to me is that it was working really well as we were emerging from the down economy – the speeds were actually averaging above the speed limit – which they were proud of – those scofflaw motorists. This year and late last year, as the economy has picked up, they’re increasingly closing those lanes. They’re too packed.

Shoup: Yes. It’s because there is a cap on the congestion toll – $1.40 per mile. They now run up against that cap often. The price cap was politically necessary to begin with but there’s no reason to have a cap now, especially because the toll revenue provides many amenities on and alongside the freeway. Better lighting, better bus stops, and more frequent bus service.

Linton: Bike-share, too

Shoup: That’s right. So what’s the objection to raising the tolls now? The ExpressLane tolls provide about $2.3 million a month to run the extra bus service, bike-sharing, better bus stops, and things like that. If that’s what the tolls are providing, what’s the problem with raising the price for solo drivers when the freeway gets congested?

Linton: Where else do you think L.A. can expand congestion pricing? Additional freeway lanes? Other applications?

Shoup: They didn’t need to add lanes to the El Monte Busway and the Harbor Freeway for congestion pricing. I think we should convert more HOV lanes to HOT lanes. On the 405, we just spent a billion dollars to put in one new HOV lane. It took five years of construction with nightmarish traffic – and just think of the carbon emissions that created. It would be more sensible to convert one free lane to a HOT lane.

After the Level of Service talk [at the prior day’s Complete Streets forum] a consultant from Orange County asked “if they don’t use Level of Service metrics, how will they know where to build new freeways, new capacity?” I said if you have a congested freeway, you could try converting free lanes into HOT lanes rather than build more free lanes. I think Orange County made a bad choice in expanding freeways and keeping them free.

If we manage freeways better – the lanes that we have – we wouldn’t need any more. And they would provide revenue.

We ought to have signs on the bike stands, in the buses, and at bus stops saying “paid for by the ExpressLanes revenue.” People will see the toll revenue at work. The revenue goes to specific places for specific things. If we didn’t have the congestion tolls, we wouldn’t have these bicycles, this bus, this new street furniture, or something like that.

Variable parking prices are like congestion tolls, except instead of aiming for the right speed on the road you aim for the right occupancy rate for on-street parking –one or two open spaces on every block. It’s a lot easier to charge for parking than it is to charge congestion tolls. But most cities have the same price for curb parking all day long, or no price at all.

Linton: Have cities done a good job of adopting your recommendation to use parking meter revenue for improvements on metered blocks?

Shoup: Pasadena is a great example of using parking meter revenue to improve an area. You are probably too young to remember what Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena was like before the parking meters. It used to be a skid row.

There were wonderful buildings in terrible condition. Much of it had been urban renewed. The city tore out three blocks of Old Pasadena on Colorado Boulevard for an enclosed mall. Look at it from the air. What we think of as Old Pasadena is only what’s left of Old Pasadena – before freeways and redevelopment removed most of it.

Most of the buildings were empty above the ground floor. The rest of them were pawn shops, porn theaters, and tattoo parlors – there’s nothing wrong with that but it shouldn’t be your only land use. The city wanted to put in parking meters. The merchants said “no way – it’ll chase away the few customers we have – down to this enclosed mall you subsidized.” They argued for a couple of years. Finally the city said “if we put in the parking meters, we’ll spend all of the revenue for added public services on the metered streets. We’ll rebuild all the sidewalks and clean up the alleys.” The merchants said “why didn’t you tell us that before? Let’s run the meters until midnight. Let’s run ‘em on Sunday.” They were so excited when they knew they would get the revenue instead of going into the city general fund.

Linton: Revenue return is just one of the three main parking reforms that you recommend for cities. Explain those.

Shoup: I recommend three basic policies:  Read more…