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Posts from the Donald Shoup Category


Rock Star or Comedian? Donald Shoup Takes His Parking Show to Berkeley

[UPDATE: Here is a link to a video of Professor Shoup’s talk and here is a link to the Q&A portion of the evening.]

“Parking is the single biggest land use in any city,” said UCLA Professor Donald Shoup to a packed house in Berkeley last night, “and it’s almost completely unmanaged.” At the same time, “zoning requires a space for every car but ignores the homeless. In our cities, free parking is more important than affordable housing.”

Professor Donald Shoup, the stand-up comedian of parking

Professor Donald Shoup, the stand-up comic of parking. Photo by Federica Armstrong, courtesy TransForm

Shoup entertained the crowd of public officials, developers, students, and community members with his signature witty observations on the irrational ways cities plan and price parking.

“Parking is free for us only in our role as motorist–not in our roles as taxpayer, employer, commuter, shopper, renter, as a homeowner. The cost of parking does not cease to exist just because the motorist doesn’t pay for it,” he told the rapt audience. They had all come to hear the “parking rock star” talk about parking.

Given his polished delivery of dry one-liners skewering American parking policy that kept the audience chuckling throughout the talk, it’s more accurate to call him the stand-up comic of parking. But it’s his simple, rational, and yet radical-to-many approach to the storage of cars that has earned him a growing fan base of “Shoupistas” throughout the state and the nation.

The event was sponsored by TransForm, an Oakland-based advocacy group working for rational land use and transportation planning in California. TransForm has taken Shoup’s work to heart, using the principles he proposes as a basis for their GreenTRIP program that seeks to convince cities to allow housing developers to replace overbuilt, expensive parking with alternatives like car share, bike parking, and transit passes.

Shoup had a great time poking fun at pretty much everyone, including himself. He compared himself to a cat, sniffing and marking the tires of parked cars, while most transportation planners he likened to dogs, “running after and trying to bite at cars as they drive down the road.”

“I thought I could find something useful if I studied what cars do for 95% percent of the time, which is park,” he said.

He made fun of planners. “No planner can claim to have any training in parking policy,” he said. “Planners are winging it.”

The American Planners Association’s “Parking Standards” book lists parking requirements for land uses that look sensible at first glance—until you look at the connection to people, he said. As he spoke, a list of minimum parking requirements appeared on the screen behind him. Barbershop: two spots per barber.

“There seems to be some gender disparity,” he said [Beauty Shop: three parking spots per beautician]. “Even in religions institutions [Convent: ten parking spots per nun. Church: three parking spots per clergyman], and when you don’t have people, you have to base it on something” [Swimming pool: one parking spot per 25,000 gallons].

In many cities the size of a building is dwarfed by the size of its required parking lot. Minimum parking requirements “look scientific,” said Shoup, “but they’re not—it’s just pseudo science.” Read more…


How Flexible Parking Requirements Spur Economic Development: Lessons from Santa Monica


Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica serves as a border between standard parking requirements (left) and flexible parking requirements (right). Photo via Google Maps. Click image to go to Google Maps.

Editor’s Note: Streetsblog Los Angeles founding board member Carter Rubin recently finished his Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree at UCLA. In the following article, he recaps the findings from his capstone “client project” for the Urban Design Studio at the L.A. Department of City Planning. His research adviser was the inimitable parking guru, UCLA Urban Planning Professor Donald Shoup. You can read the report in its entirety here.

It’s hard to imagine today, but Santa Monica’s commercial areas – now home to Silicon Beach, tourism and bustling retail – were sleepy, underperforming and shabby just a few decades ago. In an effort to revive its commercial heart in particular, the city approved millions in funding for municipal parking structures in the heart of downtown. These garages still stand today on streets parallel to the Third Street Promenade.

City leaders hoped that this would create a convenient means for potential patrons to reach the Promenade, allowing them to park once and do all their subsequent shopping, dining and recreating on foot, thus keeping the streets clear of excessive car trips. More easy parking seemed like the obvious fix, but those garages alone weren’t enough to generate the commercial transformation Santa Monica sought.

What Santa Monica needed – and eventually got – was a different kind of parking change. The critical policy was to create a by-right process allowing developers to build, and businesses to operate, with less on-site parking. It was a dramatic break from what is typical of virtually every city in America: require every business to provide abundant on-site parking, free of charge to all its patrons, regardless of whether or not the business deems it necessary.

This new policy would ultimately allow small-scale developers and entrepreneurs to find and implement the most successful uses for those properties without having to worry about whether meeting the expensive minimum parking requirements was practical or cost-effective.

That was the change that would ultimately lead to a vibrant commercial district generating significantly more revenue for schools, libraries, transit and other municipal services.

Santa Monica’s Parking Innovation Read more…


Donald Shoup Responds to California APA Regarding California’s Parking Reform Bill

Donald Shoup at Complete Streets for California Conference

Professor Donald Shoup poses a parking question at UCLA’s Complete Streets for California event in March. Photo: Juan Matute

(A letter from Donald Shoup on AB 904 to the American Planning Association can be found after the jump. – DN)

“Donald Shoup is an academic authority on parking and its effects on transportation, land use, cities, the economy, and the environment,” said the American Institute of Certified Planners in 2004 when it inducted Professor Shoup as a Fellow, the highest honor of the American Planning Association (APA).  In 2005, The APA published Shoup’s tome, The High Cost of Free Parking,  and calls it one of its “most popular and influential titles.”

However it seems the APA’s California Chapter did not consult with Professor Shoup before it sent an email to members urging them to oppose AB 904, an effort to cap parking developers are required to provide at transit oriented developments.

Parking policy requires a delicate balance between the goals of the state and region (reduced vehicle use, increased transit use) and the goals of the municipality (providing convenient parking with new development to mitigate competition for on-street parking spaces).  UCLA Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning Donald Shoup’s solution has been to charge a sufficient price for publicly-owned on-street parking spaces so as to ensure that one or two spaces will typically be available on each block.

New development, which Shoup says should be free to decide how much off-street parking it will provide, increases the area’s parking demand, which in turn increases the price of both public on-street parking and existing off-street private lots.  As the price increases, alternatives to driving such as transit, biking and walking become relatively more attractive.  The “invisible hand” of the parking market plays a regulating function that makes non-auto modes more attractive in denser environments, where such modes can be more effective.

Nearly all local governments have taken a different approach, in which they specify the minimum number of off-street parking spaces each new development must provide.   Such a policy is designed to reduce or eliminate competition for on-street parking, which can placate existing residents and businesses.   However, in many denser built environments parkers prefer a convenient but scarce on-street space to a less-convenient but abundant off-street spaces, and the minimum parking requirements fail to protect incumbent parkers from increased competition.

In many areas the minimum parking requirements far exceed typical demand, leading to areas where parking supply exceeds demand.   Though the resulting parking price is zero, the cost of providing parking and the additional automobile travel is borne by everyone: shoppers paying a higher cost of groceries at the store with free parking, children with asthma playing next to roadways suffering from increased automobile travel, and the type-2 diabetes sufferer who’s substituted convenient parking for walking and biking.

Professor Shoup’s sees AB 904 as a “parking disarmament policy” which will let cities allow parking prices near transit to rise without worrying that other cities with free or cheaper parking will steal their visitors.  In this letter to Kevin J. Keller, president of the APA’s California Chapter, Shoup discusses his reasoning for supporting the bill and displeasure that the Cal APA would oppose the bill without consulting its membership:

Read more…


Misunderstanding of Shoupian Theory Leads to Uninformed Attacks

Donald Shoup speaks at Buffalo University on January 10.  Photo: Bettybarcode/Flickr

Donald Shoup speaks at Buffalo University on January 10. Photo: Bettybarcode/Flickr

Memo to the City of Los Angeles: stop trying to ruin Donald Shoup for the rest of us.

Back in 2008 and early 2009, city officials claimed to be following the teachings of the UCLA professor and Parking Rock Star/Guru when it announced increases in parking meter fees from throughout the city.  This has led to a misunderstanding of Shoup’s teachings throughout the Southland.  Instead of a complex urban theory where funds raised from increased revenues spur redevelopment and lead to a reduction in local vehicle miles traveled, L.A.’s officials recognized Shoup’s theory as “charge more for parking.”

This fallacy, that the City of Los Angeles is somehow following Shoup’s guidelines for parking and urban planning was on display in an otherwise sparkling profile of Shoup in this Saturday’s Los Angeles Times.

Cities are starting to listen. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Redwood City, Glendale, Ventura, Portland, Ore., and the District of Columbia are among those implementing or contemplating changes to hew more closely to Shoup’s vision.

But Los Angeles isn’t really following the concepts outlined in Shoup’s 2005 tome “The High Cost of Free Parking,” they’re just raising rates.  At the 2010 StreetSummit, Shoup himself distanced himself from L.A.’s parking schemes and even argued that there are many places where metered  parking fees are too high.

In the picture at the top of the article, we can see Shoup’s three top concepts for parking reform, let’s see how the city is doing. Read more…

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Shoup: NPR Puts a Price on Parking. Why Not Cato?

Streetsblog is pleased to present the third episode in UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup’s ongoing inquiry into whether the Cato Institute’s free market principles extend to the realm of parking policy. Read Shoup’s previous replies to Cato senior fellow Randal O’Toole here and here.

Dear Randal,

In your September 1 post on Cato@Liberty, you mentioned that the Cato Institute offers free parking to its employees.

Which policy does public radio adhere to

When it comes to parking, which policy does public radio prefer, and which one is favored by the libertarian think tank?

I checked and found that not all employers in Cato’s neighborhood offer free parking. For example, consider National Public Radio, which is on Massachusetts Avenue three blocks from Cato. NPR charges all its employees the market rate for parking in the building. NPR has 125 parking spaces and it uses fair market prices to ration these scarce spaces among its 400 employees.

The different parking practices at NPR and Cato reveal quite different policy preferences. NPR prefers the free market while Cato prefers free parking.

Cato’s free parking severely distorts transportation prices. The market price of commuter parking in the commercial garage closest to Cato is $255 a month, so Cato’s free parking subsidizes the cost of driving to work by $255 a month. Because employer-paid parking is a tax-exempt fringe benefit, Cato pays the free parkers a tax-exempt subsidy of $3,060 a year ($255 x 12).

If the round-trip commute distance to Cato is 32 miles (the national average), and if commuters drive to work 22 days a month, Cato’s free parking reduces the cost of driving to work by 36¢ a mile ($255/22 days/32 miles). According to the American Automobile Association, the average operating cost of driving a car is about 18¢ a mile. Because the per-mile subsidy for parking is twice the per-mile cost of driving, Cato’s free parking reduces the out-of-pocket cost of driving to work by two-thirds. Free parking therefore grossly distorts market prices in favor of commuting by car.

In your campaign for market policies in transportation, I hope you will try to persuade the Cato Institute to charge market prices for parking, or at least to offer commuters the option to cash out their parking subsidies. Perhaps you might also write a post on Cato@Liberty about Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s bill (H.R. 3271) that would encourage many employers to offer parking cash out. I suspect that might even make the news on All Things Considered.

Donald Shoup
Department of Urban Planning
University of California, Los Angeles

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Shoup: Cato HQ the Perfect Lab for Reforming Commuter Parking Subsidies

Last week we published a reply from UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup to Cato Institute senior fellow Randal O’Toole, in which Shoup clarified his positions on parking policy and explained several ways in which government regulations favor the provision of free parking. In response, O’Toole ran this post on the Cato@Liberty blog. Streetsblog is pleased to publish Shoup’s follow-up, which suggests Cato estimate the price distortions that give incentives for the libertarian think tank’s employees to commute by car. By doing so, Cato headquarters could serve as a laboratory for leveling the commute subsidy playing field, an idea embedded in Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s Green Routes to Work Act.

Dear Randal,


UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking

Thanks for your Cato@Liberty post clarifying several points where we agree about parking policies.

You wrote that the Cato Institute offers free parking to its employees. The market price of commuter parking in the commercial garage closest to the Cato Institute is $255 a month (in Colonial Parking at 901 New York Avenue). At this market price, can you calculate the total market value of all the free parking Cato provides to its automobile commuters?

After examining the data, you may find the market value of the Cato Institute’s free parking is surprisingly high. My rough guess is at least $10,000 a month. That is one example of what I mean by the high cost of free parking.

But maybe I am wrong. I hope the Cato Institute will tell you the number of commuters who park free so that you can answer this simple question. What is the fair market value of all the free parking for commuters who drive to the Cato Institute?

My point is not to criticize the Cato Institute for its free parking, because 95 percent of all automobile commuters park free at work in the United States. My point is that you could do a great service to free-market transportation policy by using the Cato Institute as a case study to analyze how employer-paid parking distorts commuter transportation choices.


According to Randal O'Toole, the Cato Institute does provide free parking for employees at its Washington, DC headquarters. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Valued at market prices, free parking at the Cato Institute reduces the cost of driving to work by $255 a month. If commuters drive the national average round-trip distance of 32 miles a day for 22 days a month, free parking thus reduces the cost of driving to work by 36¢ per mile ($255/22 days/32 miles). According to the AAA, the average operating cost of a car is about 18¢ per mile. Because the parking subsidy at work is twice the operating cost of driving to work, free parking at Cato reduces the out-of-pocket costs of driving to work by two-thirds. Free parking is therefore a huge price distortion in favor of commuting by car.

The Internal Revenue Code creates an incentive for this price distortion because free parking at work is exempt from both income and payroll taxes. Parking cash out can eliminate this price distortion. Parking cash out is a market-oriented policy whereby employers who offer free parking at work also offer commuters the option to choose its cash value in lieu a parking space. Parking cash out does not mandate parking charges because commuters who choose to drive can still park free. Parking cash out simply gives the same subsidy to every commuter, regardless of travel mode choice, while free parking gives a subsidy to drivers and nothing to other commuters. Parking cash out expands choice, which I assume is a core value of the Cato Institute.

Read more…

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Donald Shoup Destroys “Libertarian” on the Cost of Parking

We’re reprinting this reply [PDF] from UCLA professor Donald Shoup, author of the High Cost of Free Parking, to Randal O’Toole, the libertarian Cato Institute senior fellow who refuses to acknowledge the role of massive government intervention in the market for parking, and the effect this has had on America’s car dependence. It’s an excellent guide to the misdirection, mistakes, logical fallacies, and falsehoods that form the foundation of O’Toole’s arguments.

Dear Randal,

I would like to comment on your August 16 post on the Cato@Liberty blog about “Free Markets for Free Parking.”

shoup_otoole.jpgShoup (left) and O’Toole (right). One of these gentlemen has written the definitive volume on parking policy. The other says he has yet to read

You were responding to Tyler Cowen’s article in the New York Times, “Free Parking Comes at a Price,” in which Tyler explained some of the ideas in my book, The High Cost of Free Parking.

In commenting on Tyler’s article, you made several mistakes in describing my ideas and proposals. I will explain these mistakes, and if you agree with the explanations I hope you will post corrections on Cato@Liberty.

Before I examine your misunderstanding of what I have written, I will first summarize the three basic parking reforms I recommend in The High Cost of Free Parking: (1) remove off-street parking requirements, (2) charge market prices for on-street parking to achieve about an 85-percent occupancy rate for curb spaces, and (3) return the resulting revenue to pay for public improvements in the metered neighborhoods.

I will quote ten extracts from your post, and comment on each of them.


“Shoup’s work is biased by his residency in Los Angeles, the nation’s densest urban area. One way L.A. copes with that density is by requiring builders of offices, shopping malls, and multi-family residences to provide parking. Shoup assumes that every municipality in the country has such parking requirements, even though many do not.”

the Antiplanner, who is “dedicated to the sunset of government
planning,” really believe that government planners know exactly how many
parking spaces to require for every economic activity at every site in
every city?

Even Houston, which does not have zoning, has minimum parking requirements, and they resemble the parking requirements in almost every other city in the United States. Houston requires 1.25 parking spaces for each efficiency apartment in an apartment house, for example, and 1.333 parking spaces for each one-bedroom apartment. Here is the link to the minimum parking requirements in Houston’s municipal code.

Does the Antiplanner, who is “dedicated to the sunset of government planning,” really believe that government planners know exactly how many parking spaces to require for every economic activity at every site in every city, no matter how much the required parking spaces may cost and no matter how little drivers may be willing to pay to use them? Does the Antiplanner really support Houston’s minimum parking requirement of 1.333 spaces for each one-bedroom apartment because he believes that Houston’s government planners can accurately predict the “need” for parking at every apartment to one-thousandth of a parking space?

Read more…


Parking Rock Star, Donald Shoup Blasts L.A.’s Parking Policies

Gary Rides Bikes explains how "Cash Out Parking" works.

It's no secret that Livable Streets advocates are big fans of the theories of Donald Shoup.  The Shoupista that introduced him on Saturday referred to him as "Shoup Dogg," and Streetsblog prefers to sing "Shoup there it is."  These kind of salutations for an Economics professor who dresses the part of the academic activist from his tweed jacket to a t-shirt that reads "All may park, ALL MUST PAY" may seem silly; but his message for Angelenos is not.  Our parking policy doesn't just make bad economic sense, it's also playing a major role in holding our city back.  The UCLA professor is considered one of the foremost expert at parking policy, and when it comes to his host city; he doesn't like what he sees.

But first, a quick overview of the Shoupian theory, made famous by the book "The High Cost of Free Parking."  When cities undercharge for street parking, they encourage people to "cruise for parking" instead of just parking close to where they need to go.  This creates an average increase of a half mile per trip, which rapidly adds up for even a cozy community such as Westwood.  Also, the municipality is missing out on a revenue stream that should be reinvested in the community and become a fund for urban renewal.  A local example of a city getting it right is the revival that South Paadena has seen in recent decades because of an intelligent use of their parking resources.

So what is Los Angeles getting wrong?  After all, didn't then City Council Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel name-drop Donald Shoup every chance she had when the city raised it's parking rates and increased meter hours last year?



City Considering Free Parking for Zero Emission Vehicles

10_16_09_hybrid.jpgOnly the more rare white stickers would get the free parking benefit.

Some ideas just refuse to die.  Less than a year after the City of Los Angeles moved to end it’s free-meter parking for hybrids program, a new proposal to allow only the highest tech and cleanest cars to park for free has resurfaced.  The Council resolution asking LADOT to study the program was introduced by Council President Eric Garcetti and sponsored by Downtown Council Woman Eric Garcetti and "Tom LaBonge for Bill Rosendahl."  Despite the presence of LaBonge and Rosendahl as sponsors of the legislation, they led Transportation Committee in expressing concerns with the newest free-parking for expensive, high-tech, cars scheme.

Garcetti’s resolution would apply to many less vehicles than the program that was scrapped earlier this year.  Instead of all hybrids that qualified for the state’s HOV exemption sticker, only the cleanest cars would qualify.  Only electric and zero-emission vehicles would qualify, cars which get a white sticker, pictured above, from the state.  While the state no longer hands out the more ubiquitous yellow stickers to fuel-efficient hybrids, it is still handing out the white stickers to those that can afford it.

Read more…


Disability Activists Sue Caltrans for Negelcting Crosswalks and Sidewalks

1_21_09_sidewalk.JPGWhile cracked sidewalks can be found throughout the city, this one was found in Westwood.  Photo: Donald Shoup

A coalition of activists for seniors and the disabled went to federal court to try and force Caltrans to meet federal safety standards for sidewalk, intersection and other pedestrian amenities.  The group charges that when doing road construction, our state DOT is ignoring the federally mandated fixes and upgrades that are required by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

An attorney for the plaintiffs tells the Times that data from Caltrans from 2001 to 2006 shows that the agency failed to install about 1,000 required curb ramps during road improvements. The 1,000 missing improvements doesn't include curb ramps that were installed but don't comply with federal law.

Caltrans and urban officials from around the state seem aware of the problem.  The Times explains:

Government officials and powerful municipal organizations such as the League of California Cities have contended that access lawsuits will burden financially strapped state and local agencies that are already struggling to comply with the law. Caltrans estimates that it would cost about $2.5 billion to make improvements statewide...

...Caltrans has spent $10 million -- an amount that will be spent annually for the next several years -- to build and upgrade curb ramps as well as improve sidewalks.

I'm certainly not a math expert, but at this pace it will take Caltrans a mere 250 years to bring California into compliance with the ADA, assuming no conditions get worse over the next two and a half centuries.

While that $2.5 billion seems to be a huge amount of money, certainly thrown out by the League of California Cities to scare people away from supporting the safe streets and sidewalks that all Californians deserve, consider that LA County itself will be spending $8 billion of Measure R funds to increase highway capacity and encourage car-driving commutes over the life of the gas tax.

Locally, the City of Los Angeles has its own ADA problems.  Back in January Donald Shoup broke down the many issues that the City faces as it tries to come into compliance and the many ways its dropping the ball.