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Professor Donald Shoup: How About Congestion Parking?

12:42 PM PST on January 12, 2008

If you want to reduce congestion, you should first increase the cost of public parking, argued UCLA Professor, and Parking Policy Cult Hero, Donald Shoup at the recent "It's Time to Get LA Moving" conference.

Shoup discussed studies done at UCLA showing that a drivers choosing to sniff out a cheap parking space rather than pay the extra couple of dollars for a garage space, can dramatically increase the average VMT of a local trip  If we take Shoup's claim that parking hounds add an extra .5 mile of VMT per trip that adds up to a lot of extra driving, and all of it is on surface streets.

Thus, by increasing the cost of parking at meters you not only raise more money locally, you also cut down on the amount of driving done in your community.  The higher the parking meters, the less incentive for people to seek them out over perfectly good metered parking.  However, for Shoup's plan to work, the meters need to be priced high enough that there is almost always 10-15% of meters available in a given area.

Even taking the damage to the infrastructure extra driving creates, Shoup argues that low cost public parking is an inefficient use of public resources.  Underpriced public parking is using "some of the most valuable real estate in the world used to store private property."

But, wouldn't there be huge opposition to such a plan if ever proposed in L.A.?

There might be, but congestion pricing has worked in America before.  The professor points to what's happened in Boulder, CO. Responding to a traffic glut in its downtown, the city created a "Total Transportation Improvement District" where they began to charge a premium for parking and used the revenue to provide free transit to the downtown. The combination of expensive parking and free transit was the heart of a plan that revitalized the city's core by reducing traffic congestion and allowing people a safe, free alternative to get to the city's shops and other attractions.

While congestion pricing and HOT Lanes continue to get much of the media attention in our local press, we should remember that our roads and highways aren't the only thing that is under priced.

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