To Reduce Driving, Put a Real Price on Parking

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Roger Valdez of Worldchanging
examines whether making parking more difficult can actually reduce
driving levels — and recalls the frustration he used to feel before he
was able to jettison his car:

9972_largearticlephoto.jpgPhoto by functoruser via Flickr.

one of the things I enjoy the most about not having a car is being free
from the hassle of finding a place to park it.

If there is one thing that motivated me to change my driving
habits it was the increasing challenge of parking. I used to think that
there was a conspiracy to eliminate, one by one, every last available
on-street parking spot.  There actually is a plan.
major part of Seattle’s strategy to deal with parking is to reduce
demand by encouraging people to choose convenient options for getting
around besides cars. And beyond my intuition that it works there is
some evidence to back up the idea.

According to a review of regional modeling studies done a few years ago by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute,
parking has a significant impact on reducing VMT.  Their review showed
that land use and transit policies have very little effect on VMT by
themselves unless they include complementary policies that put a price
on parking. Free or cheap parking tends to support more driving.

We’ve also got a post from Veracity‘s
"Year with Jane Jacobs" project, which is examining Jacobs’s ideas from
every angle. Today, the subject is how Jacobs viewed the Interstate
Highway System as part of a shortsighted post-Depression drive to
prioritize full employment above all other considerations. Interesting
stuff, especially in these times of stimulus. Also, Trains for America looks at the latest attacks on Amtrak, and Copenhagenize urges Londoners to bike the Tube strike.

  • This is 100% true and one of the major problems with LA. When I lived in New Jersey, it would take me the same amount of time to drive as to take transit into NYC. What kept me from driving was the hassle and COST of parking my vehicle. It was a privatized version of congestion pricing (prices were MUCH higher during peak hours.) We need to get rid of the on street parking here in business areas, push cars into private lots and let them jack up the prices, and suddenly we will have effective congestion pricing. IF we tax the parking accordingly, we can more money for transportation. My personal opinion is that we should dedicate those funds to improving our transit system. We should also limit the parking at developments in order for developers to get zoning permits.

  • @RTE – we don’t necessarily need to get ride of the on-street parking – we (that is, cities) could just charge market rate for it. And that money could be used for transportation, parks, etc.

    Nobody mentioned, yet, Donald Shoup whose book ‘The High Cost of Free Parking’ is the most informative and eye-opening 734 pages that I’ve read in a few years. It will change the way you think about parking.

    (One of the funky conundrums of green transportation activism is that we car-free people don’t need to park… I haven’t parked in years, other than my bike, so I didn’t think about it all that much – until I read Shoup.)

  • DJB

    Donald Shoup (please read his “The High Cost of Free Parking”) has it right: charge a floating price that vacates about 15% of the on-street spaces so people don’t have a reason to cruise around. Under this scenario the price you charge is based on demand (GIS coupled with smart parking meters could help to calculate demand at different times). Developers should have the freedom to decide how much parking to build, instead of being required by planners to build more than they think they need to market their projects.

    As the man says, parking is never truly “free”. It always costs somebody something. The fairest thing, and the best thing for the environment is to have drivers pay for their parking directly.


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 […]

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 […]