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Posts from the "Donald Shoup" Category

Streetsblog LA 12 Comments

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

“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 comic of parking.

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 standup 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 Green Trip 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.”

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Shoup: SFpark Yields Promising Results, Lessons for Demand-Based Pricing

Drivers were most sensitive to changes in parking prices in the early afternoon, and were more sensitive during the week than the weekend.

Donald Shoup may be known as a guru of smart parking policy, but even he has found a few surprises in the data collected so far from SFpark.

“The biggest surprise I got was that prices went up and down, but overall, they stayed the same. The average price actually declined by 1 percent,” said Shoup, professor of urban planning at UCLA and author of The High Cost of Free Parking, the bible of modern parking policy. “That surprised everybody. People thought it was just a way to jack up prices, but the city specifically said, ‘We are going to set prices according to this principle.’”

SFpark, which uses “smart meters” and ground sensors to measure parking occupancy and adjust prices accordingly, is providing valuable lessons for San Francisco and cities around the world that want to reduce the amount of time drivers spend cruising the streets for a parking space.

The growing body of data collected from the program is shedding more light on the complexities of parking demand. But overall, Shoup says, it’s providing hard evidence that raising and lowering meter prices is an effective way to keep enough parking spots available for drivers who need them — and to help ensure too many spots don’t sit empty.

Donald Shoup at the launch event for SFpark in 2011. Photo: Bryan Goebel

Keeping, say, one parking spot open on every block “will make the transportation work best — it’ll reduce cruising, speed up buses, reduce air pollution,” said Shoup. “It’s easy to explain [a goal] like that — we’re aiming at what you want to see.”

In a recent report [PDF] published in the Journal of the American Planning Association, Shoup and UCLA doctoral student Gregory Pierce explain that since SFpark managers began adjusting meter prices in August of 2011, the “elasticity” of parking demand — the degree to which price changes affect parking occupancy — has varied across different locations and times of day (due to different trip purposes, they surmise), and that drivers changed their behavior most profoundly after the second price adjustment, possibly due to a spike in awareness of the program. As prices have been refined, elasticity has declined.

Prices appeared to have the lowest impacts in highly residential neighborhoods like the Mission and the Marina, while retail districts like Fisherman’s Wharf and the Fillmore saw the most drastic adjustments to new prices, according to the report.

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Palo Alto, Choked By Famously Free Parking, May Consider Pricing the Curb

Smarter parking policies could lead to less congestion on streets such as University Avenue. The current volume of autos on University is 20,000 per day, according to the city. Photo: Richard Masoner/Cyclicious

For the first time in 15 years, Palo Alto’s outdated parking policies are being reviewed, and planners will consider recommending sustainable parking principles in the downtown core to better manage the supply. The affluent Silicon Valley city has not had a comprehensive examination of its parking strategies since 1997, when it installed four color-coded parking zones downtown. There is a two-hour limit in each zone but all curb parking is free.

“I think everything’s on the table right now. We don’t want to exclude anything at this particular state,” Jaime Rodriguez, the city’s chief transportation official, told Streetsblog.

The study will explore charging for on-street parking, installing SFPark-like meters and sensors and a number of transportation demand management (TDM) measures to discourage single-occupant vehicle trips. Advocates pushing for parking reform hope that Palo Alto will follow cities such as Redwood City or Boulder, Colorado, which have implemented innovative performance-based parking policies and benefit districts that helped spruce up their downtowns and boost business. Two other Peninsula cities — San Mateo and Burlingame — also charge for on-street parking in their downtown business districts.

Palo Alto Mayor Yiaway Yeh led the charge for a comprehensive parking study at the July 16 City Council meeting. A proposed residential parking permit program for the Professorville neighborhood was nixed in favor of the review. Some residents in Professorville and Downtown North have complained that downtown employees who take advantage of unpriced on-street parking on residential streets make it difficult for them to park near their homes.

Some influential merchants and residents are framing the problem as a downtown parking shortage. ”There has always been a parking deficit in the downtown,” Barbara Gross, board member of the Palo Alto Downtown Business and Professional Association, told the City Council. “Parking has a direct influence on the success of the business district and has overflow impacts on surrounding residential areas.”

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Streetsblog LA 10 Comments

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

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

[Editor's note: The full letter from Donald Shoup to the American Planning Association on AB 904 can be found after the jump.]

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

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

New development — the builders of which, Shoup says, should be free to decide how much off-street parking to provide — increases the area’s parking demand, which in turn should increase 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 should make non-auto modes more attractive in denser environments, where such modes can be more effective.

Nearly all local governments have taken a different approach, however, in which they specify the minimum number of off-street parking spaces each new development must provide. Such a policy is supposed to reduce or eliminate competition for on-street parking, which can placate existing residents and businesses. However, in many denser built environments parkers prefer convenient but scarce on-street spaces to less-convenient but abundant off-street spaces, and the minimum parking requirements do not even accomplish the intended goal of protecting incumbent parkers from increased competition.

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Streetsblog LA 6 Comments

Interview With Donald Shoup: Los Angeles Making Strides With ExpressPark

Last week Streetsblog LA talked with UCLA Professor and parking guru Donald Shoup about ExpressPark, the new parking pricing system coming to downtown Los Angeles.

Damien Newton: Los Angeles is changing the way it does parking in its downtown. They’re calling it the ExpressPark system. Let’s start with the basics — what is the program and what are your thoughts?

Donald Shoup: For the first time they’re stating how they’re going to set parking prices. Instead of basing it on council decisions or emotions or people’s feelings, they stated a principal. Parking at a meter will be at the lowest price they can charge and still have one or two open spaces on every block.

If they get that price right, then those spaces will be well used because almost all the spaces will be full. Yet there will be spaces readily available because one or two spaces will be open.

Can it get any better than that as a goal for the parking system?

The key is, can you set the right price without looking at the results even though the results are what’s going to count when setting the price.

DN: This marks a shift in policy for the city that seemed to base parking decisions based on what brings in the most revenue.

DS: It hadn’t been about that even, until quite recently.

You may remember a few years ago they doubled the price of parking everywhere in the city with a minimum price of a dollar an hour. Since most meters were at a quarter an hour, that meant quadrupling the price at most meters. That was the first time meter prices had been changed in eighteen years.

There’s been a lot of neglect of parking meters. Inertia seemed to be the main factor in determining parking prices.

They’re changing that by saying, “Here’s the rule. If half the spaces on a block are empty, we’re going to lower prices. If all the spaces are full we’re going to raise prices.” Since the price change two years ago, I’ve seen entire blocks where there isn’t one car parked. The price is too high.

I think a lot of prices would go down if they extend express park to the whole city. They’re starting in downtown, but I suspect that some prices will go down.

DN: One of the tenets of “The High Cost of Free Parking” is that money collected from meters should be returned to the communities where it was collected. L.A.’s plan returns all metered funds to the general fund. Is that a mistake by the city? Does it give you any misgivings about the plan altogether?

DS: That’s what they’re planning in L.A., they’re not planning on funneling any of the money back to the neighborhood?

That’s a mistake. When you funnel back to the neighborhood you get local buy-in and you get wonderful results.

Pasadena returns all of the metered money back into the neighborhood for decades and they turned the local neighborhood that used to be a commercial skid row into one of the most popular shopping destinations in Southern California. The meters brought in an extra million dollars a year in public services in just that little shopping district. They replaced all the sidewalks, streetlights and street furniture. They cleaned up the allays. They put electric wires underground. This was all paid for by meters.

But that’s a political issue. I think that getting the price right is also very important.

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Streetsblog NYC 31 Comments

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

5 Comments

Could Showing Merchants the Money Make Parking Meter Trials Palatable?

4522052370_890451564f.jpgA new street tree and sidewalk on Valencia Street. In other cities, merchants have welcomed extended parking meter hours when some of the revenue goes towards similar streetscape upgrades. Photo: Matthew Roth

In his magnum opus, The High Cost of Free Parking, UCLA Professor Donald Shoup argues that city parking managers will build merchant support for extending parking meter hours and pricing them according to demand if they return some or all of the extra revenue to the merchant corridors where it was collected.

By using the revenue to keep the sidewalks clean, beautify the streetscape, and generally improve shopping districts, cities like Old Pasadena have been able to win over skeptical business owners.

So what if San Francisco tried the same approach?

As Streetsblog reported last year, some merchants and community groups say they'd be more open to extended meter hours if there were direct improvements to the neighborhood as a result.

Shoup himself weighed in on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's (SFMTA) exhaustive parking study, praising its scope but pointing out that, from a political perspective, using the revenue to spruce up the street is crucial. "Everybody wants better bus service and more frequent bus service, but that's hard to see, especially if you're a struggling merchant," Shoup told Streetsblog.

"I think that it's easy to see very clean sidewalks, very well-policed sidewalks in front of your restaurant, rapid responses to any cracks in your sidewalks, maybe much more frequent cleaning," he added.

At the time, SFMTA Executive Director Nat Ford called such plans "pretty far down the line in terms of this discussion."

Recently, we asked Ford to give an update on his thinking about the idea.

"The answer is, our financial situation is so dire that I need to get every penny that we have," Ford responded.

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Donald Shoup Calls San Francisco Parking Meter Study “Pathbreaking”

Donald_Shoup.jpg

With the debate about parking meter rates and hours raging on both sides of the Bay, Streetsblog called UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking and arguably the world's foremost parking expert, and asked him his opinion on the new San Francisco MTA parking meter study, which was released on Tuesday and calls for increasing meter hours in commercial districts where parking occupancy rises above 85 percent and where businesses are open late on weekdays and on Sundays.

Professor Shoup had read the study and called it "pathbreaking," lauding the MTA for being thorough and data-driven and for embracing occupancy targets for managing parking supply.

Professor Shoup also re-iterated the importance of Community Benefit Districts (CBDs) as a tool for selling parking reform to the public. In CBDs, a portion of the new meter revenue collected in commercial districts is returned to that district for sidewalk repair, street trees, enhanced street cleaning, etc., so that businesses can see firsthand how parking revenue improves their streets.

MTA Chief Nat Ford told Streetsblog his agency is not yet ready to have that discussion, and further complications arise because the Department of Public Works is responsible for maintaining sidewalks. How and when an arrangement between the two agencies would be brokered is anyone's guess.

Professor Shoup also pointed to Redwood City, Ventura, and Old Pasadena for best practice examples of occupancy-based parking policy changes that have revitalized neighborhoods and facilitated business. Read his full comments after the jump.

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Oakland City Council Delays Parking Vote for Two Weeks

2807783678_8d076df887_b.jpgOakland's electronic parking meters. Flickr photo: mlinksva
The Oakland City Council voted early this morning to delay action on proposed parking changes until its next meeting. After three hours of discussion that spilled well beyond midnight, a proposal to roll back parking meter enforcement from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. was narrowly defeated, despite calls for immediate action from dozens of merchants who attended the meeting.

In late June, the council voted to raise the parking meter rates by 50 cents to two dollars an hour, extend weekday meter enforcement to 8 p.m., and authorize more aggressive enforcement. Those changes have angered some residents and sparked cries from merchants that the new policies are hurting business.

Several councilmembers were skeptical of the options presented for making up the $900,000 budget gap the rolled-back enforcement hours would create, and requested a more detailed proposal from staff members. "Without an actual proposal for people to speak to, it's hard to say that staff will just come up with something," said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.

The rejected proposal, presented by Councilmembers Jean Quan, Patricia Kernighan and Council President Jane Brunner, would have made up for the gap with a mixture of a crackdown on handicap placard abuse, installation of parking meters in new areas, money saved from automating payment at city parking garages, opening up some city garages for paid residential use at night, and selling ad space on the back of parking receipts. Staff would have been directed to come up with ideas to cover the rest of the gap, which was still estimated at over $300,000.

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Shoup Weighs in on Oakland Parking Controversy

3831238502_8b32f79956.jpgA newly installed SFpark parking meter in San Francisco. The SFpark program was inspired by Donald Shoup's theories on parking management. Photo: Bryan Goebel
If the recent parking battle in Oakland had you thinking of UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, you're not alone.

After the Oakland City Council raised parking fines and extended parking meter hours to help balance the city's books, some merchants raised an outcry. Merchants, lead by Grand Lake Theater owner Allen Michaan, said the new policies were hurting business, and threatened to recall the entire City Council if the changes weren't rolled back.

Shoup, whose market-driven parking management theories are the inspiration for San Francisco's SFpark pilot program, told the East Bay Express the merchants may have some legitimate complaints about how the city made the changes:

First, the council shouldn't be using parking meters as a cash register for its general fund, [Shoup] said. "You shouldn't set the price to raise money, but to manage supply," he explained.

Second, the council is micromanaging when it sets parking meter prices for every district in the city, he said. Instead, the council should delegate those responsibilities to city staffers who then set prices based on how difficult it is to park. As a result, it makes no sense for parking prices to be the same in busy districts, such as Rockridge and Lakeshore, as they are in less crowded ones. In addition, parking meter prices should fluctuate during the day, based on how tough it is to find a place to park. It makes no sense, Shoup said, to charge the same price at 8 a.m. when stores are closed, as at 1 p.m., during the height of the lunchtime rush.

The East Bay Express also notes that San Francisco is making some not-so-Shoupian moves of its own with the SFpark program, including sending all revenue to the MTA instead of funneling a portion back to the districts that it originates from for streetscape and other improvements.