One Number in a Book — Shoup’s 30%

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One Number in a Book — Shoup’s 30%

Over the past two weeks we have had numerous entries on this blog concerning Don Shoup’s seeming contention that 30% of all traffic in a given area is searching for parking. This number is used to support his theories that setting prices so that a few spaces are always open on each block face would reduce cruising and this traffic congestion and pollution.

If you go back and reread the Shoup Dogg’s response and further comments here, and here you find comments like:

These studies date back to 1927.  The data were probably not very accurate when they were collected, and the results depended on the time of day, the specific place, and the season when the observations were made. The studies were selective because researchers measured cruising only when and where they expected to find it—where curb parking is underpriced and overcrowded. Nevertheless, cruising today is similar to what drivers have done since the 1920s, and the studies at least show that searching for underpriced curb parking has wasted time and fuel for many decades.

On most streets at most times, no one is cruising. But many people want a number, and I can’t stop anyone from saying that 30 percent of traffic is cruising. Nevertheless, on busy streets where all the curb spaces are occupied and traffic is congested, a substantial share of traffic may be cruising.

And

As I explained in the book, the data in these studies, which date back to 1927, were probably not very accurate when they were collected, and the results depended on the time of day, the specific place, and the season when the observations were made. The studies were selective because researchers measured cruising only when and where they expected to find it—where curb parking is underpriced and overcrowded. Nevertheless, cruising today is similar to what drivers have done since the 1920s, and the studies at least show that searching for underpriced curb parking has wasted time and fuel for many decades.

His point seems to be that cruising for parking wastes time, fuel, and causes congestion. The problem is that if only 2% of the traffic in a given area are cruising for parking, then spending $25 million (as at SF Park) to reduce this ‘problem’ might be overkill.

However, Don once told me “Its just a number in a book.”  The issue is that many take that number as gospel, no matter how much Don explains away its accuracy. As he quotes Lewis Carrol “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.” He was using the quote to describe what has happened when parking requirements are taken as commandments set in stone. But couldn’t the same thing be said for his 30% number?

Even if 30% of traffic in a given area at a given time are cruising for parking, should not those involved in spending millions on parking programs do their own research before hand. Shouldn’t they perform studies to have a baseline from which to operate. Given Don’s own description of the cruising percentage, shouldn’t each city ensure they have a problem before they jump into complex programs to fix it.

I can understand how attempting to bring the complex to a point where the average Joe or Josephine can understand can often blur some of the facts. I want to reduce traffic and pollution. 30% of traffic and pollution is caused by people looking for parking. If I can get them parking faster, then I can reduce traffic and parking 30%.  Clear, concise, but is it true in my case?

Certainly each municipality must do their own studies to ensure they understand their specific problems before they begin any parking program. For one thing, how can they know if they have succeeded.

Don Shoup has done more than anyone to bring parking and its issues to the forefront in our culture. His book is a landmark for everyone interested in our industry. The very title ‘The High Cost of Free Parking” tells the story. Not charging for parking instills a feeling that although parking cost a lot to provide, it should be free. People who don’t drive or even own a car are paying for the parking space that others use. One might make the case that childless people paying for schools is a positive thing for society, but I doubt one can be made in about parking.

Shoup’s book and his evangelism on the topic have opened eyes around the world as to the problems, causes, and potential solutions to our parking woes. One “number in a book” mustn’t negate all that.

JVH

 

John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. “Certainly each municipality must do their own studies to ensure they understand their specific problems before they begin any parking program. For one thing, how can they know if they have succeeded.”

    The simple fact that municipalities DON’T understand their specific problems and needs is why we have the whole issue with minimum parking requirements in the first place. It was a lot easier to just copy what other cities did than to actually take the time to verify that those standards may or may not apply to a specific city, or that the parking demand for a 200 seat Chuck E Cheese might be different from the demand of a 200 seat Ruth’s Chris.

    Government Planners want short, sweet and simple, reality is way too hard for them to grasp. I see it almost every day. Try explaining shared parking or oversell when talking about parking demand and most bureaucrat’s eyes glaze over. The 30% number is one that stands out, and as such its easy to latch on to. Plus it’s in a book, so they can attribute it to someone else and say that person must have done a study.

    So just like minimum parking standards there’s no need to reinvent the wheel and do another analysis (sarcasm intended).

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