Point of View: Parking Should be Expensive Enough to Make the Poor Take the Bus


Point of View: Parking Should be Expensive Enough to Make the Poor Take the Bus

January, 2023


For years, I have expressed concern about the ‘fixing’ of society’s ills. Our betters have a solution, that in most cases involves increasing the cost of something and the folks that take it in the shorts are the most financially challenged amongst us. Sean Williams in Los Alamos puts it best. I repeat his entire letter to the editor here:

I read the letter from George Chandler on parking requirements and wanted to complement it a bit. A former county planner raved to me about The High Cost of Free Parking, the Shoup book that George references. I bought a copy but didn’t make it very far, since Shoup’s arguments are both incomprehensible and disgusting. To put it briefly, Shoup thinks parking should be made expensive enough to make the poor take the bus.

This gets into the Great Problem of Abstraction, which is a disease that’s killing my former field of computer science. Some theory will be developed about the world, and the authors of the theory are fully aware of the massive caveats underlying it. Each time the theory is taught, a little more nuance flakes off, like the children’s game of Telephone.

If you think parking should be a privilege, then by all means, build over parking spaces in commercial areas that are accessible by public transportation. Applying this theory to residential zones (including residential areas of mixed-use) means completely losing the plot.

Even the phrase “best practice” is revealing. At its most obvious level this is an appeal to authority, and I’ve never found that authority justified. But I think of it more like the old adage, “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” The most terrifying thing in the world is accountability, and “everybody else is doing it” is the premier magic spell for keeping accountability at bay.

By Sean Williams in the Los Alamos Reporter.

If you are a product of State School education, google Abstraction and then follow the link above to George Chandler’s companion piece. Yes, the Devil is in the details. On the surface, Shoup’s arguments seem simple and valid. However, when we get to the detail, as they did in Los Alamos, it’s an entirely different story.

We could liken this to Shoup’s ‘throw away’ comment that 30 percent of all traffic is cruising for parking. When challenged, he said that ‘it’s just a number in a book.’

Those folks in Los Alamos are pretty bright. That’s where the Sandia Labs are and where they developed nuclear weapons. Maybe we would all do better if we didn’t take everything on face value. Kumbaya.

A Bit More on EVs

I was honored to be asked to sit on a panel to present my thoughts on “the Future of Parking” at the annual SWPTA meeting in Las Vegas. The discussion turned towards EVs and their impact on the industry. An audience member asked just how many in the room (over 200 people) actually owned an EV. The response was less than 10. Then it was asked how many actually would purchase an EV. Fewer than a dozen raised their hands.

Keep in mind that this was a group of senior people in municipal parking, plus a large number of vendors who provide software and equipment to the industry. I was surprised that less than 10 percent had their eyes on an EV.

If we assume that those 200 people were a good cross section of the car-buying public, how can the EV industry hope to succeed with only about 10 percent of the market really that interested in EVs?

OK, I also read a recent survey that found that less than 30 percent of the populace has any interest in EVs, charging stations, or the ‘green’ movement, in general. Maybe my survey at SWPTA was a little narrow, but even a nationwide survey found that less than one-third of the market was ‘excited’ about electric vehicles. It would seem that if two-thirds of the market was ambivalent, the EV movement will continue to have an uphill battle. 

I think what is happening is that the government has ‘decided’ that EVs are great and we should all drive them. However, the vast majority of the marketplace isn’t there yet. The auto industry and the charging industry are receiving subsidies to keep their up interest in EV, but the technology and market forces aren’t ready.

So, what has gone wrong? We are in a situation where we are attempting to force a product on the market more quickly that the market is ready to receive it. In doing so, we (at least the government) has pushed the technology beyond its means. Non-technical people are making technical decisions, and we are left literally freezing in the dark.

It would make a lot more sense to let the marketplace handle the EV situation. Move slowly, allow the infrastructure to be built to handle it, allow the battery technology to keep up, and let the EV truly replace internal combustion engine vehicles feature for feature. It can happen, probably will happen. Just not in eight years per the laws passed in California.

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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