Celebrating a ‘Parking Rock Star’
Don Shoup Retires after Challenging an Industry
If you read Parking Today, then you already know much about the revolutionary work of Professor Donald Shoup as related to parking theory and practice, and it has probably influenced your own work.
After 41 years of teaching at UCLA, Donald Shoup, Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning in the Luskin School of Urban Affairs, will retire June 30, 2015.
On April 20, 2015, in Seattle, Shoup received the American Planning Association’s highest honor, the National Excellence Award for a Planning Pioneer. On receiving the award, Shoup commented, “I am happy to be here to receive this award, since most previous Planning Pioneers were honored posthumously.”
A few who have benefitted from his teachings add their own
• From Stanley R. Hoffman, FAICP, President of Stanley R. Hoffman Associates, Urban Economics and Financial Consultants, Los Angeles
Early in his career, in the 1980s and ’90s, as Don Shoup was testing and developing his parking theories and their influence on urban design and transportation, he also was impacting the field of urban public finance. As an urban economist, Shoup always had a knack for looking at important planning and land-use problems “at the margin,” where the levers exist that can have the most impact.
Before his classic book “The High Cost of Free Parking” was first published in 2005, he also researched and helped influence California state legislation related to Deferred Special Assessments and Graduated Density Zoning, both creative solutions to the problem of infrastructure finance, especially in low-income areas.
His work on “cashing out” employer-paid parking became accepted practice and influenced both federal and state legislation.
Before Shoup’s work, parking policy was an afterthought in planning, rarely discussed by academics, and implemented mechanically by practitioners without regard to a market-based view of parking
Shoup focused on developing creative solutions to the problems caused by mandated and underpriced parking – how to dynamically price curb parking to bring supply in line with demand and thereby eliminate the need for off-street parking requirements.
Professor Shoup is retiring this summer after more than four decades of service to UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning. Widely recognized as the “parking guru,” Shoup’s most notable contribution to urban planning is his research demonstrating that “free” parking comes with enormous hidden costs.
His concepts and solutions are used throughout the world, and are becoming best-practice for much of the field of parking management – influencing how people are more likely to drive less, thus reducing traffic, lowering pollution and reducing costs for their communities. He is frequently quoted as saying: “Free parking for cars and expensive housing for people is not the path to a great city!”
• From Steffen Turoff, AICP, Director of Planning Studies at Walker Parking Consultants
Don Shoup, as a young professor of urban planning in 1974, read a research paper written by two graduate students in USC’s Masters of Public Administration program. Bill Francis and Curt Groninga were, not coincidentally, also working in parking operations at the time they wrote “The Effects of the Subsidization of Employee Parking on Human Behavior.” Reading the research paper changed Shoup’s life; intrigued by the groundbreaking study of the intersection between parking economics, planning and psychology, Shoup began to research and to publish on this largely ignored field.
Shoup, or “Don” as his students fondly call him, went on to research the ideas that parking operators now know as part of their daily practice. He researched why these ideas work and why they should be applied not just to private parking operations, but also to public parking and more broadly to the realm of public policy and public finance.
Don has been able to communicate the ideas behind these practices plainly enough – while highlighting their importance – to make urban planners, the general public, and finally policy-makers take notice, and begin to change the way all three do planning.
Don has identified and articulated the negative impacts of not following these practices so eloquently and passionately that many, if not most, who hear him speak or read his book take up his quest to make parking and related land-use policies more effective.
It came full circle for me when, just a few years out of planning school, I interviewed with Bill Francis, by then a parking industry veteran and expert. He spoke parking consulting and operations, while I only knew what I had learned from Don in the UCLA Department of Urban Planning. But we could talk about parking, planning, the challenges clients faced, and the solutions, because Don was able to communicate these ideas to me, his planning student, and why they were important.
Don is not an ideologue or an ivory tower theoretician. He listens with great interest to the experiences of those who work in the trenches of parking, while often having little patience for those taking a more theoretical approach. He spends time wandering the aisles of the floor of parking conferences and exhibitions, listening to vendors of the latest parking technology, and he rides along with municipal parking staff to see how policies and technologies actually work in the field.
At the same time, Don, a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, opposed its parent organization, the American Planning Association itself, in its stand against a California bill to limit the amount of parking that developers are required to provide in areas well-served by transit. Further, he had little patience for the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole, the self-styled “Anti-planner,” and his claims that Shoup’s recommendations interfere with what is already a free market for parking in the U.S. These are just two examples that Don has challenged: the Planning Establishment and the self-styled “Anti-Planner” alike.
While some may argue that Don’s recommendations are theoretical, the opposite often is true. Don often simply asks the hard questions in straightforward terms, and forces all of us who accept the status quo to think again. From minimum parking requirements to free on-street parking, why do we continue to follow these policies when the results have been, in many places, not just poor but outright counterproductive?
One thing I appreciate about Don and his ideas is their appeal to such a broad swath of the public. They do not fall in the domain of any one ideology or group.
Those of us who work in parking have seen his theories unite environmentalists, fiscal conservatives, champions of the poor, and most important, anyone who simply wants the transportation system – and government – to function properly and serve the public.
His efforts, and the extraordinary generosity and kindness with which he has shared them, are a wonderful legacy not just to those of us who work in parking, but truly to the public at large.
• From Mark Gander, AICP, Director of Urban Mobility and Development at AECOM Technology, and Founding Partner and Board Member of the Green Parking Council
In 1990, I was honored to work as Professor Shoup’s Teaching Assistant, supporting his graduate-level urban public finance course, having completed the class a year before at UCLA. Parking was a common thread that ran through the curriculum. Two decades later, about 2011, Shoup’s collegial and collaborative nature was again demonstrated when he accepted my invitation to join the Green Parking Council’s Advisory Committee. The council works at the intersection of parking, “green” building, clean technology, renewable energy, “smart grid” infrastructure, urban planning and sustainable mobility.
In recognition of his decades of path-breaking work on parking in urban centers and finance, here are four “takeaways” from Shoup’s legacy that I carry forward as lessons learned:
Parking Matters a Lot –The ubiquity of parking is not accidental. Parking matters and is a crucial piece of a community’s infrastructure. It plays an important role in the success of cities, communities and places, as well as the development of mixed-use projects and sustainable transportation. Parking supply and pricing often have a direct impact on the ability to create compact, healthy communities. Too much parking at residential properties correlates with more automobile ownership, more vehicle miles traveled, more congestion, more carbon emissions, and higher housing costs. It also results in lost development opportunity, because excess parking area could have been used instead for residential or commercial development or for public-realm uses such as parks and plazas where people gather to enjoy livable space.
Transformation of Mobility –The problem is the car and how it is used. As of 2012, there were approximately 260 million registered vehicles in the U.S. Some 85% of Americans drive to work. When the vehicles are not in use, which amounts to more than 90% of the time, they must be parked. Because of this, the off-street parking space available is ubiquitous; its footprint is vast in scale. The average city has three non-residential parking spaces for each car, and spends a large portion of its budget maintaining roads and other vehicle infrastructure. When cars are not parked, in downtowns on average, 30% are cruising for parking. In many places, parking is the predominant landscape feature of the built environment. Cars are underutilized, overdesigned, inefficient, polluting, and poise a risk to life and safety. But the car, and the eco-system created to sustain the vehicle, are transforming rapidly. A wide range of technology and business enablers have emerged that, when combined in innovative ways, people and goods move around and interact in a vastly improved system. Electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, car-sharing, on-demand vehicles, “smart” mobility, dynamic pricing, and parking guidance systems are a few of the technologies that offer mobility solutions to addressing the problem.
Changing Nature of Parking – Parking is a cornerstone issue in “smart growth” and urban policy.Coincidental with the transformation of mobility is the changing nature of parking. It is easy to recognize that personal vehicles are likely to be part of the overall transportation mobility mix for the foreseeable future. The integrated solution approach sees that this mix will be a coordinated, balanced multimodal and intermodal transportation network, where the sustainable parking garage and parking reform play key roles. Parking facilities should not be an end point in a journey. They should serve as active, mixed-use resources that seamlessly connect to a “smart,” reliable, grid infrastructure system.
Paving the Way as Agents of Change – The parking industry is undergoing an epic transformation toward sustainability in design, operation, and function of this unique building type. Naturally, from one perspective, the “greenest” parking is the one that is never built. Since we realize that parking is part of the problem, let us invert this perspective to see that parking is now part of the solution. The new mantra is to reduce the number of parking spaces that need to be constructed, and for the ones that are constructed to be as “green” as possible. Parking facilities can serve as active resources that seamlessly connect to reliable, “smart” infrastructure.
In response, the Green Parking Council, an affiliate of the International Parking Institute, and its partners are working to transform parking and mobility from the public face of fossil-fuel consumption into a picture of sustainable urban mobility and green design. The nexus of high-performance parking facilities and new mobility technology and design can lower congestion, reduce emissions and ramp up neighborhood-scale sustainability.
In 2014, the Council launched the Green Garage Certification program, the world’s only rating system that defines and recognizes sustainable practices in parking structure management, programming, design and technology.
In Shoup we trust. Cities and regions around the globe are using the ideas and applied work of Don Shoup, and are transforming the urban space and how parking is approached, managed, built and redeveloped. Congratulations to Don on his distinguished and award-winning career.
For more information on Don Shoup, go to these websites:
shoup.luskin.ucla.edu/legacy/. A Tribute to Donald Shoup @ UCLA Luskin “Celebrating Donald Shoup’s Legacy”
NAPA Award For A Planning Pioneer. Donald Shoup, FAICP, PhD