Comments on Parking Reservations


Comments on Parking Reservations

I got a couple of comments on my entry about parking reservations and the "solution in search of a problem" issue —  to wit:

I’m no fan of on line reservations systems either. Several popped up in
the late 90s as 20-something dotcom entrepreneurs got lots of
professional parking managers to load inventory, only to burn drivers
as they walked past 20 closer and cheaper spots on their way from the
reserved spot to their intended destination.

I know you get around, but it’s worth pointing out that driving in
LA is very different than in other cities, like San Francisco, Seattle,
Boston, DC, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, etc. LA was built for
drivers. Up here in SF, I’m often circling blocks for up to 20 minutes
at a time, always in places not served by mass transit. We’ve got some
ways to solve that problem at CarHarbor. It goes beyond the universal
solution that Shoup’s book espouses.


My main question since the introduction to parking reservations has
been at what point, assuming that you have a nearly full facility, do
you stand at the ticket spitter and check who should and shouldn’t be
entering the facility? Seems pretty silly to me!

Of course cities differ — however particularly in the cities listed, I don’t have a single doubt that the Shoupista approach would work. If folks paid a high price for onstreet parking in San Francisco, they would rethink their parking model which is normally, "buy a car and park it as close to my house as I can." Alternative parking would spring up because folks would be willing to pay the going rate for it.  San Francisco tries, I think, to be kind and gentle to its citizens and the result is chaos.

I got caught in a situation in SF where parents came to a school to pick up their kids and it was a 20 minute fandango to get a couple of blocks. Much of the problem, however, was poor planning on the part of the city and the school. For my money, kids could have been shuttled to a nearby park where parents could pick them up. Staggered end of school times would have helped too. Of course, that would mean someone would have to pay a bit for the right to pick up your kids at school to cover the costs of the shuttle.

As for my travels — I drove in Dallas, Houston, and Chicago last month and had no problems finding parking. I also drove in San Francisco and parked in two areas, with no problems — of course in one case I paid $30 to park for an hour and in the next, I walked three blocks to my destination. Neither solution was, I thought, onerous.

I drive a lot in Seattle and in NYC — in both cases, I find parking easily, its just expensive. Shoup’s concepts works.  Face it, if people want a product the demand will drive the supply. The cost will fit the suppliers requirement. The problem would be solved instantly in San Francisco if the city would charge high rates for on street parking (Lets say $5 and hour for everybody).  Instantly automated garages would spring up on every block. Solutions like CarHarbor would have no problem getting going. Garages now full of junk would be cleaned out and filled with car. And, my correspondent above, Craig Calle at Car Harbor, would easily be able to find an onstreet space a few feet from his destination, and most likely be happy to pay the five or ten bucks to park there.

Sure LA is built for drivers, but that’s Shoup’s point. Even though we were built for drivers, in the process we are destroying the quality of life in our central cities. In my humble opinion the denizens of San Francisco want it all ways — they want to park next to their front door, they want to be able to find a space immediately when they visit their friends, and they want both for free.  In New York City you pay $50 a day to park and as much as $400 or $500 a month under your building. If you can’t afford parking, you seek an alternative. Works there, and in London, and in many other major congested cities. Sure, there are hugh garages on the edge of the city (like the Pier 40 3000 car garage) but people understand that these locations which cost less than parking under their building, are used for cars they don’t need every day. When they need their car, they take rapid transit, which is abundant in the bay area, and go get their vehicle. Why not SF? 

I could venture into social engineering and comment that the well known San Francisco penchant for being "fair" to everyone means that all suffer equally — of course that would be bordering on political and we don’t want to go there, do we…



Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. So I think we’re mostly in agreement, which is reassuring to me when I consider the wealth of your experience with parking issues. The important thing to remember about CarHarbor is that we don’t pretend to hold out some universal solution to the parking problems faced by drivers in San Francisco and selected other areas around the country. We’re just creating incremental inventory of parking opportunities that wouldn’t exist without a growing appreciation for online community solutions and mobile devices to access them. The driver who uses CarHarbor to grab someone’s driveway for an hour, and is willing to pay dearly for it, isn’t thinking about mass transit as his alternative. Even Shoup would be proud.
    By the way, yesterday’s (3/29) WSJ article about online parking reservations systems was interesting. We have been clear about avoiding the reservations model, and put up a post on the topic at

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