Shoupista — a bit of a push back


Shoupista — a bit of a push back

I had a number of conversations with a parking operator, a city parking head, and two consultants on Don Shoup’s theories of parking and civic planning. Upon doing so I found that there is a bit of a push back happening in the industry.

First, they attempt ad homonym attacks by saying that the book is hard to read and boring, and that the numbers don’t foot.  "He has a theory and then finds numbers to match."  Well, it is a college textbook written by a college professor. I told them that I had read it and focused on the meat, not the potatoes.

As for the numbers, I have a couple of bones to pick with Don on his estimates that the money parking has cost society equals the Defense department budget, but those don’t change the validity of the theories themselves. What his detractors seem to do is say "Well, these things simply won’t work in my town, so the theories must be wrong." Is it remotely possible that your application, or expectation, might be incorrect?

How bout this one:  "We have a social credo that is burned into the psyche of this country that cars are here to stay and it is the responsibility of the government to work within that framework. We simply can’t change peoples preferences or belief systems."  Oh, I love that one, Mike.  The government attempts to do that every day. Through laws and taxation, we tell people where to live, how high to build their houses, what to plant in their front yards, what they can eat, smoke, burn, etc. We tell them where they can worship, see a movie, open a store, park their car (love those red zones). We tell them who they can hire, how much to pay them, what drugs they can and can’t take, how much they can drink before they drive, whether or not they can carry a gun for their protection, when and where they can have sex, etc etc etc. I’m not commenting on the validity of these laws, simply that we do it every day. To say we can’t or shouldn’t affect the parking habits of our citizens is ludicrous.

Market based pricing works in every part of our lives. When we begin to tinker with it (with price controls, for instance), all hell breaks loose. We get the law of unintended consequences in full throttle. Parking is no different.

Right now there are three cars parked in front of my house.  None of them are mine, nor do they belong to a visitor to my house or the house of either side of me.  They come from an apartment building a block away. The building has underground parking, but not enough. My questions is "Why should some of the people who live in that apartment building be able to park on the street for free, when others of the people in that building have paid to park their cars under the building. (Obviously apartments with parking spaces cost more than those without parking spaces. ) There is a fairness issue here.

I paid a considerable amount of money for my house, and with it I get parking. I paid more because there is parking. So I can park my car on my property.  I paid for that and continue to pay in the maintenance of my garage, increased property taxes, etc.  Why should a person living in an apartment be able to park on the street (that I maintain, through my taxes, by the way) for free?  I simply makes no sense.  In addition, my next door neighbor has room on his property to park three cars, but he owns four. Why should he be able to park that fourth car for free? Particularly since its a 30 foot long mobile home and takes up half the block. It makes no sense.

In addition to causing all sorts of urban planning problems, free or subsidized parking on street simply makes no sense.

What about visitors to my house?  Well, if I go to visit my friend in New York City and am driving, I will pay to park my car to visit my friend. Why should a person visiting me on the west side of LA be able to park in front of my house for free?  But, you say, many older neighborhoods have no parking on their properties (no garages, etc). So?  Why is that my problem?  You mean the city is required to subsidize the parking for people who elect to purchase houses with no parking?  Maybe there would be parking on street available if there was a charge to park there (residents could get a break for the first car or whatever, if you want to wimp out). 

The logic of charging market rates for on street parking is trumped by only one thing, Politics.  I don’t want to pay to park in front of my house and if you start that, I will go yell at the mayor or my city councilman and they will stop it. 

For the Shoupista plans to work, you can’t be piecemeal about it — you have to :

1. Do away with parking requirements (so many per 1000 of whatever)
2. Charge enough so there are a few spaces always open
3. Return the money to the neighborhood from whence it came.

Tangential to all that are a few other things that are important.

First, parking should be unbundled from other costs. For instance, if you move in to an apartment, there should be two costs — first the cost for the apartment and then an additional cost for the parking. If everyone pays the same, there is no motivation for people to consider where they are going to put their car. And those that don’t own a car are penalized.  The builder must build for everyone who owns cars and the cost of the building goes up accordingly.  You don’t have cable, or electricity included in the price of the condo or apartment, why should parking?

Second, If the money from on street parking is going into the general fund, and its politically impossible to move it back to the neighborhood  that originated the money, raise the rates and give the additional money collected, or a portion of it, back to that area.

I am neither against the automobile no plentiful parking. Its just that the way we do it makes absolutely no sense. Many areas of communities are growing, rebuilding, updating, and attracting visitors. Neighborhoods surrounding the area have plentiful parking that is not being used.  Congestion is rampant. Why is allowing people who visit or work in the area to park in the surrounding neighborhoods and pay for that right? Use the money to fix up the neighborhood, lower property taxes, etc. After all, if workers in the shops who are there 8-5 need a place to park, why shouldn’t they park in front of my house? I’m not there anyway. No skin off my nose.

Of course to do all this you have to think a bit outside the traditional box. Nothing is cut and dried, and the ideas may need adjusting for geography, weather, density, and the like. These concepts mean more money in local neighborhoods, less congestion, a fair and equal treatment to all drivers, and most likely fewer cars in front of my house. How can any of that be bad.

Shoupistas rule!


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

10 Responses

  1. John,
    I could give you a long story of why Shoup is treating parking in a world he created, but I will try not to do so. Just a couple of quick points about your blog… unbundle parking from aprtment rents? You use electricity and cable as wo examples… niether are market rate services… both are price-controlled utilities, so I dont get the connection.
    Second thing that comes to mind (out of thousands) is that pakring at a mall is paid for by the mall owner/developer and is passed through as a rent premium to tenants, who, in turn, increase their costs to cover that increment. Okay – there are hundreds of thousands of shoppers who visit malls (fine – have the employees pay for their parking)… so the cost of the parking is spreadout over millions of items that the hundreds of thousands of people buy… so what is my cost? who cares, it’s a tiny increment of the item I bought and apparently covers the cost of my time at the mall…. this is a perfect example of shared parking and resources.
    If I go to a local cafe downtown who may only have thousands of visitors a year, not hundreds of thousands, what would be my cost to pay for public parking in that situation? should the cafe owner pass the cost on to me in my coffee? should the city play a role? is a cafe important to creating “places” for people in a downtown that will lead to further development and residential growth?…… the answer is so much more comvuluted than Shoup’s theories…
    Finally, in Charlotte, NC, the pakring is primarily priavtely operayted and owned. If I want restaurateurs to develop entertainment and dining, but their is not enough demand the first year or two or three for the private operators to “open” the off-street garages and provide well-lit, safe parking until 2am…. what’s my option? what is my response to the restaurateurs? If I were in control, I may want to subsidize some of that parkign (through management contracts with the operators) so that they can stay open and help build the “places” in downtown Charlotte.
    Many, many, many cost items are “bundled”, but people choose parking to unbundle…. why not unbundle the cost of public restrooms and drinking fountains from mall rents and charge the customers if they need to go to the bathroom while shopping? we go back to the pay-toilets, I guess….
    I fully believe the basic concept that every public (I guess you could include private as well) owner of parking should know the full cost providing parking… how they pay for it and what they pass on the user is a far more complex issue than Shoup could ever understand. By the way, how many successful implementation strategies can Shoup point to where his approach works in 2nd and 3rd tier cities? How about his credentials as a consultant solving real-life parking problems?
    Parking rates shold always be nmarjet driven when you have at least a ghost of a chance where it will work… it’s simply a real estate/land value issue not a parking issue.

  2. Ill respond more fully when I have a little more time… however, something that jumped out at me that I can’t let pass for another moment. Please don’t lump consultants all in one mushy pile… You say “I know that consultants are threatened by some of his ideas. Perhaps rightly so. After all, how many garages have been built based on consulting firm’s recommendations and then sit half empty for years, then go BK. If cities would look to alternatives to building garages before starting construction wouldn’t it be a better place. That’s not to say that garages aren’t needed in many cases. However it seems to be the knee jerk reaction. There’s not enough parking. So lets build a garage.”
    First of all …. my firm does NO engineering design work (fees are 100% planning based), and does not benefit whether a client builds new parking or not, frankly we have no vested interest in the outcome except doing what’s right. This is a MAJOR difference between the service specialty parking planning firms like mine provide and the planning work that design firms provide to position themselves for the high dollar design fees…. so watch the lumping, kind sir.
    Secondly, the great majority of parking problems cities face are from poor management, organization and pitting public against private owners and operators. We preach that a city must use all of the available public and private parking supply before anyone thinks about building new parking….by providing a means to organize the way parking is provided (supply-side) by all owners, a city can incentivize the proper mix of parking while providing a benefit to the owners, users and residents. Back to Charlotte. I know most of the operators in Charlotte and have invited them into several town hall meetings to work through the issues there as a team. This “team” is being organized to benefit both private sector by maximizing their utilization and relieving the city of having to build new parking. The City owns virtually no off-street parking… about 1,200 spaces out of 40,000 or so. They have contracted the on-street parking to a private operator (currently Central Parking) and it is not free to park on- or off-street in center city charlotte. The on-street operation does very well for the City.
    I’ve been working in Charlotte for several years now with the City’s transportation and parking staff. The City is trying desperately, with our full support and recommendations, to control the growth of parking… essentially to avoid new garage construction until the current inventory is at capacity. In fact, Charlotte, like many, many cities, have no parking code whatsoever, furthermore, the code prevents parking structures from being built as a primary use. At the same time, the City wants to act as a facilitator to get developer A to talk with developer B so that when developer C wants to build a new building and parking is required for financing or for actual customers, developer A and B can share the space, location and costs. Finally, last word I had (a couple of weeks ago), the City is proposing to invest a $3-4 million from a congestion management air quality grant (obtained from help from our first parking study support) in dynamic messaging on the interstate loop road to direct drivers (mostly tourists and visitors) to PRIVATE parking facilities. Not too bad….
    Finally, I am more of a supporter for market rate parkign than anyone in the world….where it fits and as you can work into it…. I still see a very important role for government to play – in cooperation with the private sector – in “seeding” the soil so that one can get a running start. Most of all growing downtowns have “subsidized” development for ever…. TIF districts, tax incentives, tax abatements, grants, brownfield money, enterprise zones, HUD money, Block grants, NDC funding, credit enhancement, other low-interest Federal or state loans for specific or general economic development for housing, airports, garages, offcies, malls, retail, commercial, etc….so I ask again… why is parking selected as the target? The vast majority of newer urban development has had some form of government assistance to get it “off-the-ground”….. one could draw very similar parallels with the “remake” of parking.
    Once I get going….
    More tomorrow – I may make this my blog space as well……

  3. OK, lets have at it —
    First lets talk about Charlotte. I have a friend who is a parking operator there. He is incensed that the city subsidizes on street parking. ITs free. So why should someone park in the privately owned off street parking. If the pricing was set so people felt it a better deal to park off street, then the operators would keep the garages open. Now there is no incentive to do so since they are competing with a monopoly that has decided that it is not going to charge for parking (after hours). So, the city has destroyed the process.
    I guess I’m just one of those that feel that when I walk to the mall, I resent paying for the parking for those that drive. I love it when I see people pull a ticket and then have it validated. Then the business makes the decision to pay for parking. I don’t really know how much the larger stores pay to support the parking operation, but my guess is that its a bunch. Certainly in the tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Now — if they make a business decision to do so, so be it. That’s their business. They can do as they like. And I can make a decision to walk to a nearby shop rather than drive to the mall. I don’t think Shoup would have a problem with that either.
    The problem is that much of the parking at malls is forced on them by the city. The acres of parking surrounding malls that are used three days a year and sit empty for the rest of the time is what I mean. Westfield made the decision to build a mall in SF without parking (the city agreed as part of the negiotiations to get them in) and the world was horrified. However it seems to be working quite well.
    As for the local case, the cafe downtown consider this. The cafe is being squeezed because the city isn’t charging the right rates for onstreet parking. The parking is jammed with employees and customers can’t find a spot. Your analogy is weak. The problem is that in most cities, in the down town areas, the city requires a certain number of spaces per square foot for each business. If the cafe wants to open up in a space that was a hardware store, it can’t because there isn’t enough parking. So the building sits empty.
    We have to remember that Shoup’s theories aren’t only focused at unbundling or market pricing but also at removing the preset parking requirements in many areas.
    As for apartments, why not unbundle — then people could make the decision as to whether or not they wanted to drive. You are making the assumption that everyone wants or needs to drive a car. The total costs of driving should be born by the drivers, not everyone. My son doesn’t drive a car but pays higher rent because his condo has a garage. Does that make sense? Why not let the market decide? The reason cable isn’t bundled is that not everyone want’s it. Electricity because people use differing amounts. As it should be — Price controls have nothing to do with it.
    As for All the cities that haven’t suddenly jumped on the Shoupista band wagon, well, maybe you should give it a bit of time. For the Pasadena experiment to work it took years. Laws have to be passed, bonds floated, people’s prejudices addressed. However I do know that cities like Denver, Seattle, Chicago, and others are experimenting with these concepts in a neighborhood by neighborhood basis. Districts need to be set up, people need to get on board, and the like. Come on Chris, this doesn’t happen over night. The book was published in 2005, about 18 months ago. I don’t think that anything can be done anywhere in 18 months. Come back in 15 years and lets have this part of the conversation.
    I know that consultants are threatened by some of his ideas. Perhaps rightly so. After all, how many garages have been built based on consulting firm’s recommendations and then sit half empty for years, then go BK. If cities would look to alternatives to building garages before starting construction wouldn’t it be a better place. That’s not to say that garages aren’t needed in many cases. However it seems to be the knee jerk reaction. There’s not enough parking. So lets build a garage.
    The NOrth Park San Diego is an example. They planned for a garage years before it was built. Then built it and its only about 1/4 used. The area is booming, but few park in the garage. Why? Probably because the onstreet parking is free or cheap and the garage has to charge more to pay off its construction costs. Also, there was probably plenty of parking in the area, it just wasn’t being properly used.
    Thanks for the response — your typing isn’t much worse than mine —
    All the Best
    PS — I think that Don Shoup would be the first to say that there are situations where his theories may need to be tweaked or adjusted to fit the environment. That doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  4. As a major operator of private parking in Charlotte, I can speak with some knowledge to the issues discussed. First, the City has had little, if any, vision regarding their parking code revisions. They outlawed surface lot parking construction 2 years ago, mandated fencing and screening of surface lots, require reduced visibility for new garage construction and banned signs from the right of ways. For a city with “no parking code whatsoever,” we seem to have lots of rules to live by.
    Now the City proposes to implement a “way-finding system” to help drivers locate the lots that they just spent years trying to hide. By the way, the DOT has gone on record saying the parking operators will subsidize this system. Of course, the operators were not consulted prior to this blanket pronouncement.
    The City does, in fact, provide free on-street parking at night and on the weekends, then complains about “cruising” during those hours. They have yet to make the distinction between cruising for free parking and just driving around for the heck of it. In my opinion, Charlotte is a Don Shoup dream to fix.
    As to the street parking, under it’s current operation, it creates congestion and slows traffic. Enforcement of the two-hour limit is sporadic at best, and I always enjoy watching the wait staff from various restaurants run outside while they are supposed to be working, to feed the meters.
    Charlotte is an example of a City where they refuse to review or revise old policies to meet new demands.
    Since Mr.Luz does not park any cars here, or as we say in the South “He has no dog in the fight”, he cannot convince me that he understands what the land owners and lot operators have to deal with.
    Furthermore, how is it that at so many meetings in Charlotte about parking, I’ve not met and spoken with him? After all, of the 40,000 spaces he mentions, we only operate about 1/3 of them…..
    This may be typical of City of Charlotte attitudes towards parking operators. Ignore them until you need them, then blame them for the ills of the town….
    I can go on, but I think you understand my point.

  5. Fair questions and good comments Mr. Fairbaugh,
    I don’t want to, and cant, speak for the city, but there have been numerous parking meetings over the past 2 years. They may still be on-going, but have proposed changes to maximize use of private facilities at market rates. I don’t want to argue over what Charlotte is or isn’t doing…. I do know they are trying hard to deal with the issues and I think they are headed in the right direction…
    Now… about having a dog in the fight…. I don’t own land or parking in Charlotte…..
    On the other hand my partner and I do own structured parking in downtown Chicago where we lease monthly parking spaces. I am also an active partner in a real estate development company (Legacy Southeast) that recently purchased a downtown surface parking lot from the City of Melbourne, FL where we are constructing a new residential condo tower along with both private and public parking spaces at the lower levels. In Melbourne, we have been working on the parking issue for a couple of years. In addition, we have also created a “parking” real estate development company looking to acquire parking assets and portfolios to operate and redevelop. Finally, last year, we partnered with a local, well established parking operator in Washington, DC (Park USA) and created a new entity called Park USA/LMG Partners with the goal of sharing ideas and strategies on parking management, operations, financing and redevelopment……. so I have lots of dogs in lots of fights equaling significant investments………. one needs to be careful about what is assumed and what is known.

  6. Not being a consultant is one thing, not fully understanding the steps that are needed to effectiuvely realize an idea that benefits the common good is another. That’s my point…. it ain’t as easy as “go to market rates” and the rest will take care of itself.
    From my interaction with the City (I need to be careful here) I don’t think they would argue with the on-street parking ideas you have… at least not in my discussions with them. In my latest involvement, some months ago now, the idea was to get the Collaboration in-place and funded before making significant changes so that a unified public and private front was established…. Now on the other hand, I could get my head handed to me because these were discussions and idea that were bantered about several montrhs ago when we were under contract…. maybe everything has turned upside down since then….
    BTW – on-street parking, including ticket-writing, is privately operatoed under contract to the city.
    I will never speak of Charlotte on a blog again :)…. but Prof Shoup I consider fair game.

  7. OK — Chris — I think that David (and I)would like to point out that you took umbridge with Don Shoup because he wasn’t a consultant. Just because someone hasn’t been in a fight doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t have an idea about it. Yes, I agree with you on this one. However in the end, the problems you describe in Charlotte go right to one point. They don’t charge for parking in the evening and that causes the problems with the off street garages. You may not want to to argue over what Charlotte is or isn’t doing, but the fact is that its a classic example of a city that is just a bit off target, and that means that the private operators and the garage owners are screwed. AND that traffic is a problem in the evenings. All that could be solved with an evening parking rate. Political, a bombshell Yes…But in reality the only solution that will work. At least in mine, David’s and Don Shoup’s opinion.

  8. I’ve read that book and is not boring, maybe its boring fot those who dont care about the subject. ans is not fair that you have to see hoe those cars block you the exit. I hate that, i had to went to the doctors and i couldn’t get out of my house because of that

  9. Why should there be clubs, what can they do? whats the purpose of a club, why should we join clubs? as a high school student..please help .

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