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.