Try Reinventing Parking.]
Donald Shoup's 'The High Cost of Free Parking' points towards a profoundly different way of thinking about parking policy. It offers much more than just a nifty way to price on-street parking efficiently.
Conventional parking policy in action in New Zealand
Yet, in real-world policy debates over Shoup's parking ideas most people seem to focus only on his call to price kerbside parking for 85% occupancy. That's a pity because his agenda is much more interesting than that.
First, a recap on Shoup's parking reform ideas. He is focused on cities that currently have a conventional suburban-style parking policy, with cheap on-street parking and every building required to have plentiful parking. He is based in Los Angeles and his focus is on American cities. His ideas are also obviously relevant to places like suburban Canada, Australia and New Zealand which have adopted the same parking approach. In fact, I am finding that conventional autocentric parking policy has infected many other countries too. So Shoup's critique, and his solutions, are probably relevant to places as diverse as India, Malaysia, the Gulf States, the Philipppines, and many more.
For places with conventional autocentric parking policies, he suggests three key reforms:
- Price on-street parking to ensure a few vacancies and eliminate cruising for parking
- Return the street-parking revenue to local benefit districts.
- Eliminate off-street parking requirements, and allow developers to provide as little parking as they like.
Item 3, eliminating the off-street parking requirements, gets lip service and not much more.Yet, this aspect was a huge proportion of Shoup's book. He was taking aim squarely at suburban parking requirements! Yes, the on-street parking reforms are good in themselves AND a way to help us relax about requiring off-street parking. But Shoup's reform agenda points toward a transformation that is more profound than just getting efficient parking in the streets.
What is this profound change? I would call it a market-oriented parking system. This has been noted before by various people (such as here and here). But somehow, it is consistently downplayed in most planning and transport discussions of Shoup's ideas. Could this be because market-oriented parking seems too right wing? Maybe that is an issue. But market-oriented parking should have appeal beyond the right. These days, a wide cross-section of the political spectrum agrees that many (or most) goods are best provided by competitive markets. It is not necessarily right wing to ask if parking is one of them.
Don Shoup himself is not crystal clear that he is really pointing towards market-oriented parking. However, he is fairly explicit in his chapter entitled, "Let Prices Do the Planning":
'Since [on-street] prices will vary to maintain a few curb vacancies, spillover will no longer be a problem. Individual property owners and merchants can then choose how much on-site parking to provide based on business considerations, not zoning. Some may choose to provide their own off-street spaces, while others may offer to validate parking in nearby garages. Regardless of the strategy, all firms will be able to decide for themselves whether parking is worth its costs. Parking will increasingly become unbundled from other transactions, and professional operators will manage more of the parking supply.' (Shoup, 2005, p. 496).
I think market-oriented parking represents a third major approach to parking policy. It contrasts with both of the more familiar ones. So, in my view, parking policy come in three main varieties:
- Conventional parking policy in which parking is treated as a type of infrastructure and the primary goal of parking policy is to meet demand.
- Parking management in which parking is viewed as a tool for serving wider goals in transport policy and urban planning.
- A market-oriented stream that calls for market-based parking prices that are responsive to supply and demand conditions and allows private decisions to shape supply.
Shoup's agenda points in the direction of market-oriented parking but I don't think it would take us all the way there. We would probably need some additional public policy action to make sure that the new local parking markets work well and stay competitive.
I argue these points (and some others) in a new paper:
Barter, Paul A. (2010) 'Off-Street Parking Policy without Parking Requirements: A Need for Market Fostering and Regulation', Transport Reviews, First published on: 20 April 2010 (iFirst). DOI: 10.1080/01441640903216958.The journal's online version is behind a pay wall but there is an earlier pre-print version (pdf) here.