Various studies indicate that approximately 30 percent of city land in the United States is allocated to parking. The Department of Urban Planning has estimated that New York City alone has approximately three million on-street parking spaces. Interestingly, only 3 percent of them have meters.
Let’s get this straight. While housing costs are rising, often because of the cost of land, we’re giving away free parking, which takes up a lot of land. At the same time, all of this free parking leads to traffic congestion which in turn leads to air pollution, fuel waste and global warming.
Perhaps we have our priorities all wrong. Dr. Donald Shoup certainly thinks so.
Dr. Shoup is a distinguished research professor at the Department of Urban Planning at the University of California, LA. His book, The High Cost of Free Parking, turned an otherwise academic topic into a significant policy issue. In it he suggests some radical (or perhaps not so radical) ideas. He believes that cities should charge for curb parking. This means there would be no shortage of parking but, like real estate that’s valuable, it won’t be free. And with advances in technology, payment for parking can easily be cashless and frictionless. Mobile phone payments are already possible and soon in-car apps will guide you to available parking, will provide you with the cost of that space and will automatically stop charging you when you leave.
He suggests too that it’s important that people see the direct benefits of paying for parking. The revenue could be spent in the immediate vicinity of parking space, on added public services such as cleaning and fixing sidewalks, planting street trees and adding lighting and security. Or perhaps the revenue for the best spaces could go to a local charity. If the spaces near the front door of a grocery store gave their revenue to charity and the rest of the lot were free, people might choose to support that charity for the convenience of parking close to the front door.
“It’s like putting a cash register out at the curb” says Donald. Hear more in my interview with Donald.
Image by Mad Ennok from Pixabay