NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Market-Based Solution to Parking Problems

April 8, 2011

In his book Great Planning Disasters, Sir Peter Hall defined a great planning disaster as a planning process that costs a lot of money and has gone seriously wrong.  Urban renewal and high-rise public housing are classic examples.  Government regulation of the parking market is another great planning disaster.  Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California at Los Angeles, argues for a market-based solution to parking problems.  He recommends:

Set the right, demand-based price for curb parking.

  • Where curb parking is underpriced and overcrowded, a surprising share of traffic can be cruising in search of a place to park.
  • Sixteen studies conducted between 1927 and 2001 found that, on average, 30 percent of the cars in congested traffic were cruising for parking.

Return the parking revenue to pay for local public services.

  • The simplest way to convince people to charge for curb parking in their neighborhood is to dedicate the resulting revenue to paying for added public services in the neighborhood, such as repairing sidewalks, planting street trees and putting utility wires underground.
  • That is, the city can offer each neighborhood a package that includes both performance-priced curb parking and the added public services financed by the meters.
  • Performance pricing will improve the parking and the revenue will improve the neighborhood.

Remove minimum parking requirements.

  • Some cities have begun to remove minimum parking requirements, at least in their downtowns, for two reasons.
  • First, parking requirements prevent infill redevelopment on small lots, where fitting both a new building and the required parking is difficult and expensive.
  • Second, parking requirements prevent new uses for many older buildings that lack the parking spaces required for the new uses.
  • Ceasing to require off-street parking gives businesses the freedom to provide as much or as little parking as they like.
  • Cities can remove minimum requirements without imposing maximum limits, and opposition to parking limits should not be confused with support for minimum requirements.

Source: Donald Shoup, "Free Parking or Free Markets," Cato Unbound, April 4, 2011.

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