Parking talk

The Onion offers up these solutions to high gas prices:

While the Mandatory Car Ownership Act might be fiction, its local counterpart, the pesky minimum parking requirements set forth by zoning, effectively ensures the same result. Renowned anti-parking guru Donald Shoup will speak about how to properly price parking — or even recognize that it’s a good that _can_ be priced — “here in Chicago on 2 November”:

Excerpts from his show-stopping presentation at APA in San Francisco:

bq. [P]arking policies are important and that our current policies are exactly the opposite of what they should be. Parking is important because the average car is parked 95 percent of the time and parking is mispriced because it’s free to the driver 99 percent of the time… Every year the U.S. spends about as much to subsidize parking as we spend for Medicare or national defense. The financial costs are enormous, but so are the many other hidden costs imposed on cities and the environment.

bq. Off-street parking requirements encourage us to drive wherever we go because we know we can usually park free when we get there. Eighty-seven percent of all trips in the U.S. are now made by car, and only 1.5 percent by public transit. American motor vehicles by themselves consume one-eighth of the world’s total oil production. Off-street parking requirements help explain why the U.S. has 1.2 motor vehicles per licensed driver and slightly more than one vehicle per person of driving age…

bq. The second policy I recommend is that cities should charge fair market prices for curb parking, by which I mean the lowest price that will achieve about a 15 percent vacancy rate for curb spaces so that anyone can always find an available space wherever they go. Charging fair market prices for curb parking will bring parking into the economy, like housing, food, gasoline and just about everything else we buy. Most markets depend on prices to allocate resources, so much so that it’s hard to imagine they could operate in any other way. Nevertheless, cities have tried to manage parking almost entirely without prices.

bq. The third policy I recommend, to make charging market prices for curb parking politically feasible, is that cities should spend the resulting curb parking revenue to pay for neighborhood public investment, such as sidewalk repair, public security and putting the overhead buyers underground. When nonresidents to park at the curb, and residents receive all the benefits, residents will begin to see the curb parking through the eyes of a parking lot owner. Political support for a policy of charging market prices for curb parking does not depend on a belief that market prices for curb parking will benefit the whole city, such as by reducing air pollution and traffic congestion — which it will do. Rather, support will come from the selective benefits the curb parking revenue can finance in the neighborhoods that let nonresidents park on the streets. And so the improvement in traffic congestion, the reduction of traffic congestion, the better air will be like regional icing on the neighborhood cake.

bq. I think most people do think that free parking at home is built into the social contract. In the proposed residential parking benefit districts, the residents would park free just as they do in the current permit parking districts. But in many permit districts, there is a lot of vacant curb space during the daytime when the residents are away at work. Some cities allow non-residents to buy daytime permits in these districts — no more than four permits per block and only in blocks that have vacant curb space. And if the non-residents’ payments for these daytime permits go to fix up that block where the nonresidents park — to repair their sidewalks and trim their street trees and put their wires underground — the residents would see, well, yes, it’s like Monty Python’s idea to solve Britain’s economic problems by taxing foreigners living abroad.

bq. I think that people are paying to park in a place that they want to be, rather than in a place where they can merely park free. I think that cities should aim to be great places where people are willing to pay to park at the curb rather than mediocre places where the only reason you’ll come is if the parking is free. And that really describes much of the United States. It’s a very degraded public environment where nobody will come unless they can park free a few feet from the front door.