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Posts from the "Donald Shoup" Category

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Shoup: Free Parking to Blame for California’s Solo Car Commuting Habit

Nonprofit reporting group California Watch recently looked at how Californians travel to work and concluded that free parking provided by the state’s employers is leading to a lot of street-clogging solo car commuting.

The Boeing campus in Seal Beach, California. Photo: LA Times

Californians are only slightly more likely than the average American to carpool (11.4 percent) or ride public transit (5.2 percent) to work, and their rates of driving alone are about the same (73 percent), according to the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey.

In response, parking guru and UCLA professor Donald Shoup pointed the finger directly at company parking perks. ”If you can park free at work, it’s an invitation to drive to work alone. And almost everybody who does drive to work has this invitation,” he told California Watch.

The evidence is apparent in the outcome of a 1992 state law that Shoup helped enact. California’s “parking cash-out” program requires companies that provide free parking to employees to also offer a cash payment to those who forgo the incentive. There’s a major difference between companies that comply with the law and those that don’t, California Watch reported:

A study Shoup conducted 15 years ago for the state Air Resources Board found that employers who offered cash-out programs saw solo driving to work drop by 17 percent, carpooling increase by 64 percent, walking and biking grow by 33 percent, and transit ridership jump by 50 percent.

The cash-out program is not well-known or widely enforced in California, according to California Watch. If it was, said Shoup, the biggest beneficiaries would be women and minorities, who are less likely to commute alone by car.

There are other reasons so many of the state’s commuters choose to drive. Californians who opt for transit or carpooling are likely to have longer commutes; solo drivers spend an average of 25 minutes getting to work, while carpoolers clock just over a half hour and transit riders report 47 minutes in average travel time.

San Francisco residents commute by transit the most, while Contra Costa County commuters do the most driving alone.

Streetsblog NYC 31 Comments

Shoup: NPR Puts a Price on Parking. Why Not Cato?

Streetsblog is pleased to present the third episode in UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup’s ongoing inquiry into whether the Cato Institute’s free market principles extend to the realm of parking policy. Read Shoup’s previous replies to Cato senior fellow Randal O’Toole here and here.

Dear Randal,

In your September 1 post on Cato@Liberty, you mentioned that the Cato Institute offers free parking to its employees.

Which policy does public radio adhere to

When it comes to parking, which policy does public radio prefer, and which one is favored by the libertarian think tank?

I checked and found that not all employers in Cato’s neighborhood offer free parking. For example, consider National Public Radio, which is on Massachusetts Avenue three blocks from Cato. NPR charges all its employees the market rate for parking in the building. NPR has 125 parking spaces and it uses fair market prices to ration these scarce spaces among its 400 employees.

The different parking practices at NPR and Cato reveal quite different policy preferences. NPR prefers the free market while Cato prefers free parking.

Cato’s free parking severely distorts transportation prices. The market price of commuter parking in the commercial garage closest to Cato is $255 a month, so Cato’s free parking subsidizes the cost of driving to work by $255 a month. Because employer-paid parking is a tax-exempt fringe benefit, Cato pays the free parkers a tax-exempt subsidy of $3,060 a year ($255 x 12).

If the round-trip commute distance to Cato is 32 miles (the national average), and if commuters drive to work 22 days a month, Cato’s free parking reduces the cost of driving to work by 36¢ a mile ($255/22 days/32 miles). According to the American Automobile Association, the average operating cost of driving a car is about 18¢ a mile. Because the per-mile subsidy for parking is twice the per-mile cost of driving, Cato’s free parking reduces the out-of-pocket cost of driving to work by two-thirds. Free parking therefore grossly distorts market prices in favor of commuting by car.

In your campaign for market policies in transportation, I hope you will try to persuade the Cato Institute to charge market prices for parking, or at least to offer commuters the option to cash out their parking subsidies. Perhaps you might also write a post on Cato@Liberty about Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s bill (H.R. 3271) that would encourage many employers to offer parking cash out. I suspect that might even make the news on All Things Considered.

Donald Shoup
Department of Urban Planning
University of California, Los Angeles

Streetsblog NYC 50 Comments

Shoup: Cato HQ the Perfect Lab for Reforming Commuter Parking Subsidies

Last week we published a reply from UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup to Cato Institute senior fellow Randal O’Toole, in which Shoup clarified his positions on parking policy and explained several ways in which government regulations favor the provision of free parking. In response, O’Toole ran this post on the Cato@Liberty blog. Streetsblog is pleased to publish Shoup’s follow-up, which suggests Cato estimate the price distortions that give incentives for the libertarian think tank’s employees to commute by car. By doing so, Cato headquarters could serve as a laboratory for leveling the commute subsidy playing field, an idea embedded in Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s Green Routes to Work Act.

Dear Randal,

UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking

UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking

Thanks for your Cato@Liberty post clarifying several points where we agree about parking policies.

You wrote that the Cato Institute offers free parking to its employees. The market price of commuter parking in the commercial garage closest to the Cato Institute is $255 a month (in Colonial Parking at 901 New York Avenue). At this market price, can you calculate the total market value of all the free parking Cato provides to its automobile commuters?

After examining the data, you may find the market value of the Cato Institute’s free parking is surprisingly high. My rough guess is at least $10,000 a month. That is one example of what I mean by the high cost of free parking.

But maybe I am wrong. I hope the Cato Institute will tell you the number of commuters who park free so that you can answer this simple question. What is the fair market value of all the free parking for commuters who drive to the Cato Institute?

My point is not to criticize the Cato Institute for its free parking, because 95 percent of all automobile commuters park free at work in the United States. My point is that you could do a great service to free-market transportation policy by using the Cato Institute as a case study to analyze how employer-paid parking distorts commuter transportation choices.

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According to Randal O'Toole, the Cato Institute does provide free parking for employees at its Washington, DC headquarters. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Valued at market prices, free parking at the Cato Institute reduces the cost of driving to work by $255 a month. If commuters drive the national average round-trip distance of 32 miles a day for 22 days a month, free parking thus reduces the cost of driving to work by 36¢ per mile ($255/22 days/32 miles). According to the AAA, the average operating cost of a car is about 18¢ per mile. Because the parking subsidy at work is twice the operating cost of driving to work, free parking at Cato reduces the out-of-pocket costs of driving to work by two-thirds. Free parking is therefore a huge price distortion in favor of commuting by car.

The Internal Revenue Code creates an incentive for this price distortion because free parking at work is exempt from both income and payroll taxes. Parking cash out can eliminate this price distortion. Parking cash out is a market-oriented policy whereby employers who offer free parking at work also offer commuters the option to choose its cash value in lieu a parking space. Parking cash out does not mandate parking charges because commuters who choose to drive can still park free. Parking cash out simply gives the same subsidy to every commuter, regardless of travel mode choice, while free parking gives a subsidy to drivers and nothing to other commuters. Parking cash out expands choice, which I assume is a core value of the Cato Institute.

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC 64 Comments

Shoup to O’Toole: The Market for Parking Is Anything But Free

We’re reprinting this reply [PDF] from UCLA professor Donald Shoup, author of the High Cost of Free Parking, to Randal O’Toole, the libertarian Cato Institute senior fellow who refuses to acknowledge the role of massive government intervention in the market for parking, and the effect this has had on America’s car dependence. It’s an excellent guide to the misdirection, mistakes, logical fallacies, and falsehoods that form the foundation of O’Toole’s arguments.

Dear Randal,

I would like to comment on your August 16 post on the Cato@Liberty blog about “Free Markets for Free Parking.”

shoup_otoole.jpgShoup (left) and O’Toole (right). One of these gentlemen has written the definitive volume on parking policy. The other says he has yet to read it.

You were responding to Tyler Cowen’s article in the New York Times, “Free Parking Comes at a Price,” in which Tyler explained some of the ideas in my book, The High Cost of Free Parking.

In commenting on Tyler’s article, you made several mistakes in describing my ideas and proposals. I will explain these mistakes, and if you agree with the explanations I hope you will post corrections on Cato@Liberty.

Before I examine your misunderstanding of what I have written, I will first summarize the three basic parking reforms I recommend in The High Cost of Free Parking: (1) remove off-street parking requirements, (2) charge market prices for on-street parking to achieve about an 85-percent occupancy rate for curb spaces, and (3) return the resulting revenue to pay for public improvements in the metered neighborhoods.

I will quote ten extracts from your post, and comment on each of them.

1.

"Shoup’s work is biased by his residency in Los Angeles, the nation’s densest urban area. One way L.A. copes with that density is by requiring builders of offices, shopping malls, and multi-family residences to provide parking. Shoup assumes that every municipality in the country has such parking requirements, even though many do not."

Does the Antiplanner, who is “dedicated to the sunset of government planning,” really believe that government planners know exactly how many parking spaces to require for every economic activity at every site in every city?

Even Houston, which does not have zoning, has minimum parking requirements, and they resemble the parking requirements in almost every other city in the United States. Houston requires 1.25 parking spaces for each efficiency apartment in an apartment house, for example, and 1.333 parking spaces for each one-bedroom apartment. Here is the link to the minimum parking requirements in Houston’s municipal code.

Does the Antiplanner, who is “dedicated to the sunset of government planning,” really believe that government planners know exactly how many parking spaces to require for every economic activity at every site in every city, no matter how much the required parking spaces may cost and no matter how little drivers may be willing to pay to use them? Does the Antiplanner really support Houston’s minimum parking requirement of 1.333 spaces for each one-bedroom apartment because he believes that Houston’s government planners can accurately predict the “need” for parking at every apartment to one-thousandth of a parking space?

Read more…

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Tonight: See the Blueprint for a New Upper West Side

uwsbp2.jpg

Streets designed for safe, accessible, and equitable use. That is the vision of the "Blueprint for the Upper West Side: A Roadmap for Truly Livable Streets," to be unveiled tonight by the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance Campaign. The product of one year of community-driven planning, in consultation with urbanist legends Jan Gehl and Donald Shoup, the 51-page Blueprint [PDF] is an expansive neighborhood-wide plan that would employ many livable streets concepts already in use by NYC DOT. 

Proposals include:

  • Separated bike lanes and bike boxes on Broadway, Amsterdam and Columbus
  • Bollard-protected pedestrian bulb-outs
  • Leading Pedestrian Intervals
  • Curb extensions to slow auto traffic and allow for garbage pick-up
  • Bus bulbs with bike parking 
  • Chicanes with reverse-angle parking on cross streets

The Blueprint was composed from input gathered via neighborhood surveys and citizen workshops in a community where drivers account for 10 percent of commutes but absorb 228 times more street space per capita, and where over 5,000 pedestrians and cyclists were injured or killed between 1995 and 2005.

Gehl will be on hand for tonight's reveal, as he was at the project's inception last November. The event is free and open to the public.

Where: P.S. 87, 160 W. 78th St. between Amsterdam and Columbus

When: 6:30 p.m.

RSVP here

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Upper West Siders: What Would You Fix?



In the first of many shorts we will present over consecutive days, The Open Planning Project's Executive Director Mark Gorton tours the streets of the Upper West Side with neighbor Lisa Sladkus pointing out problems in advance of the November 6 Streets Renaissance Workshop with Jan Gehl. Today's topic is: Double Parking.

Parking policy is one of the biggest challenges that faces New York City and the rest of the U.S. In this related StreetFilm, Donald Shoup explains how responsible pricing can solve the woes of double parking and pollution, while raising revenues that can be re-invested in communities.

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StreetFilms: Interview with Parking Guru Donald Shoup


Donald Shoup on the High Cost of Free Parking
Running time: 6 minutes 37 seconds


"I don't see why people have to pay market rents to live in a neighborhood but the cars should live rent-free. In New York you have expensive housing for people and free parking for cars. You've got your priorities exactly the wrong way around."

Renowned as one of the world's top authorities on parking policy, UCLA Urban Planning Professor Dr. Donald Shoup is the author of The High Cost of Free Parking, a publication so popular among scholars and devotees that he attracts groupies known as Shoup-istas at book signings.

High Cost of Free Parking book jacket

According to Shoup, free parking is the root problem of many of the ills that face our biggest cities. He posits that reforming parking policy will lead to a better pedestrian environment, cleaner streets and air, safer downtown shopping districts, and -- yes -- even fewer headaches for drivers trying to find that ever elusive curb space.

In March 2007, Shoup paid a visit to NYC to enlighten city leaders with his research. Here's part of a taped chat with the Open Planning Project's Mark Gorton.

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The Price of Parking: Let the Free Market Decide?

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The Wall Street Journal ran a piece this weekend by Conor Dougherty on the municipal move toward charging more for parking. It's available online to paid subscribers only, but here's a taste:

As anyone who has ever circled the block for a marginally better spot knows, parking is an American obsession. It occasionally boils over into rage, or worse. Since the parking meter was first introduced 70 years ago, in Oklahoma City, the field has been dominated by two simple maxims: Cities can never have too much parking, and it can never be cheap enough.

Now a small but vocal band of economists, city planners and entrepreneurs is shaking that up, promoting ideas like free-market pricing at meters and letting developers, rather than the cities, dictate the supply of off-street parking. Seattle is doing away with free street parking in a neighborhood just north of downtown. London has meters that go as high as $10 an hour, while San Francisco has been trying out a system that monitors usage in real time, allowing the city to price spots to match demand. (A recent tally there showed that one meter near AT&T Park brings in around $4,500 a year, while another meter about a mile away takes in less than $10.) Gainesville, Fla., has capped the number of parking spots that can be added to new buildings; Cambridge, Mass., works with companies to reduce off-street parking.

Economists have long made the case that the solution to the parking crunch many cities face lies not in more free or cheap parking but in higher prices. The idea is that higher prices result in a greater churn -- and get more people on buses and subways -- which leads to more open spaces. But this notion has often run up against city planners and retailers arguing that cheap and plentiful parking results in more commerce and, thus, higher sales taxes and a vibrant economy.

The article goes on to note the influence of UCLA professor Donald Shoup's 2005 book, "The High Cost of Free Parking." Shoup, who will be in New York City meeting with civic leaders in early March at the invitation of Transportation Alternatives, argues that "ubiquitous free parking helps explain why our cities sprawl on a scale fit more for cars than for people, and why American motor vehicles now consume one-eighth of the world's total oil production."

In Los Angeles, where free or cheap parking has been as much a part of the landscape as palm trees, market forces are already pushing parking prices higher, even without the intervention of planners. And some people aren't happy about it.

Nor are they all happy in Seattle, where the WSJ found one woman who sounded unlikely to be forced out of her car at any price:

"It's just frustrating that they keep taking free parking away," says Terry Peterson, a grants and contracts administrator at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Ms. Peterson has a 15-minute commute to her office, where she parks in one of the area's free spots.

In spring, the city plans to put in new meters that will cost around $7 a day on average, the result of a recent study that found that most on-street parking in the neighborhood has an occupancy rate of at least 90%. She says she'll probably end up parking at a private lot, which runs about $1,800 a year.

Whatever the market will bear.

Photo: Yukon White Light on Flickr