Shoup on the High Cost of Free Parking on Reason TV

Reason TV interviews UCLA economist and planner Donald Shoup on how parking policy has created widespread distortions and inefficiency in transportation. The seven minute video is really a concise introduction to parking policy reform. By adopting market-pricing for on-street parking (at meters) and eliminating inefficient planning policies such as parking minimums, we could go a long way toward ensuring consumers make travel decisions based on true costs.

Don has written the definitive book on parking policy in The High Cost of Free Parking. For a critique of Don’s approach, take a look at Randal O’Toole’s analysis over at the Antiplanner blog.

Don has an important point (and insight), and I have written favorably about market pricing for parking in Mobility First and The Road More Traveled. The unwillingness of planners and city officials to recognize parking for the scarce resource it is creates the perception that parking is free when in fact it carries costs that should be part of the travel decision.

Nevertheless, the danger is in taking the concept too far and using it for social engineering. The idea that the cost of my garage and driveway should be priced separately from my home makes no sense; the cost is fully born by me, the homeowner, and doesn’t impose any costs on the broader community. Similarly, parking (and access) costs are usually fully born by the developers of retail centers such as shopping malls. The key is when the the infrastructure is publicly provided so that costs are born by the community at large and users are subsidized to create the misperception that parking is cheaper than it really is.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.