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The High Cost of Free Parking, Updated Edition Updated Edition

33 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1932364965
ISBN-10: 193236496X
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Editorial Reviews


Donald Shoup is like Jane Jacobs. He starts by exposing the blind spot of a generation and then marshals a new generation of urbanists to make things right. Now that The High Cost of Free Parking is in paperback, I look forward to replacing all the dog-eared copies that have gone missing from our office library.-Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives

About the Author

"Donald Shoup is a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. He holds a doctorate in economics from Yale and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: APA Planners Press; Updated edition (June 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193236496X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932364965
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Paula L. Craig on February 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a detailed analysis of parking problems and their solution. Shoup zeroes in on the reason for such problems: we assume that parking should be free. Shoup points out that if we decided that gasoline should be free, the result we would expect would be obvious: people would drive too much, shortages of gasoline would develop, fights would break out over scarce gas, and governments would go broke trying to pay for it all. Shoup shows that parking is no different. Providing free parking leads to overuse, shortages, and conflicts over parking. Cash-strapped local governments and neighborhoods lose out, too. Free parking is like a fertility drug for cars. Many people don't realize how much of the high price of housing is due to requirements by local governments that a certain number of parking spaces must be provided. These costs are paid by everyone, including those who don't own a car.

I agree with Shoup that free parking is the great blind spot of American local politics. I recall vividly a couple of years ago I was attending a church service when it was suddenly interrupted by a person from the neighborhood, screaming that churchgoers had used all the parking spaces in front of his house AGAIN. I could understand why he was upset, because Sunday mornings did cause a serious parking shortage in the streets around the church. Shoup shows how to solve such difficulties: instead of putting in burdensome regulations about who can park where and when, just charge the market price for parking spaces, and make sure most or all of the money goes to the local neighborhood for improved public services. A high price for parking spaces on Sunday would have led churchgoers to find other options, like walking or carpooling.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Swartz on June 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Come on, I know what you're thinking. There's no way you'd want to read an 800-page book about parking, let alone pay $60 for it. That's what I thought too.

Amazingly, I was wrong. Shoup shows how the simple matter of providing some free parking kicks off a chain reaction that leads to disastrous effects. First there's just a little free parking space in front of your house. But then a store opens down the street and its customers start taking your spot. So you demand the store provide enough parking for its customers. Which means the store gets pushed back from the street by its huge new parking lot. Which means nobody wants to walk to it, so more people start driving. Which means it needs more parking and more roads and more traffic cops and more cruising for parking and more sprawl and more pollution and on and on.

Shoup provides a simple solution to this madness: performance parking. If you provided everyone with free ice cream, you'd always have lines around the block. You'd go bankrupt from trying to make sure you always had enough supplies. You'd reorient your whole economy around ice cream. But luckily, we don't do that. We charge the market rate for ice cream. Shoup's simple suggestion: do the same for parking. Install parking meters that talk to each other and figure out how much parking is available and automatically adjust the price to ensure that 15% of the spots are always free. Imagine: no more looking for parking, a parking space always available.

Shoup has a political plan for getting there as well, involving playing one neighborhood off another. But I've given enough away already; perhaps you should just read the book.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Tom Cat on August 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In 100 years, people will look back on this book and realize its value. For now, though, it's far too rational to be of much practical use to planners, engineers or politicians. For anyone who ever imagined that parking requirements were established in accordance with scientific criteria, The High Cost of Free Parking should disabuse them of that notion permanently. Shoup recognizes all too well that parking requirements are imposed merely as a knee-jerk reaction to public fears rather than as a practicable solution to an actual problem. His solutions, though well intended, will undoubtedly fall on deaf ears in most instances--until the price of gas is at $30 per gallon and suddenly there are no cars to fill those free parking lots anymore.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wilson on August 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Shoup makes a subject that at first glance would sound boring, quite interesting. The only downside is that he gets a bit repetetive; the book probabaly could have been cut about 150 pages. Still, it's a very valuable resource for any planner or elected official who cares about the health of our cities. The only thing missing is some discussion on how parking immensely increases impervious surface in an area, impacting water quality and supply.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Doug T. on June 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Donald Shoup systematically dissects the enormous hidden subsidy provided primarily by local government to automobile transportation and convincingly upends the notion that there just isn't enough parking. The problem, he argues, isn't that there aren't enough spaces, but that so much space is covered in parking, and so much of that parking is free. Shoup's treatment of unprincipled local off-street parking requirements is particularly convincing and ought to be required reading for any urban or suburban zoning board. The reader will be surprised to learn the true cost of parking, both monetary and cultural.
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