George Costanza, the quintessential New Yorker, once said, "My father didn't pay for parking, my mother, my brother, nobody. It's like going to a prostitute. Why should I pay when, if I apply myself, maybe I can get it for free?" The High Cost of Free Parking, Donald Shoup's 733-page tour de force, has the answer. With the exception of a Monopoly board, there is no such thing as free parking. In fact, free parking turns out to be the biggest problem you never thought about. "We all want to park free," Shoup writes. "But we also want to reduce traffic congestion, energy consumption and air pollution. We want affordable housing, efficient transportation, green space, good urban design, great cities and a healthy economy. Unfortunately, ample free parking conflicts with all these other goals."
But is this beach reading? Yes. Shoup is witty and profound. The Yoda of urban planning, he compares the current national parking situation to the overfishing of communal waters, an outbreak of cicadas, the Ptolemaic view of the universe, and all-you-can-eat buffets. The book inspired me to begin building an SUV-size apartment on wheels and park it in the Manhattan neighborhood of my choice. Call it "Alternate Side of Street Living." Why should cars be the only ones to get free, fully subsidized housing in New York City?
- Aaron Naparstek, New York Press
About the Author
Donald C. Shoup, a fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, is professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles.