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The High Cost of Free Parking [Hardcover]

by Donald Shoup
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2005 1884829988 978-1884829987
Off-street parking requirements are devastating American cities. So says Donald Shoup in this no-holds-barred treatise on the way parking should be.

Free parking, Shoup argues, has contributed to auto dependence, rapid urban sprawl, extravagant energy use, and a host of other problems. Planners mandate free parking to alleviate congestion, but end up distorting transportation choices, debasing urban design, damaging the economy, and degrading the environment. 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.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Shoup proposes new ways for cities to regulate parking, namely, charge fair market prices for curb parking, use the resulting revenue to pay for services in the neighborhoods that generate it, and remove zoning requirements for off-street parking. Such measures, according to the Yale-trained economist and UCLA planning professor, will make parking easier and driving less necessary.

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Editorial Reviews


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.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 733 pages
  • Publisher: APA Planners Press (2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1884829988
  • ISBN-13: 978-1884829987
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solution to parking problems and traffic congestion 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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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Totally worth it June 5, 2009
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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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent analysis, ahead of its time August 13, 2006
By Tom Cat
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Doug T.
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but ponderous May 6, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book on the recommendation of the blogger Matthew Yglesias. I agree that it's an important text in understanding economic externalities. The arguments made are clear, structured and mercifully don't require pre-existing knowledge or jargon. The structure of these arguments was unfortunately to smash you with a tidal wave of evidence over many, many chapter with quite similar prose descriptions and interpretations. Unfortunately, even though the points were well made, they were made so often that I lost interest. Hopefully I will one day finish this (enormous) book since I learned so much from the first 2/3 but for now let me just agree we should have market rate parking and move on with my life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book with great ideas
Really puts things into perspective. They even have a facebook group named after the Author for post reading activities and understanding how best to remove free parking
Published 4 days ago by Cheng Yi Chiao
5.0 out of 5 stars no room for cars!
Every council should be forced to read this book. Fewer parks required for cars, more buses and trains and secure bike parking too please. Read more
Published 3 months ago by recumbent-rider
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important book published in our generation
Often, people in cities wonder why it is so hard to find parking in the popular spots. Or city developers wonder why people don't "shop downtown" when there may be nearly-empty... Read more
Published 7 months ago by A Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Helps Win Debate
Very thorough guide to making parking effective and heal some of the wounds that free parking has cost. Read more
Published 7 months ago by erin
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting discussion of the complicated parking issues
I highly recommend this book to everyone who is anyhow related to transport planning industry. A very good read indeed.
Published 7 months ago by Sigrid VS
4.0 out of 5 stars Great advice and thoughtful research
This book came recommended by planning professional, which I am not. The book is written in plain language and offers insightful solutions for structuring paid municipal parking. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Erica R. Mandell
5.0 out of 5 stars The title tells it all (almost)
Anyone interested in city planning, zoning policies and the future of transportation will enjoy this book. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Montrosian
4.0 out of 5 stars Book changed my perspective on planning and engineering
I'm an Urban Planning student. This book helped me better understand the intersection of engineering and planning, and how to navigate the tricky field of finding out what is best... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Chelsea Bakaitis
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book that every American should read
Donald Shoup's master work explains the cause of many of America's problems - free parking. He very clearly outlines the history of the issue and offers a three-pronged solution. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Joe Melaragno
5.0 out of 5 stars All Great
Top quality, fast delivery, great price. It is amazing how convenient it is to buy such worthwhile books, and, unlike a library book, you can keep these purchases for future... Read more
Published 15 months ago by a
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