Why Free Parking is a Bad Idea
Posted by Comments (25)on Monday, March 1, 2010
Professor Donald Shoup of UCLA visited City Hall last week. He was in San Jose to present a lecture titled, “Why free parking is a bad idea.” The information he shared is based on his book and research.
There are approximately 700 million parking spaces for 230 million cars in this country and 99 percent of cars trips have free parking. Prof. Shoup showed an aerial picture of the Cisco Systems campus with its empty asphalt parking lots. He felt that these empty parking lots are not a good use of land and that it creates higher-than-needed vehicle miles traveled (VMT). He then continued to share what he thought would be a way to better utilize the land, which was to allow Cisco to build housing on their parking lots and waive all parking requirements. He felt this would provide housing close to jobs, reduce VMT and bring a more appealing look to the current parking lots.
Another point that Prof. Shoup spoke to was metered street parking. He told the story of Old Town Pasadena and how it was dilapidated. The city of Pasadena started meter parking and put all of the metered parking money collected back into improvements of Old Town. At first there was opposition to metered parking but when people heard that the money would stay local and be earmarked directly to Old Town improvements the community supported the metered parking concept and asked that the City to keep the meters on till midnight and even on Sundays! Over time Old Town Pasadena’s private property owners improved their buildings since the city was investing into those blocks that had metered parking. It has now become a very successful business district and generates more sales tax then other business districts that have free parking.
His main points are that street parking should be priced to where 85 percent of the spots are occupied but there is still some empty spaces. This allows someone to park quickly on the street but at a higher price for the convenience. The alternative today is we have inexpensive on street parking where people circle the block (cruising) countless times (unnecessary VMT) to try a find that one inexpensive magical parking spot. He felt the money generated from the parking meters should be spent in those blocks doing sidewalk repair, tree maintenance, pedestrian lighting, under-grounding utility lines, sidewalk cleaning, landscaping etc…
I asked the question, “What about parking meter districts that border residential neighborhoods?” He felt permit parking was one way to make sure cars did not overtake residential areas however that the neighborhood should allow employees to buy a parking permit pass so they could park on residential blocks. His reasoning is that there is ample open parking especially during the day when residents commute to work. The employees would pay a higher price then the residents and the employee would only be able to park on a certain block. All of those funds collected would then be spent on those blocks and spent on things the residents want. His idea was to let specific blocks choose if they want to allow employee permit parking and receive the benefits.
Since councilmembers typically hear “there is not enough parking” as the main complaint about any development, whether it be residential or commercial, I asked the following question: “What about new developments that want to have lower parking ratios?” He felt that the creation of permit parking areas around adjacent streets was good but more importantly he said the less cars allowed to park at the new development the better because it creates less traffic.
What do you think?
Are these pie-in-the-sky academic theories, or should San Jose curb parking and allow for a different lifestyle choices to emerge?
Finally I hope you will join me for the showing of the film, No Impact Man. The documentary follows a family that tries to live a zero-carbon footprint for a year; no water bottles, no soda cans, no magazines, no TV, no car. Think you could do it?
When: Monday March 15 at 6:30pm
Where: City Hall Council Chambers
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fITT6rVPds ” title=“Here is a YouTube link to the trailer.”>Here is a YouTube link to the trailer.
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