Practical Contribution To Parking Space Discussion – Tyler Cowen New York Times Article and Commentary by Randal O’Toole of Cato Institute Regarding UCLA Professor Shoup’s Thesis

Here is a practical contribution to the parking space discussion that started with Tyler Cowen’s article in the NYT and continued with Randal O’Toole from the Cato Institute about Professor Donald C. Shoup’s  (UCLA) thesis on:

 1) remove off-street parking requirements, (2) charge market prices for on-street parking to achieve about an 85-percent occupancy rate for curb spaces, and (3) return the resulting revenue to pay for public improvements in the metered neighborhoods.

Some of the articles are found in

A lot of the discussion is really academic. If it is true that “Mobility is a Right” as the Canadian Parking Symposium derived some 10 years ago, then it follows that car ownership is a right too. If so, it all boils down to simply a) the amount of cars searching for a parking space (or needing one), and b) the supply of it – let aside the cost. There are numerous examples around the world that evidence zero traffic reduction by imposing higher parking fees or tolls on roads. These measures have proven to be nothing else than a lame excuse for just imposing taxes in other ways.

And, it is another hoax to think traffic can be reduced by reducing available parking or driving restrictions – see examples NYC, Boston, SF and others which imposed a parking garage moratorium some 30 years ago due to some misconceptions coming from the sprawling “green discussions” or derivates from the “Club of Rome” theories. Of course, I’m talking about downtowns – real inner cities’ traffic. And these moratoriums have brought us to the scientific research statement that describes reality: Don H. Pickrell, Chief Economist at DOT, Volpe Institute, Cambridge, MIT stated (issued in the Spring edition of ULI’s “Smart Growth”  program  1999): “… recent research shows, that over 50 % of the traffic in typical down towns is simply on the road, cruising around blocks searching for vacant convenient parking spaces.” 

That’s massive! You got to really stop reading and digest this before continuing; half the traffic! Imagine having enough parking available and reducing not only 50 % of the traffic, but at the same time also the emissions, noises, nuisances, waste of time and money, etc.  What a massive impact, in micro and macro-economic epic dimensions on public and private sectors. Accumulated over some years, numbers that shadow all that were mentioned in this debate so far. 

I wholeheartedly wish Donald Shoup great success with the model, really. I, however, have my doubts because of simply this one fact: he does not increase the amount of parking space. He tries to “manage” the available space of parking by the flexible cost of it. Yes, I looked at the video, and the mobile gadgets look great. However, if I plan to go to the post office and before I start my trip look into the availability with my mobile device, and it shows one or two free spaces (and don’t promote logging onto the mobile device while driving), there is no certainty in the world that once I actually arrive at this place – say 15 to 30 min later, the space will be still available. Most likely not.

And, there’s just no way around that. I need to go to this particular post office because my mailbox is there, because of … a lot of possible real reasons.

Sprawl mainly developed from two reasons: one, because more people moved to cities over the last several decades and two, because available parking was not enough, or public transport was not available and shoppers or visitors turned away to other non-core locations that provided exactly that. Although I’m not FOR minimum parking requirements, but on the other hand I don’t see how this lifting of, would have solved that issue either under the prevalent circumstances at that time.

All other discussion topics from “Because we buy and use cars without thinking about the cost of parking, we congest traffic, waste fuel, and pollute the air more than we would if we each paid for our own parking. Everyone parks free at everyone else’s expense.”


“America’s extravagant consumption of imported oil to fuel our cars is not sustainable, economically or environmentally, and anything that is not sustainable must eventually stop”.

Are really very academic and also misinterpreted or misconceived.

North America, as a country, compared to most other industrialized countries, has an extremely low density of population / square mile – also a very huge amount – if not the largest – of street miles/ citizen.

If the industrial – military complex would have allowed new technologies – we would have A LONG TIME ago substituted the oil burning motors. Already in 1985, an engineer friend of mine told me his employer, one of the largest automobile producers worldwide, had production ready plans of new motors in their drawers that do not consume any fossil energy. So, we truly can forget the entire debate about pollution and “global warming”, or wasting etc. Solutions are ready, were ready, to solve just that.

So, yes, lifting minimum parking requirements as well as increasing fees on parking meters, or applying floating fees for them is great and I support that completely. Let the free market run its mechanisms, and it will solve this as much as it can under the circumstances.

There’s just one missing element in implementing these steps.  It follows that ALSO permits for private initiatives to build more parking in inner cities need to be given to complement the free market. This is where Randal O’Toole is absolutely right!  

Shoup’s comment “but no city collects data on its total parking supplyis incomplete – at least in this one example I found from Columbus, Ohio, 15 years ago:

Parking Downtown Columbus, OH
Orange colored areas indicate parking facilities in downtown Columbus, OH.

Now, we can SUBSTITUE the SAME AMOUT of parking with new automated parking technologies in about HALF the space and the picture will look like this:

Potential parking space savings in Columbus, OH
Green areas show potential savings of parking space in Columbus, OH using robotic parking systems.

Now, we can still use 50% of the saving (the green areas) and build 50% MORE parking by still keeping 25% of the original orange, or 50% of the green area for parks!

This is extremely impressive – not even theoretical or academic, it is a very REAL possibility!

Understood that not all of these orange areas can be substituted – possibly only some immediately. The city was not built in one day either. But over time, more and more can be regained for more parking AND green spaces! The example is intended to show the direction we can go towards in using new technologies readily available and proven.

Now, this, together with Shoup’s points 1) to 3) above will bring about a true and complete solution.

An invitation to form an initiative “FREE PARKING” (from its suppressive elements) and let the free markets respond to the demands! Shall we?


1 thought on “Practical Contribution To Parking Space Discussion – Tyler Cowen New York Times Article and Commentary by Randal O’Toole of Cato Institute Regarding UCLA Professor Shoup’s Thesis”

  1. The writer seems to think that a city can be vital if only there is enough parking. Actually, parking will limit itself. As we make more parking, we spread away from the central city those stores that people would drive to. As the stores spread, parking lots expand in new areas. And the city becomes less vital – there are fewer stores (offices…) within walking distance of any parking lot; there are fewer people to spend money at those stores. Some odd balance will occur, but at great cost to the potential of city life. And if the expansion grows we call it sprawl, the loss of farmland, and the rueful consequence of driving many miles to find parking.

    The goal should not be to get more cars into the city, but to get more people into the city.

    Raising the population of each car (from 1 to 4, say) would help. But cars have a nasty habit of sleeping when they are not used. When they sleep they always occupy two parking lots – home 8+ hours, and office 8 hours. That’s acreage (when multiplied by millions of cars) that is not productive commerce.

    The other way to raise the population of each “car” would be to fashion vehicles that carry scores of people, like, say (I hope you not scared by my language) the trains. Trains occupy very little space for the relative passenger-carrying capacity of cars (10 lanes of highway to 1 rail right of way); and they can run nearly 24/7 except for periodic maintenance.

    The electric car with higher mpg will exacerbate all this because cheaper mileage means more cars traveling further. And that will raise the demand for roads; and that will stretch state budgets for building and maintaining roads. We need to start with basics: what is the goal here?

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