Pricing Friends and Foes Find Common Ground in Shoup

Matthew Schuerman at the Observer reports that New York City congestion pricing opponents sought to commission UCLA urban planning guru Donald Shoup to do a study of New York City’s parking policies. Shoup declined their request. Presumably, congestion pricing opponents hoped a Shoup study might show that New York City could solve some portion of its traffic congestion problem through changes in on-street parking policy.

While it sounds like a serious study and revision of New York City parking policy is something that pretty much everyone might be able to get behind, Schuerman points out that Walter McCaffrey’s lobbying group, "Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free is supported in part by parking garage owners who would logically see underpriced on-street parking as unfair competition." The Observer reports:

The lobbying group opposing congestion pricing is considering ways to reform curbside parking as one alternative to the Mayor’s plan to charge drivers $8 to enter core areas of Manhattan.

The group, Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free (which now has a Web site), even approached Donald Shoup, a parking guru at the University of California at Los Angeles who advocates for higher metered rates, to commission a study. But the lobbying group seems to have dropped the idea after Mr. Shoup wrote back with an ambivalent answer.

"They asked me and I wrote back," Mr. Shoup told The Observer via telephone recently. "I told them I’m a great fan of congestion pricing."

Still, Mr. Shoup said raising metered rates makes a good deal of sense, and would be a necessary prerequisite for congestion pricing. His theory is that rates should be raised high enough to discourage idle trips. That would free up one or two spots on every block, creating a so-called "Goldilocks effect" that would reduce the number of cars trolling for spaces.

"I think that [New York City] has done everything wrong in terms of getting something done soon," Mr. Shoup said. "It doesn’t make sense to introduce this very expensive congestion pricing system and keep curb parking free. It is easy to charge a parked car. It is hard to charge a moving car."

Walter McCaffrey, the lobbyist for the anti-congestion pricing group, could not confirm that his team had reached out to Mr. Shoup, but said that it was looking at parking policy.

"In some places, you could end up having an ability to remove meters to allow for a better flow of traffic depending on the width of the street, or you could temporarily remove the meters on a street where there is construction going on," Mr. McCaffrey said.

  • steve

    I’m LOL at this bush-league blunder by CP foes. If they were getting professional advice they would have appraoched Shoup anonymously and obtained a promise of confidentiality first. Let’s see what mistake they make next!

  • @alex

    If the parking garage owners use Shoup to get on-street parking rates increased so that their revenue is protected even as the number of cars entering the congestion zone decreases, I’m all for it. There’s no reason we can’t have both congestion pricing for use of the traffic lanes, and a price for the parking lanes as well.

  • Josh

    Underpriced street parking is competition for parking garages, sure, but I don’t see what’s at all “unfair” about it.

  • george

    unfair b/c it’s government-subsidized, may be

  • Willie Makit

    From T.A.’s summer 2005 magazine:

    “…if a congestion charge system is accompanied by parking reform measures that raise on-street parking costs on par with rates charged by the garages, it will likely decrease their opposition to congestion pricing.”

    http://www.transalt.org/press/magazine/2005/summer/five_reasons_summer_2005.pdf

  • Betty Wont

    Haven’t people on Streetsblog suggested this as an alternative method of congestion pricing? Why exactly would it be inferior to the bridge-and-gantry system, and would it be so much worse? Could we do a trial of Shoup-style parking pricing, and then after a few years, maybe the anti-pricing folks will be either won over to CP (best case), dead or out of office?

    Seriously, I’d like to see an arrangement where the Brodskys and Weprins can save face while still allowing some kind of pricing to proceed. Do we really want a long, drawn-out fight?

  • gecko

    As the harsh realities of climate change loom larger and larger in the collective conscious, hopefully these small futile skirmishes to delay mitigating the human causes will — hopefully — fade away.

  • Pricing Parking Needed to Get the Full Pay-off from Congestion Pricing

    My fellow congestion pricing bloggers recently applauded national parking guru Donald Shoup for declining to work for Manhattan garage owners on a parking alternative to Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed congestion pricing plan. Perhaps the Mayor should extend the offer to Shoup. The California-based consultant concluded years ago that pricing parking can be as effective as pricing roads. The high cost of Manhattan off-street parking proves the point. Bruce Schaller’s finding that half the auto entries into the Manhattan Central Business District (CBD) park for free also proves the point. London has demonstrated that we need to price both roads and parking. Brian Ketcham’s 1973 Clean Air Act plan for New York set the stage by rolling back parking in the Manhattan CBD through zoning limits along with requiring equal tolls on all Manhattan river crossings. Today, the price of a parking space tracks the price of adjacent real estate, exemplifying the forces of supply and demand; the prospect of tolling emerges anew.

    Seeing parking as the low hanging fruit, London started parking pricing first. At an NYU forum on pricing this spring, London’s First Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron, congestion pricing ambassador extraordinaire, whispered away from the mike: “I hate to be critical, but you’ve got parking all wrong — you need to control it first. In London, you can’t park for more than 20 minutes without a permit or you’ll be clamped. If you can park, it costs 40 quid [~$80].”

    Check the web. Garage rates in central London run $65/day, $1,200 a month. London auto commuters have no local street parking option outside the central pricing zone because all 32 boroughs in the city limit non-resident curbside parking to two hours and deliveries and drop-offs to 20 minutes. In boroughs close to the center a stay of two hours costs about $8. Spaces are designated in all boroughs for residents who pay a range of $180 to $250 a year for permits for one car and one visitor. Businesses can also get parking permits. Violators’ tires are enthusiastically clamped by local wardens who collect fines of $300 or more for their boroughs, which use the revenues for improving roads and traffic calming. The borough in the center of London nets about $70 million a year.

    New York is obviously way behind on parking management. In the core of Manhattan, there are ten times more off-street spaces than in London, and half the drivers into the CBD pay nothing for parking. Many New York neighborhoods are plagued with commuter parking, abuse of agency parking privileges and counterfeit parking permits. Meter feeding is the norm on New York retail streets, which in the boroughs typically adds up to a cost of $8 — but is not regarded as prohibitive as the proposed $8 congestion fee.

    Local civic leaders have expressed fears about the impacts on communities near subway stations that serve the pricing zone, which are not assuaged by Mayoral allusions to—but no action on–residential parking permits. Any serious action on resident permits would reveal that they must be just one part of a comprehensive parking program that requires broad public appreciation that street space doesn’t come free—a heavy lift for champions of local parking “rights.”

    But the Mayor’s bold pricing initiative creates an opportunity to start in Manhattan by properly pricing ALL parking within the pricing zone. The fee would deter free parkers (many on the City payroll). And parking permit fees equal to the $4/day that the Mayor proposes to charge residents for trips within the pricing zone could provide the equity he seeks by charging Manhattan drivers for intra-zone trips. Doing so would eliminate the need for the costly proposed charging network of thousands of charging stations. As London Deputy Mayor Gavron asked: “Why would you want multiple cordons? We have enough trouble with one.” A charging cordon across 60th Street and bridges and tunnels, even simpler than London’s, would be far less costly and free up far more congestion revenues for better transit—the real payoff for all New Yorkers.

  • steve

    I attended the “future of Transportation on the UES” forum this evening. I was expecting to encounter vocal CP opponents but was pleasantly surprised to find that most everyone who spoke was more interested in finding out the details of how it worked than in making broad-brush attacks on CP as a “tax” or something that would turn the UES north of 86th Street into a parking lot. The elected officials, including Assembly Member Micah Kellner,
    State Senator Liz Krueger and
    City Council Member Jessica Lappin, were not exactly selling CP but they were not opposing it either. I know opposition to CP is not that strong in Manhattan in the first place, but it was barely present at all at this forum, sponsored by a local Democratic club.

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