Donald Shoup: Planners Are Versed in Parking Politics, Not Policy

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Un-Shoupian parking policy on display on Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue

The Toronto Star gave parking policy maven Donald Shoup some major play earlier this week, running a profile of the UCLA professor excerpted from journalist Tim Falconer’s new book, "Drive." In the piece, we learn why Shoup believes planners are apt to make bad judgments when it comes to the optimum supply of off-street parking:

…planning departments always insist that developers include a
minimum number of parking spots. Shoup doesn’t have much respect for
the ability of urban planners to determine how many spots are
necessary. Since planners don’t learn anything about parking in school,
they learn it on the job, but because parking is so political — NIMBY
neighbours constantly squawk at the thought of anyone parking on their
street — what they really learn is the politics of parking.

Hardly surprising, perhaps, but certainly applicable to New York, where parking minimums have facilitated pedestrian-hostile development, as on Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue. It also raises the question: Even if the city were to muster the political will to adopt Shoupian pricing for on-street parking (following the lead of San Francisco and Washington), would it have the fortitude to address another big part of the equation by reforming zoning regs that require parking in certain residential buildings?

A story in today’s Times about the suspension of alternate-side parking rules in Park Slope shows the warped sense of entitlement such measures would run up against:

“Parking is such a joke in this neighborhood that no matter what they
do, it won’t make a difference,” said Buddy Ferriola, from the deli
Pollio on Fifth Avenue. “You got 20,000 cars and 2,000 parking spaces.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    Looks like Park Slope will be a great place for those from other neighborhoods to store their car for free when they travel out of town by air this summer. We’ll see how much of a paradise it is if people catch on.

    Having gone to graduate school in city planning (84-85), I wouldn’t agree that parking is never discussed. But it is (was) discussed in terms of meeting the demand, not restricting it.

    I don’t want to go over old ground, but the required parking doesn’t have the teeth people think it does in NYC, except in very low density areas. Parking is pushed by market demand, not regulations.

    The question is whether the city might want to put some teeth in the maximums, which are pretty weak outside the CBD.

    The good news — there is no enforcement in NYC to ensure “accessory” parking spaces are in fact limited to residents. There is nothing to prevent the developer of a building to lease the entire parking facility to Zipcar, for the use of the entire neighborhood.

  • JF

    That NY Times article bugged the shit out of me. “It is a routine so ingrained in the New Yorker’s life that it seems to have always existed.” THE New Yorker, huh? So I don’t count as “the New Yorker” because I’m one of the 80% of residents who don’t own a car? The 60% of households in Park Slope that don’t own a car don’t count?

    What are we going to see next? “The New Yorker dreads being mobbed by paparazzi while walking from their limousine to the helicopter to the Hamptons”? Michael Wilson, get off your ass and ask some real Park Slopers what they think about having dirtier streets all summer.

  • Joe Blow

    What nonsense. People graduating from planning schools in 2008 most certainly discuss parking and are even assigned Shoup’s literature as readings.

    “Planning departments” aren’t discrete entities that make choices as autonomous units. They are composed of individuals, most of whom have to please a huge array of constituents, and are like all bureaucratic organizations, directed by the late-career managers who went to school a long time ago, when nobody was discussing the idea of too much parking (including Shoup).

    There are a ton of idealist greenhorn urban planners who want to rid people of their cars. But they’re the “assistant planning technicians” not the people in charge. Shoup should know this.

    Working in Delaware, somebody once commented to me that the state’s Department of Transportation was “a couple retirements away from being pedestrian-friendly.”

  • Spud Spudly

    Park Slope streets will indeed be dirtier. I also wonder whether people there realize that there’s still a law against parking in one spot for more than seven days continuously. (Not that it’s ever really enforced unless someone complains.)

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