Shoup: Cato HQ the Perfect Lab for Reforming Commuter Parking Subsidies

Last week we published a reply from UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup to Cato Institute senior fellow Randal O’Toole, in which Shoup clarified his positions on parking policy and explained several ways in which government regulations favor the provision of free parking. In response, O’Toole ran this post on the Cato@Liberty blog. Streetsblog is pleased to publish Shoup’s follow-up, which suggests Cato estimate the price distortions that give incentives for the libertarian think tank’s employees to commute by car. By doing so, Cato headquarters could serve as a laboratory for leveling the commute subsidy playing field, an idea embedded in Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s Green Routes to Work Act.

Dear Randal,

UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking
UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup, author of ##http://www.amazon.com/High-Cost-Free-Parking/dp/1884829988##The High Cost of Free Parking##

Thanks for your Cato@Liberty post clarifying several points where we agree about parking policies.

You wrote that the Cato Institute offers free parking to its employees. The market price of commuter parking in the commercial garage closest to the Cato Institute is $255 a month (in Colonial Parking at 901 New York Avenue). At this market price, can you calculate the total market value of all the free parking Cato provides to its automobile commuters?

After examining the data, you may find the market value of the Cato Institute’s free parking is surprisingly high. My rough guess is at least $10,000 a month. That is one example of what I mean by the high cost of free parking.

But maybe I am wrong. I hope the Cato Institute will tell you the number of commuters who park free so that you can answer this simple question. What is the fair market value of all the free parking for commuters who drive to the Cato Institute?

My point is not to criticize the Cato Institute for its free parking, because 95 percent of all automobile commuters park free at work in the United States. My point is that you could do a great service to free-market transportation policy by using the Cato Institute as a case study to analyze how employer-paid parking distorts commuter transportation choices.

dsfdg
According to Randal O'Toole, the Cato Institute does provide free parking for employees at its Washington, DC headquarters. Photo: ##http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Picture_Cato.jpg##Wikimedia Commons##

Valued at market prices, free parking at the Cato Institute reduces the cost of driving to work by $255 a month. If commuters drive the national average round-trip distance of 32 miles a day for 22 days a month, free parking thus reduces the cost of driving to work by 36¢ per mile ($255/22 days/32 miles). According to the AAA, the average operating cost of a car is about 18¢ per mile. Because the parking subsidy at work is twice the operating cost of driving to work, free parking at Cato reduces the out-of-pocket costs of driving to work by two-thirds. Free parking is therefore a huge price distortion in favor of commuting by car.

The Internal Revenue Code creates an incentive for this price distortion because free parking at work is exempt from both income and payroll taxes. Parking cash out can eliminate this price distortion. Parking cash out is a market-oriented policy whereby employers who offer free parking at work also offer commuters the option to choose its cash value in lieu a parking space. Parking cash out does not mandate parking charges because commuters who choose to drive can still park free. Parking cash out simply gives the same subsidy to every commuter, regardless of travel mode choice, while free parking gives a subsidy to drivers and nothing to other commuters. Parking cash out expands choice, which I assume is a core value of the Cato Institute.

A bill now in Congress would alter the Internal Revenue Code to reduce the price distortion in favor of free parking. Section 5 of H.R. 3271 (Blumenauer) would include parking cash out as a condition to qualify for the tax exemption for employer-paid parking. That is, the free parking would be a tax-exempt fringe benefit if employers offer commuters the option to cash it out. The bill would allow commuters to make their transportation choices at fair market prices.

Data from the Cato Institute can illustrate how H. R. 3271 would allow market parking prices to influence transportation choices, without eliminating free parking. I hope the Cato Institute will therefore provide the data necessary to estimate the total market value of all the free commuter parking it provides, and how parking cash out would affect the prices for commuting to its building. After all, if the Cato Institute will not make data available to analyze how market prices can improve transportation choices, who will?

Donald Shoup
Department of Urban Planning
University of California, Los Angeles

Sent in response to this post by Randal O’Toole on Cato@Liberty:

Donald Shoup on Free Parking
Posted by Randal O’Toole

Donald Shoup, the author of The High Cost of Free Parking, has posted a response to my first post about Tyler Cowen’s op ed against free parking. Shoup points out that I erroneously attributed proposals to him that are in fact only urged by his followers, such as maximum-parking requirements and requirements that all businesses charge for parking. I apologize for that.

In fact, Shoup’s book argues that cities should eliminate minimum-parking requirements and charge market rates for on-street parking. I favor these things as well. Where we may disagree is about the effects of these policies.

My post pointed out that many municipalities do not have minimum-parking requirements, but businesses still offer plenty of free parking to their employees and customers. Shoup asks for “a list of some of these.” Virtually all counties in Texas, most counties in Nevada, and many counties in Indiana have no minimum-parking requirements, and I am sure I could find counties in many other states as well. Unlike California, where Shoup lives, and Oregon, where I live, these states do not restrict urban development to within city limits or urban-growth boundaries, and developments in unincorporated parts of these counties offer plenty of free parking.

Much of Shoup’s response seems to assume that my posts were defending minimum-parking requirements. “City planners have no training that would enable them to estimate the demand for parking, and no financial stake in the success of a development,” says Shoup. “They know much less than developers do about how many parking spaces to provide for each project.” As I pointed out in my later posting on this issue, I entirely agree. My goal was to defend private provision of free parking.

That said, I think Shoup’s worries about the “high cost” of parking are overblown. As I pointed out in my first post, surface parking is cheap, and even structured parking is not terribly expensive in the long run. Most of Shoup’s analysis is not of the high cost of free parking but the high cost of minimum-parking requirements, and there the cost is only of the spaces that developers are forced to provide that they wouldn’t otherwise provide. Shoup and I seem to agree that businesses who want to free parking should be allowed to do so.

Unfortunately, many urban planners disagree; they want to set maximum-parking limits, and they often cite Shoup in their plans and proposals. The negative effects of such limits are likely to be as bad if not worse than minimum-parking requirements. Planners promote such limits in order to discourage driving, which planners say is bad.

Shoup himself relies on anti-auto rhetoric. “Ubiquitous free parking helps explain why American motor vehicles, by themselves, consume one-eighth of the world’s total oil production,” Shoup says, for example. “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.” But we can find many alternatives to “extravagant consumption of imported oil” without limiting people’s mobility the way many urban planners want to do.

Planners with Portland’s Metro, for example, have set a goal of allowing congestion on most of the region’s highways to reach level of service F (meaning stop-and-go driving). They also promote “traffic calming” (a euphemism for congestion building), “boulevarding” (a euphemism for taking lanes away from autos in busy thoroughfares), and other anti-auto policies. But their own analyses found that these policies would have very little effect on the amount of driving people do. The biggest effect came from a plan to require that all businesses in the region charge for parking — yet even that effect was small, estimated to reduce per capita driving by about 2 percent. Even though such a plan has not been put into effect, at least a few years ago Metro’s transportation models assumed that it would be put into effect sometime in the next couple of decades.

As I have shown at length, trying to save energy or reduce auto emissions by reducing driving is not cost effective, and the resulting reduction in mobility could have serious negative effects on our economy. Instead, it is much more cost effective to make the cars we drive more energy efficient and/or capable of using alternative fuels, and if oil prices go up that will happen without government coercion anyway.

Although Shoup teaches in an urban planning school, he is actually an economist, and he and I share many areas of agreement. I won’t even mind if it turns out that I am wrong: if cities get rid of minimum-parking requirements without imposing maximum-parking limits and it leads businesses to charge for parking that are now offering it for free, that’s just the market at work. My only concern is that many planners are using Shoup’s work to promote their own coercive agendas. I hope he responds to them as vigorously as he responded to me.

One more thing: Shoup asks, “Can you tell me if the Cato Institute offers free parking for its employees? If so, does it also offer commuters the option to cash out their parking subsidies?” I do not work in Cato’s Washington, DC, office, but as far as I know it does offer free parking to at least some of its employees and does not provide a cash-out option. Cato is currently expanding its building and I understand it is installing showers for cyclists, as required by DC zoning codes, and is not providing a cash-out option for cyclists (or other employees) who do not plan to use those showers. As a cyclist, I’ll probably use those showers from time to time on my visits to DC. Perhaps someday Dr. Shoup and I will write a paper titled, “The High Cost of Free Showers.”

Randal O’Toole • September 1, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

  • theo

    Wow, “the high cost of” a shower remodel ($10,000) vs. parking subsidies at $50-200,000 per space. And “libertarians” wonder why they aren’t taken seriously.

    (Yes, I realize he’s trying to finish on a funny note, but he’s comparing apples to oranges, so it just looks stupid.)

  • theo

    (And by “he” I mean Randal O’Toole, obviously, not Shoup, who wisely ignored the shower issue.)

  • John

    The Washington, DC Colonial Parking garage or lot is pricing their spaces at just over $100/SF each at a capitalization rate of 10%/year. (Parking spaces estimated at 300 GSF) Market-rate parking in the District is not “cheap” by any measure for folks making even the the average (mean) income of $43,000 per year.

    Even in low density suburbs where commercial land might be valued at $20/SF, each parking space “costs” somebody $600, or $50/month. Perhaps commercial land in Texas, Indiana and Nevada (Clark County excluded) counties is worth less.

  • john

    As many of my friends often state, they “wouldn’t drive there unless FREE parking is provided”. No doubt free parking increases the need for more oil consumption and self destructive tendencies. Consequently traffic, noise, pollution, higher risks and a lower quality of life is guaranteed in order to subsidize the auto dependent. For many employees, this is clearly an important means to avoid income related taxes on unclaimed income.

  • =v= Libertoonians have long had a huge blind spot about the massive subsidy of car transportation. O’Toole himself has actually gone on the Tea Party lecture circuit, a group also supposedly deeply concerned about “socialist” government spending, yet totally unconcerned about all their hard-earned tax dollars that prop up oil, roads, and parking.

  • Well, the “free shower cash-out” is a red herring anyway, because I can imagine other employees benefiting from the showers (for example, after using the company fitness room) whereas the parking truly benefits only the car commuters. I think a fairer model is where both parking and transit passes are subsidized.

  • vnm

    95% of Americans receive free parking at work. What percentage of Americans employers’ pick up their employees’ tab for public transit fares?

  • art

    People respond to incentives. How they response is a lot more complicated. If all the “hidden” subsidies to car use disappear such as the upfront cost of building a parking garage for Cato employees, some people may indeed move to public transit. Or more people who are in demand in the labor market may move into the city raising rents and other costs for everyone else there and further driving lower income people into the fringes ala Paris. Or CATO may move it’s offices into the suburbs where parking is less costly.

    Complicated attempts at engineering peoples behavior through negative incentives only has an effect on people who have no other choices, usually the poor. In reality there are often other choices even for the poor.

  • garyg

    Mass transit usage is subsidized about 70 cents on the dollar in direct subsidies alone. A bus or train ride for which the rider pays $1 costs more like $3 to provide. If Shoup wants to “allow commuters to make their transportation choices at fair market prices” he should be advocating the elimination of transit subsidies. I wonder what would happen to transit ridership if fares were tripled.

  • Wanderer

    Art writes about various potential response as if they’re a bad thing. But from an environmental point of view it would be a good thing if their staff moved into the city and commuted over shorter distances (and probably by more environmentally benign modes). The potentially gentrifying impact of any such moves needs to be tackled in the bigger picture of the DC housing market (and it does need to be tackled).

    I’ve often wondered how libertarian types, so hypervigilant about any real or perceived government intrusion, could ignore the massive subsidies to the car. Free parking lots don’t get given by God (although maybe nowadays there’s a Christian minister who thinks …) they are created by conscious choice. Now I see that the way they get around it is they delude themselves into somehow imagining that cars aren’t subsidized.

  • Mass transit usage is subsidized about 70 cents on the dollar in direct subsidies alone.

    I just want to point out that Garyg plays fast and loose with the facts. In the past he’s trotted out this “fact,” and I’ve provided data that proves it’s at best an overgeneralization. And here it is again with no acknowledgment or anything. I’m not going to discuss it, just to warn people against trusting any “facts” that he posts.

  • In another recent thread, the troll in question posted a total of 14 times. The first one was perhaps inevitable. But the other 13 occurred because people kept feeding the troll. So please stop feeding the troll. Feeding him just gives him more opportunities to urinate in the punchbowl.

  • garyg

    I just want to point out that Garyg plays fast and loose with the facts. In the past he’s trotted out this “fact,” and I’ve provided data that proves it’s at best an overgeneralization.

    It’s a fact, not an “overgeneralization,” whatever that’s supposed to be.

    See for, example, Exhibit 5-8, in this report, which shows mass transit revenues for 2005, from the National Transit Database. As you can see, fares provided only 28.4% of the revenues used for mass transit. The rest came from taxes, including fuel taxes paid by drivers. Mass transit users are massively subsidized.

  • Mark, feeding the troll is really fun. It makes the experience for everyone else on Streetsblog angry, like driving on a congested road, but it can be really enjoyable for the individual who engages in it.

  • Nathanael

    When trolls persist in providing disinformation, the disinformation has to be corrected for the benefit of innocent bystanders. An alternative is to provide a “Frequently Trolled Questions” list with the debunkings prefab.

  • Nathanael

    Hilarious.

    O’Toole’s an intellectually dishonest shill, and Cato’s mostly made up of intellectually dishonest corporate shills, so don’t expect ’em to actually *do* anything free-market like this. But Shoup showed them up pretty well, didn’t he?

  • While O’Toole is checking out the subsidy on showers for cyclist he should look into the subsidy on toilets for workers. I mean, seriously, if businesses didn’t have to provide toilets for their employees, many businesses would find they could really cut down the bottom line by instructing employees to hold it. This could be an enormous benefit to our economy by increasing the competitiveness of our corporations and also decreasing the tremendous use of water by workers during business hours.

    — oh wait —

    I suppose public health benefits of having toilets at the workplace might be found to have greater market value than the cost to businesses for providing them. I wonder if the same math holds up for showers? What’s the market value of people living longer healthier lives because the availability of a shower at work made an active commute possible for them?

  • Nathanael, ask yourself where in either of his comments, Wendell Cox Mixner Watson Gordy garyg (it’s hard to keep track, isn’t it?) has even come remotely to addressing the subject of the post.

    Then ask yourself whether this is such an important bit of commentary it’s worth breaking one of the cardinal rules of good netiquette.

  • It’s a fact, not an “overgeneralization,” whatever that’s supposed to be.

    It’s a fact taken out of context with intent to mislead. And if you don’t know what an overgeneralization is, you’re a really bad social scientist, and Cato or Heritage or whatever is getting a crappy deal for whatever they’re paying you.

  • I meant to say that Garyg’s “fact” is taken out of context with intent to mislead. Not all overgeneralizations are made with intent to mislead: some are done out of ignorance or just plain stupidity.

  • garyg

    Alon Levy,

    Shoup says he wants to eliminate parking subsidies to “allow commuters to make their transportation choices at fair market prices.” Unless mass transit’s massive subsidies are also eliminated, that won’t be possible. I’m not sure if you genuinely cannot understand this point or if you’re just pretending not to understand it, but either way your claim is false.

  • Dear Wendell,

    Drop dead.

    Thank you,
    Alon.

  • Does garyg acknowledge that the federal highway system is one big massive subsidy? I do not dispute that ALL public transportation systems in the United States receive subsidies, but let’s be clear about how (un)level the playing field is.

    Thought experiment: what if, instead of the gas tax*, all federal highway dollars had to come from tolls–a pay-per-use system in the same way that transit is a pay-per-use system. Presenting the same cost in different ways (gas tax v. tolls) would likely shift perception of driving’s cost, and probably shift driving patterns, too. And I can imagine that the highway pay-per-use system might not provide sufficient revenue for highway expenses, and would need subsidies/bailouts. In short, highways would be in the same place transit is today.

    But instead, it has its own revenue stream, the gas tax, which doesn’t even cover all highway expenses, leading budget makers to dip into the general fund for highway upkeep. Talk about a subsidy!

  • Does garyg acknowledge that the federal highway system is one big massive subsidy?

    No. He punts on the question.

  • =v= I don’t know or particularly care who @garyg is, but I can think of few things more clueless than coming around to the world’s most transit-savvy blog and trying to convince people that transit is unduly subsidized.

    It is true that a little of the money collected specifically from drivers goes towards transit (usually because it’s a way to relieve traffic FOR drivers), but far more of is collected from the population at large. Bottom line, as anyone who’s mastered grade school arithmetic should be able to figure out, is that cars run at a much higher deficit than transit.

    This has been amply demonstrated for years, even before Shoup alerted us to the magnitude of the additional wasteful subsidy for parking.

  • garyg

    Does garyg acknowledge that the federal highway system is one big massive subsidy?

    The federal highway system is not one big subsidy. Academic and government studies have found that road subsidies to motor vehicle users amount to less than one cent per passenger-mile. This is just a small fraction of the subsidies received by mass transit users. Subsidies distort the urban transportation market massively in favor of mass transit and against driving. The fact that mass transit has only a tiny share of the market despite that overwhelming advantage illustrates the overwhelming preference of consumers for driving.

    Bottom line, as anyone who’s mastered grade school arithmetic should be able to figure out, is that cars run at a much higher deficit than transit. This has been amply demonstrated for years, even before Shoup alerted us to the magnitude of the additional wasteful subsidy for parking.

    I’m not sure what the phrase “cars run at a much higher deficit than transit” is supposed to mean. Studies have found that mass transit receives much higher subsidies per passenger-mile than driving. If you seriously think the opposite is true, please produce this “ample demonstration.”

  • The federal highway system is not one big subsidy. Academic and government studies have found that road subsidies to motor vehicle users amount to less than one cent per passenger-mile.

    Bullshit. Excluding depreciation, they amount to $70 billion, which is about 45 cents per gallon consumed, or 2.5 cents per VMT. The only way you get from 2.5 to 1 is by excluding various costs like collecting the gas tax, which are fully included in transit operating costs, and by ignoring the difference between intercity and intra-urban trips.

  • garyg

    Bullshit. Excluding depreciation, they amount to $70 billion, which is about 45 cents per gallon consumed, or 2.5 cents per VMT

    Bullshit yourself. Here is the Delucchi study previously cited streetsblog’s very own Charles Komanoff. Deluchi found that total direct subsidies to motor vehicle users are about 20 cents per gallon, which is around 1 cent per vehicle mile, which is around 0.6 cents per passenger-mile. Delucchi notes that studies by other researchers and the FHWA have reached similar conclusions.

    But even your own made-up number of 2.5 cents per VMT, or about 1.5 cents per passenger-mile, is vastly smaller than the subsidy provided to mass transit users, so you’re just quibbling anyway. Subsidies massively favor transit over driving.

  • garyg

    Let’s try that again:

    Bullshit. Excluding depreciation, they amount to $70 billion, which is about 45 cents per gallon consumed, or 2.5 cents per VMT

    Bullshit yourself. Below is a link to the Delucchi study previously cited by streetsblog’s very own Charles Komanoff. Deluchi found that total direct subsidies to motor vehicle users are about 20 cents per gallon, which is around 1 cent per vehicle mile, which is around 0.6 cents per passenger-mile. Delucchi notes that studies by other researchers and the FHWA have reached similar conclusions.

    But even your own made-up number of 2.5 cents per VMT, or about 1.5 cents per passenger-mile, is vastly smaller than the subsidy provided to mass transit users, so you’re just quibbling anyway. Subsidies massively favor transit over driving.

    http://pubs.its.ucdavis.edu/download_pdf.php?id=1139

  • Passenger-miles don’t vote. Drivers travel much longer distances to work than transit riders. Per rider, it’s pretty much a tie.

    And you don’t need to actually go to secondary sources like Delucchi. Here is the raw data from the FHWA. $130 billion in revenue, $192 billion in net spending, $4.3 billion in collection expenses. The difference is $66 billion. Sorry I said $70. I’ll go hang my head in shame for making such an egregious error.

  • garyg

    Passenger-miles don’t vote. Drivers travel much longer distances to work than transit riders. Per rider, it’s pretty much a tie.

    You offer no evidence for this claim, and it’s completely irrelevant anyway. For any given trip, government subsidies massively favor using transit over driving. If subsidies were eliminated, the cost of driving would increase modestly, but the cost of using transit would skyrocket. People don’t drive instead of taking a bus or train because the government gives them an economic incentive to drive. The government gives them an economic incentive to use mass transit instead. But they drive anyway, because driving is so much faster, more comfortable, more convenient, more flexible, etc. than using mass transit. This is the fundamental reality you refuse to confront.

  • Didn’t you argue in the other thread that all government incentives are the result of democratic action?

  • garyg

    And you don’t need to actually go to secondary sources like Delucchi. Here is the raw data from the FHWA. $130 billion in revenue, $192 billion in net spending, $4.3 billion in collection expenses. The difference is $66 billion.

    Highway-user revenues are shown as $122 billion, not $130 billion. Disbursements are shown as #182 billion, not $192 billion. As usual, your source doesn’t say what you claim it says. But it’s irrelevant, anyway. As I said before, you’re just quibbling. For the sake of argument, let’s say that road subsidies in 2008 were $66 billion. Highways provided 4.871 trillion passenger-miles of transportation in 2008. So the subsidy was about 1.3 cents per passenger-mile. Vastly lower than the subsidies provided to mass transit users. And only a tiny fraction of total driving costs. If road subsidies were eliminated completely, most drivers wouldn’t even notice the difference in their costs. But if transit subsidies were eliminated, mass transit users would have to pay at least three times what they pay now to ride a bus or train. They’d certainly notice that. Mass transit ridership would plummet.

  • Mike

    Good catch, Alon. All, let’s please stop feeding the troll.

  • garyg

    Didn’t you argue in the other thread that all government incentives are the result of democratic action?

    Pretty much, yes. Americans are obviously willing to subsidize mass transit to some degree. Enough to provide around 1-2% of total passenger-miles of transportation.

  • Judging by how much you complain about transit subsidies, it seems as if you don’t accept the results of this democratic action when it goes against what your employer believes.

  • garyg

    Judging by how much you complain about transit subsidies,

    I don’t complain much about transit subsidies. I complain about the hypocrisy of those who complain about motor vehicle subsidies but ignore the much greater subsidies provided to mass transit. If, like Donald Shoup, you want to “allow commuters to make their transportation choices at fair market prices” you have to accept the consequences, which would be a huge increase in the cost of using mass transit.

  • Shoup says nothing about “motor vehicle subsidies.” He studies the effect of free parking mandates. Note how none of us has made any gotcha comment about how Shoup doesn’t talk about any of the other million factors influencing transportation, including direct highway subsidies. It’s just you who keeps trolling with irrelevancies.

  • garyg

    Shoup explicitly claims that “free parking mandates” are a subsidy to motor vehicle users. His whole point is that these subsidies distort the transportation market, but he completely ignores the much larger distortion created by transit subsidies.

  • Ian Turner

    garyg, citation please for your claim that subsidies to public transportation are greater than subsidies created by minimum parking regulations.

    Thanks,

    –Ian

  • garyg

    See comment #13.

  • Ian Turner

    … which does not contain a comparison to subsidies created by minimum parking regulations.

    Therefore, again, I ask you to back up your claim in Comment #39, that subsidies to public transportation are greater than subsidies created by minimum parking regulations.

  • garyg

    See the link below. Click on “Download PDF” and see the table on page 12. Delucchi estimates the value of all unpriced automobile parking at between 0 and 8 cents per vehicle-mile, which is between 0 and 5 cents per passenger-mile. Capital and operating cost subsidies to mass transit are 465 cents per vehicle-mile for buses (43 cents per passenger-mile), 2,800 cents per vehicle-mile for light rail (109 cents per passenger-mile) and 1,177 cents per vehicle-mile for heavy rail (53 cents per passenger-mile).

    Thus, subsidies to mass transit are between about 8 and 20 times the subsidy of unpriced parking.

    Of course, Shoup’s claim that unpriced parking qualifies as a subsidy is controversial. Delucchi argues that it is often not a subsidy, because unpriced parking would often remain unpriced even in a perfect market. But even counting all unpriced parking as a subsidy, the value of that subsidy is still vastly smaller than the subsidy provided to mass transit.

    http://pubs.its.ucdavis.edu/publication_detail.php?id=436

  • Again, Garyg is cherry-picking his figures here. I explained how that worked when he trotted out those figures a few months ago, and I’m not going to waste time with it again, because next time he comes back he’ll just repeat those figures as though I never said anything.

    I hope you’re enjoying yourselves, Alon and Ian. We’ll see how much fun you have the second time, or the third, or the fourth…

    I’m not saying that Garyg should be allowed to spread misinformation without being challenged. But his true audience is not any of us; it’s the newbies and occasional visitors who would otherwise understand Shoup’s argument completely. Merely pointing out the lies, hasty generalizations and cherry-picked figures is enough; engaging him only gives him an opportunity to dig deeper into his bag o’ bull.

  • Cap’n, his real audience is his boss, who got really loopy ever since they built light rail through his St. Louis neighborhood. No lie is too low for Wendell Cox. Give him 15-20 years and he’ll die and all his interns will have to find other work; it’s a problem that solves itself.

  • Ian Turner

    Gary, in your original remark there was nothing about subsidies “per mile”, just subsidies overall. So, either correct your statement or provide a citation. I’m still waiting.

    Thanks,

    –Ian

  • garyg

    Gary, in your original remark there was nothing about subsidies “per mile”, just subsidies overall.

    No, I did not say “subsidies overall.” “Subsidies overall” is not a meaningful measure of the effects of subsidies on modal choices or market shares. That’s why economists compare transportation subsidies in standardized units, usually passenger-miles. If the government subsidizes 90% of the market price of an apple but only 10% of the market price of an orange, it is massively distorting the fruit market in favor of apples, regardless of the total amount of subsidy it provides to each type of fruit.

  • =v= A Wendell Cox intern? Well, that certainly explains the cherrypicking. If only this thing has a *plonk*file, so we can ignore the troll.

  • Ian Turner

    Gary, so I guess in your mind, then, a change that resulted in longer commutes for everyone would be a good thing if it reduced cost per mile but raised costs overall? And we should probably be subsidizing air travel even more, I bet subsidies per passenger-mile are real low in that industry.

  • Al

    I think gary has something of a point. There’s no question that transit is on the expensive side. If those were all the costs, I’d be tempted to agree with him. But I think there are some huge hidden costs, namely: war (ie Iraq) and pollution, including global warming. Basing infrastructure on the assumption of an eternal, consequence-free flow of cheap oil is a recipe for disaster.

    My (unpopular) solution is raising gas taxes to European levels. In the absence of that, all these subsidies and regulations are just so many patches on a fundamentally flawed system.

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Donald Shoup, an Appreciation

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On Tuesday, the news came that after 41 years of teaching at UCLA, Donald Shoup, distinguished professor of urban planning, will retire. For all of us who have had our paths in life profoundly influenced by his research, writing, and teaching on parking and transportation, it’s a good time to reflect. I never got to […]

Shoup Dogg, Parking Policy Cult Hero, Fills Fordham Auditorium

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Click to play Streetsblog’s Donald Shoup theme song:[mp3]shoop30.mp3[/mp3] Spencer Wilking reports: There’s nothing more blessed to the New York City driver than finding an open parking spot. Donald Shoup, professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, would like New Yorkers to reconsider that ideal. The parking policy cult hero addressed a crowd at Fordham’s Pope Auditorium […]