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.

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