Donald Shoup Plays With Parking Fees and Matchbox Cars

During his recent visit to New York, Donald Shoup, professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, sat down with Open Planning Project’s Mark Gorton to discuss parking policy and play with Matchbox cars on a miniature New York City street grid.

Shoup argues that charging higher fees for curbside parking would free up more parking space, reduce congestion-causing cruising and generate funds for local street improvement projects. And unlike congestion pricing, City Hall doesn’t need permission from Albany to make it happen.

Check out the animation by StreetFilms’ Elizabeth Press. Not bad, eh? And, as always, here is the Shoup theme song:


  • JK

    Well done Streetfilms! Shoup talks about plowing meter revenue back into local streetscape and pedestrian improvements — great idea. However, in NYC it requires city council (and possibly state legislation) and seems likely to be opposed by the mayor’s budget office(OMB.)In London, the 33 local borough governments (about 1.5x times size of an NYC community board) get parking revenue and thus have a big incentive to support higher meter rates. I think dedicating a share of meter revenue to local street and pedestrian improvments would revolutionize the Livable Streets effort in NYC. A Shoupian 85% curbside occupany scheme on already metered streets would raise roughly $60 million a year. If half of that went to the general fund and half to livable streets, that would still be a whopping $30 million a year in additional funding for pedestrian improvements along metered arterial streets — more still if unmetered arterials were metered with occupancy targets.

  • Gargamel Tralfaz

    It’s hard to get people to read a 600 page tome, something like this is fun and very useful!

  • Mark

    It would be great if parkers could pay with Metrocards — the DOT could create the parked-car equivalent of congestion pricing, charging different rates for different times. Or add a parking function to EZ-Pass.

  • jaws

    Isn’t there anyone else who thinks that there is a big problem with municipal governance if very basic economic facts have to be explained to the public with toys?

    This wouldn’t even be up for debate if the city was privatized and run by competent people.

  • Luis

    There is a central fallacy in the argument made. At about 3:30 he argues that the number of people served is not different – people were just driving around before and now they are served. This is so over-simplistic as to be absurd. True, if the price of parking goes up, overall *visits will be shorter* (at some point a lower-quality visit) and parking turnover higher. But this is eventually a losing game. Why not raise parking to $20 an hour? Then practically no-one will be bothered by the traffic, right? Moreover, without all that congestion, the streetscape will be better?! Parking pricing is very important, and an argument can be made that it is too low. This has little to do with the amenities on the street. Just make the street right. The funding and street meter pricing is a different issue all together!

  • Ralston

    Awesome clip. Personally though, I think cars should be banned completely from Manhattan, but this is a great fist step.

  • mork

    uuWhy not raise parking to $20 an hour?

    I’m pretty sure you’re being sarcastic here, b

  • mork

    Why not raise parking to $20 an hour?

    I’m pretty sure you’re being sacrastic here, but it sounds like a good idea to me.

    Why charge less than garages for what amounts to a more convenient “product”?

  • I’m pretty sure Donald Shoup is arguine for market based pricing to insure that approximately 1 or 2 spots are available on the block at any given moment. This level can increase visits by not deterring visitors and reducing the amount of time people have to spend parking… It’s a great model for New York to look into.

  • CAB

    Luis writes:
    “There is a central fallacy in the argument made. At about 3:30 he argues that the number of people served is not different – people were just driving around before and now they are served. This is so over-simplistic as to be absurd. True, if the price of parking goes up, overall *visits will be shorter* (at some point a lower-quality visit) and parking turnover higher. But this is eventually a losing game.”

    Actually, the number of people served may or may not rise based on demand. However, if demand is high, then the number of people served will certainly be higher. What is the basis of your argument that at some point the quality of a visit will be lower? Actually, the quality of the visit per se has nothing to do with it. The value that a person places on their visit, however, is reflected by the parking fees that they pay. Thus, a driver will pay a meter fare in accordance to the value they place on their visit. If they wish to be closer to their destination, they will pay more in money and less in time walked to the destination. If they value the visit less, they will park farther away, pay less in parking fees and more in time walked to the destination. If neither option is palatable to them, they will use public transit, walk, or bike.

    Furthermore, Shoup’s argument in the section you cite may be over simplistic- but so too is the basis of supply and demand theory- yet is it hardly absurd.

    You implore to, “just get the street right.” Well, I think that is a great idea. Yet, many existing streets lack basic amenities that pedestrians, residents, and business owners want. Thus, what to do with the streets that didn’t “get it right” to begin with? Raising fees or taxes for these improvements are politically unpopular (probably for the lack of trust that those fees will benefit a specific neighborhood- which is why BID’s are relatively successful mechanisms to manage neighborhood beautification promotion-i.e.local control). Curbside parking is under priced, but parking (private or otherwise) is not necessarily under supplied in many cities particularly in light of minimum parking requirements- so what to do with that extra revenue when cities do get the pricing right? Why not put it back into the community streets where these cars have parked? It is a win-win situation; more available curb parking, possibly less cruising from traffic, and better maintained and livable streets.

    Also, if $20 is the price at which a proper occupancy rate is maintained- then so be it. Or, would you argue that Cadillac should lower the prices for a Coupe DeVille because you would really like to own one? Furthermore, if you listen closely, you hear Shoup admit that the benefits of pricing parking correctly are derived more from what can be done with the revenue as opposed to the traffic reducing benefits.

    The only real fallacy I see in arguments that surround this issue is the belief that one has a right to cheaply drive and park at any location at anytime of day regardless of the true costs and affects one’s actions have on the rest of the world.

  • jon

    Well and good so far as it goes. But there are a few holes in the argument, which could be satisfied by measures other than simply raising the price of parking.

    San Francisco (and I’m sure many other cities) has their meter maids chalk the tires of cars every time they make their rounds. Most parking spaces are good for 2 hours. If they return and the chalk mark of the right color is in the right spot on your tire, then they ticket you. This enforces periodic turnover without imposing additional costs for those who abide by the regulation, and it’s low tech and simple to enforce.

    We had to puzzle this out where I am. We had a major construction project underway for more than a year that completely disrupted traffic and parking on the primary street of the district. merchants were very concerned about the reduction in metered curb side spaces and their effect on their businesses. To maximize turnover and make sure that it was retail customers that were catered to, we had the city sign the spaces for 15 minute parking only, and had the meters removed. To my surprise, there was excellent disciple in the use of those spaces for the stated use. Meter maids were fairly lenient, but the spaces turned over on their own. The exceptionally short dwell time was a sufficient signal to motorist that they were very cognizant and respectful of the spaces.

    NYC uses a lot of curb side spaces as full time auto storage. There’s nowhere else for the cars to go. Garages cost much more and their space is finite. Yes you can make it so painful to own a car that people will give some of them up to avoid the hassle and expense, but NYC already pretty much describes that state of affairs.

    If you don’t want to have double parked cars or the parasitic effect of cars entering and leaving parking spaces, then just make the street a no parking zone. That’ll speed things right up and enable to capture at least one full additional lane’s worth of free flowing traffic, plus allow for queuing for turns at intersections.

    The last several images are very enticing. But can you really manage to eliminate half of your curbside parking in order to plant more trees and and allow for more ample sidewalks? Certainly not everywhere, and probably least well on major arterials.

    But streets are about a whole lot more than simply speeding the flow of traffic. faster traffic means more and more severe accidents – particularly with bikes and pedestrians. Parked cars exert a parasitic effect on traffic flow, moderating speeds, particularly in off peak times.

  • ok

  • the

  • this is good

  • this is good article

  • #11: Chalking tires may be low tech and simple, but it’s not efficient. It requires meter maids to come out twice, it prevents people who would have liked to park longer and are willing to pay, and it does not encourage turnover among people who are indifferent between spending 1 hour or two. Also, in many areas where chalking is used, people shuffle their cars in order to avoid a ticket.

    Resident street parking in NYC can be alleviated by charging for resident permits at a rate that is close to the level that provides an open space about every block. You can provide the first permit for a reasonable fee, and then charge progressively larger amounts for 2nd and 3rd permits per house. You’d be amazed how many barely running cars there are out there, and if the city were charging $500 a year to store it on the street in Manhattan, some of them might find a better home or perhaps a new owner.

    Your last point that you might want to consider elminiating street parking kind of misses the point. On-street parking is valuable, and eliminating it completely would do a great disservice to the people who want to use it and are willing to pay. Not only is it often the most convenient form of parking, but it provides a buffer between the street and the pedestrian space, and can provide revenue to improve the local area.

    As shown on page 312 of Dr. Shoup’s book, “The High Cost of Free Parking”, finding the right price for parking does actually work and can even eliminate the need for spaces on one side of the street.

    For those that don’t have the book, the photos show what happened in the West End in London, 1958, when meters were installed and then subsequently increased in price. Before, there was continuous double parking on one side of the street. After a charge of 6p per hour (about 50 cents or so today), the double parking is gone but all the spaces are still full. At 2s per hour (about $1.50 per hour today), one side of the street is almost completely empty, and one space out of five is empty on the other side. This price would be considered too high, as the only requirement is that there be about one space every 7 or 8 cars (15% vacancy).

    I think the video also missed another place where the missing cars go, and that’s into off-street paid parking garages. If the price on the curb is much less than a garage, you’ll search around to maybe get a discount if it doesn’t take too long. But if the parking on the curb is about the same price or maybe a little more, then you’ll probably just go to a garage to save the hassle and maybe get a discount for longer-term parking.


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