The High Cost of Free Parking
The High Cost of Free Parking makes the American Planning Association’s 100 Essential Books of Planning, and for good reason. Not because it is a particularly easy read, but because it will challenge the way you think about parking, that is assuming you think about parking.
This book spells out how to make our cities better, by charging the right price for street parking. Donald Shoup, the author, makes the argument that in high demand parking areas, the problem isn’t that there isn’t free parking or that there isn’t enough parking, the problem is that street parking is priced incorrectly. He argues for “three reforms–charge fair-market prices for curb parking, return the resulting revenue to the neighborhoods that generate it, and remove the zoning requirements for off-street parking.” The first reform, would adjust on-street parking rates so as to meet demand while always leaving a space or two available on the street for customers. The second reform, would allow the new funds raised by charging market rates to stay within the district to pay for improvements and maintenance, making the rate structure desirable to local business owners and residents. Finally, the third reform would eliminate regulations that require parking which would allow the market to determine the number of parking spots for a project rather than an arbitrary regulation.
To learn more about market based pricing of parking, and an entirely new approach to parking management that cities, such as San Francisco, are actually implementing today, this book is required reading.