Illustrating Parking Reform with Dr. Shoup
On his recent visit to New York, Dr. Donald Shoup, professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, sat down with Mark Gorton of the Open Planning Project in front of a typical NYC street grid map to discuss parking policy.
Shoup concludes that charging more for curbside parking would free up more parking space, reduce congestion-causing cruising and generate funds for local street improvement projects.
Related StreetFilm: Dr. Shoup: Parking Guru
Dr Shoup: [00:00] Unknown to most people a lot of the traffic is not going anywhere, it’s already arrived and it’s hunting for a place to park.
Dr Shoup: [00:15] The problem is that if the spaces are all filled up by long term parkers, that other people who do want to park are very frustrated. They double park in front of the stores that they want to pop into. They cruise around hunting for somebody leaving. I mean cos that’s sort of parking rapture in New York is to be driving along and see somebody pulling out just as you arrive, it’s really quite a thrill to be lucky. Of course you’ll think it’s your own skill in driving that causes it. But if the spaces are all occupied all the time, a lot of this traffic is caused by cars that are hunting for a kerb parking space. Often they circle the block, making a turn at every corner, interfering with pedestrians, paying no attention to pedestrians cos their eyes are on all the kerb spaces. They don’t even pay much attention to the other cars. The argument that I will make is that because the parking is so cheap or even free that people who get this space want to stay for a long time.
Mark Gorton: [01:17] I was taking a taxi from the Upper East side to the Upper West side and I was stopped at a traffic light and there was a fire truck behind us with his sirens going, and there was a guy double parking who didn’t… he was in his car but didn’t want to give it up… give up his space he got and it looked… took nearly three minutes of sirens and horns from this fire engine before this guy decided to like oh I guess I have to move.
Dr Shoup: [01:40] Suppose we thought to solve the problem, we nudged up the price of parking, maybe by 25 cents an hour, during the hours when there are no vacancies, maybe if the dollar an hour now went up to a dollar and a quarter nothing would be different. Still a terrific burden. $1.50. And then there’s a little bit more turnover and you see less double parking. The spaces are full but there’s still some cars cruising. What’s the point of raising it even higher than that? Well suppose we nudge it up to maybe two and a quarter an hour, so here there’s one vacant space and a car that had been cruising quickly takes it. So we’ve reduced the amount of cars cruising. Maybe we go up another quarter and then there’s another vacant space and it’s taken… because the price is higher, this car leaves. And there’s much less traffic here on the road. What happens to all those cars? Cos you see I think what happens is that if you’re coming to say like… or miss it today, if I had driven here I would have had to allow time to hunt for parking when I got here. Just [unintelligible 02:53], it might happen. Yeah, I might be lucky and park right away, but it might take me half an hour, so I have to arrive early and drive around. It isn’t that there are any fewer people getting out on the kerb, it just means that they haven’t spent ten minutes hunting for parking. That’s where the traffic disappears to.
Mark Gorton: [03:09] Right now when parking is very cheap or close to free, people are happy to park there all day. You know, they’re given strong incentives to get this very cheap resource and keep it as long as possible. You know for stores, employees just parked out the front…
Dr Shoup: [03:25] Yes.
Mark Gorton: [03:25] Whereas if you’re the store owner and you have a choice, you would actually prefer to have a spot that turns over ten times a day with different customers. So you can actually get more customers coming into your store, you’ll get more business because customers know that there’s always a spot if they need it.
Dr Shoup: [03:43]
It would be slowly incrementally street by street removing traffic from
the city. Traffic that we didn’t know was there, that was just
hunting for a place to park. But you have to have maybe one vacant
space on either side. So we get up to maybe two seventy five an
hour or then two seventy five an hour, some hours I think early in the
morning it could be 50 cents an hour. The major reason for adopting
the right pricing in kerb parking is the amenities. It is not
the improvements in traffic. You could take a photograph of the
Queens sidewalks, the new street furniture, the stark street life, the
brand new street trees, the new street tree grates, all the things that
make a sidewalk wonderful. It is a spectacular view to see the
street trees removed into the roadway, they don’t interfere with the
pedestrians. And when anybody gets out of their car, puts their
money in the metre, they’re paying to plant the street tree, they’re
paying for these benches. They really don’t know it that when
the money goes into the metre, it comes right out and paves the sidewalk
or pays for the amenities that they enjoy. And I think that if
you see that happening on one block and say this is what happens.
You see it could be done on one block, and this is what could happen,
I think people would say, let’s do it on my block.