Posts about Donald Shoup
The Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU is hosting a discussion about variable-rate "performance" parking in the District, featuring Donald Shoup of UCLA, Karina Ricks from DDOT, and myself, beginning at noon.
Dr. Shoup is the author of "The High Cost of Free Parking." Ms. Ricks is Associate Director for the Policy, Planning and Sustainability Administration, which includes parking policy.
We will be discussing the two performance parking pilot districts near the ballpark and Columbia Heights, the new performance parking pilot in San Francisco, SFPark, and other parking management improvements in DC and around the world.
Update: The archived audio is here.
The National Building Museum's newest exhibition chronicles the history of parking structures. The exhibit assembles an impressive collection of archival photos and other items, looking at the evolution of parking structures through time, from elaborate, full-service garages to self-parking decks to LEED certified garages that attempt to make parking a car sustainable in some fashion. Likewise, the exhibit delves into the social role of the parking structure with a clip of prominent movie scenes from parking garages (meeting with Deep Throat, getting cool, and getting lost, amongst others) as well as the raw aesthetics of these structures.
What's missing, however, is any discussion of why or whether parking is necessary. Philip Kennicott, the Post's architecture critic, reviewed the exhibition in Sunday's paper. He notices that the exhibit takes the need to park at face value, without question:
The Building Museum's fascinating and comprehensive "House of Cars" exhibition takes parking for granted, and from that assumption tries to cover the subject dispassionately. It proves that parking structures needn't be ugly, that they were once more routinely beautiful and integrated into the urban fabric, and that even today they can be architecturally daring if real architects are allowed to explore the poetry of the structure.
The interesting juxtaposition, however, was the exhibit that assumes the need for parking opened just as the story of DC USA's woefully underutilized parking garage was in the news.
Kennicott also notes another missing piece of the discussion: price. Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising. Given that the exhibit starts from the position that demand is there for parking no matter what, a discussion of supply, demand, and price would be a bit much. The very idea that we might not need that parking after all never crosses the minds of those designing these structures, at least not as they're presented to a patron walking through the galleries. Kennicott notes the disconnect:
But the future isn't all bright for the National Parking Association. Away from the exhibition hall, with its free-flowing red wine and mini-burgers, participants gathered to hear lawyer and lobbyist Vincent Petraro describe how he helped keep at bay a New York proposal to institute "congestion pricing" in the gridlocked south end of Manhattan. ... Petraro worries that it will hurt business. He cites London, which instituted a similar plan in 2003.
"Yeah it worked, if you want to create a ghost town," Petraro says of a city that at last check was anything but a ghost town.
Congestion pricing, says Prof. Donald Shoup of UCLA, could hurt the bottom line for parking lot owners. The power of that bottom line was obvious throughout the Parking Show of Shows, where even bright signs
— environmentally sustainable lighting and other improvements to design — were predicated on their cost savings. But Shoup, who studies the economics of parking, is interested in a different, more civic-oriented bottom line. He argues that parking is yet one more element of the basic American infrastructure that hasn't been subjected to the basic rules of the market. Cities all too often under-price their parking meters, which explains why drivers tie up traffic cruising for a cheap space. And for decades cities have required developers to include parking as part of new construction, which hides the real cost — economic and environmental — of parking.
Perhaps there was a more literal message to draw from the Bob Woodward's meeting with Deep Throat in that parking garage: "follow the money."
Parking is simply a terminal for auto transportation. All modes of transport have three basic elements
Which brings us to Columbia Heights, and yet another parking boondoggle. But this may also be the future of parking: Less is more. Most of the larger discussion of parking, including the dialogue at the National Parking Association and to a somewhat disturbing extent in the National Building Museum exhibition, is predicated on the idea that parking is a necessity. That it can be improved, but not eliminated. Even the act of studying parking as an evolving architectural form all too often seems to legitimize that form. But the emptiness of that lot in Columbia Heights, and the nightmare images on display at the "House of Cars" show, suggest that we may not be nearly as addicted to parking as we once believed.
Indeed. However, despite the exhibit's conceptual shortcomings, it's definitely worth a visit. As narrow as the focus may be, it's still a fascinating subject
Crossposted at City Block.
We're starting up a new feature here on Greater Greater Washington where we collect reader questions and choose the five best to an expert (or maybe a group of experts) to get their opinion. This week, we have Donald Shoup, Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA. Dr. Shoup has been writing about parking issues since 1978, and his book, The High Cost of Free Parking, is recognized as one of the most important books about parking policy, ever. Dr. Shoup was recently recognized as the 15th most influential urban thinker by Planetizen.
Donald Shoup, the "parking guru," is coming to Alexandria and making a public presentation tomorrow. If you make it down to Alexandria for just one event this year, this is the one. In The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup laid out the economic fallacies in underpricing parking, and popularized the concept of market-based performance parking which dedicates revenue to the local neighborhoods and businesses.
Shoup's talk is tomorrow, Wednesday, May 27th, 6-8 pm at the George Washington Masonic Memorial's theater right by the King Street Metro.
One of Shoup's graduate students sent in a tip that Shoup will be Twittering at shoup1234 during his six-week national tour. There are no tweets there yet, however.
This weekend is WalkingTown DC, the twice-yearly bonanza of great walking and bicycle tours of DC neighborhoods. Arlington will also open the Four Mile Run trail, and the schoolchildren who designed a better North Capitol Street will present their designs on Saturday.
Know of an event we should list? Submit it here.
Last week, the Montgomery County Council held a hearing on the second leg of their two-part strategy to restore Ride-On bus service cuts. The first part was to raise parking fees in the Bethesda parking district, fees which only rose once in the last twenty years and haven't kept up with inflation or Metro fares. Next, the Council must approve transferring money out of the parking district and applying it to Ride-On.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's Director of Finance, Jennifer Barrett, spoke against the plan. Strangely, she argued that parking district money must only go to projects that "enhance parking services or manage parking demand." But transit does just that. Every person who arrives by bus is one who doesn't need to park at the destination, saving money, space, and pollution. Barrett said,
[Leggett] is opposed to the legislation because it represents a fundamental change in the authorized use of Parking Lot District fees. Expedited Bill 17-09 would, for the first time, allow PLD fees to be siphoned off for services that do not contribute in a direct way to the function of the Parking Lot Districts nor would these services provide or enhance parking services or manage parking demand.According to Transit First!, however, this is false. The parking districts don't save taxpayers from bearing the cost of parking, because while taxpayers pay for the roads in the parking districts, they don't receive the revenue back from on-street meters as they do elsewhere in the county. Likewise, the county garages don't pay real estate taxes. Technically, it's true that the parking district pays for the garages instead of taxpayers, but taxpayers gave up revenue they would otherwise receive, making the parking district more of an accounting sleight of hand than an actual self-sustaining entity.
Financially sound PLDs ensure that the costs of important parts of the infrastructure supporting our central business districts are borne by the business property owners and parking users in the PLDs. These costs are paid by the business owners through property taxes, and by the users of the parking facilities through parking fees and fines. The Parking Lot Districts were created to ensure that these costs are not borne by the general taxpayers of the County. The County Executive believes that it is prudent and appropriate to ensure that continues to be the case, and believes that this legislation puts that very goal at risk.
Leggett and Barrett also warned about the dangers to the districts' bond ratings from taking away money. However, suborning more important policy priorities just to secure a fiscal entity that locks up considerable money for the sole purpose of building garages makes no sense. If the county dedicated all property taxes in Potomac to a special authority whose only mission was to erect statues of County Executives past and present on every street corner, that entity would probably have a great bond rating too. However, it wouldn't be able to do anything valuable with the bonds, and would be locking away money the county needs for other purposes.
Montgomery's parking districts use the wrong model. They underprice parking and siphon other revenue that would otherwise go to general purposes and force it to go to parking garage construction alone. Instead, Montgomery should look to the Transportation Enhancement Districts pioneered by Donald Shoup, such as those in Pasadena, California. Those districts use parking revenue to benefit the surrounding community in other ways. They can beautify the streetscape, or fund other means of transportation to help workers and shoppers reach the area without needing more and larger garages.
The Budget Support Act for the Mayor's proposed 2010 budget would repeal a key provision of the performance parking pilot set up over a year ago. Instead of dedicating performance parking revenue to the local neighborhood, the amendment would place that revenue into the same general DDOT budget as other meter fees. Reserving extra meter revenue for the neighborhood is a key part of a real performance parking program, and the DC Council should strike that amendment from the Act.
Under performance parking as described by Professor Donald Shoup, cities should set their meter rates high enough to keep about 15% of the spaces free, but low enough to prevent too many spaces from going empty. This encourages some to travel by alternative means, like transit or bicycling, and guarantees that others can find a space without circling for half an hour.
Of course, the higher prices also discourage some people from traveling to the area, which could hurt businesses. To counteract this, performance parking requires dedicating all the new revenue to improvements in the local neighborhood. That could spruce up the streetscapes, which helps businesses, or improve transit, pedestrian and bicycle access, which brings in more customers by other means.
DC's pilot law requires revenue from the Capitol Hill/ballpark and Columbia Heights zones to go toward improvements in those zones. That's the right policy. Unfortunately, the neighborhoods haven't seen demonstrable benefits from these policies yet, because DDOT has still not fully implemented performance parking after a whole year.
Now, the Budget Support Act repeals the section of the performance parking pilot that dedicates revenue from the higher meter rates to the surrounding neighborhoods. The Council should refuse to adopt this change.
Capitol Hill and Columbia Heights agreed to try performance parking, and we told them they would benefit. Before we even give them anything in return or even properly implement the program, we're taking apart its core principles. Not only will this shortchange those neighborhoods, it will dissuade others from agreeing to the same deal. Let's not kill performance parking before it's begun.
If there's one thing residents and visitors alike complain most about Georgetown, it's parking. Residents can't reliably park close to their homes. Visitors circle blocks over and over looking for a spot to leave their car for a few hours as they eat or shop. It seems like a perpetual problem without a solution. But there is a solution for residential street parking near entertainment districts: performance parking.
The basic idea behind performance parking is that if you raise the cost of meter parking to a market rate, some people will who plan on parking for a long period will use a pay garage instead of searching for a cheap spot on the street, while others will switch to transit. That frees up on-street spaces for short-term parkers.
There is not a shortage of parking in the heart of Georgetown. Not by a long shot. It's just mostly located in pay garages. Look at how many pay garages there are in around M and Wisconsin:
That map may even be leaving out one or two. With the possible exception of the small outdoor lots, these garages are almost never full. And why should they be? As long as it only takes 5-10 minutes driving around our residential back streets to eventually find a free parking spot, why would somebody choose to fork over money for parking?
That's the central thrust of performance parking, a philosophy put forward most effectively by Donald Shoup in his book, The High Cost of Free Parking. So long as the city is giving away free or virtually free on-street parking, people will: A: keep driving around in circles looking for the free spot, and B: leave their car in the free spot for as long as possible. Doesn't that sound a lot like Georgetown on a Saturday?
Why not install parking meters throughout the neighborhood, and make people pay a lot more to sit their car in front of our houses for hours at an end? In particular, these would be multi-space meters like the ones we already have on M St. Residents would be exempt from the meters, plus they would get guest passes so that their visitors, including nannies and nurses, could stay longer without having to pay. We could even make some streets resident parking-only.
It's already being done in other parts of the city with success. The first place to try it was neighborhood around Nationals Park. Check out this map:
Each colored street has different rules. For instance, on the purple streets, they allow only residents to park on one side of the street and limit the other side to two hour parking (residents exempt). The green streets prohibit all parking during game-time. The red streets have variable rates: ordinarily it's $1 for the first hour and $1.50 for the next two (three hour limit), but on gameday it's $2 for the first hour and $8 bucks for the next three. In other words, you can park there, but it's not much cheaper than using the stadium's garages. Each household is given one guest pass that acts as a resident pass. There haven't been many reports of abuse of the visitor pass. Although maybe that's because the Nats are just so bad.
It's awfully complicated around Nationals Park because of the huge differences between days with or without events at the park. Georgetown's system could be a lot simpler. How's this?:
Here's what the colors mean:
- Red: Variable meters, residents exempt (except for Wisconsin and M). Weekdays: $1 first hour, $2 second hour. Weekends: $2 first hour, $5 second hour. Max 2 hours for non-residents at all times. Those rates are still well below the garage rates, but it should discourage a good number of parking trollers.
- Blue: One side of the street: residents only. Other side of the street 2 hour maximum parking for non-residents. If the street only has parking on one side then those will be resident parking only (maybe this should be only the case for weekends?)
- Green: 2 hour limit, residents exempt (i.e. what it is now. These areas don't have as severe of a parking problem as the other areas. Obviously if these got a lot worse with the new parking regulations, they could be re-evaluated.)
This is just a brainstorming map. It may not make perfect sense. It's just an example of what we could do if we applied the performance parking concept to Georgetown.
As long as we give away free parking on our residential streets, people will endlessly drive around our blocks looking for it. This causes traffic and pollution and is dangerous since the drivers are often concentrating more on finding parking rather than looking out for pedestrians.
This is an idea that's working in other parts of our city, but there may not be a neighborhood better suited for and more in need of performance parking than Georgetown.
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