Home > Appreciated Quotes > We’re all subsidizing parking and it ain’t cheap

We’re all subsidizing parking and it ain’t cheap

NOTE: Originally posted Aug. 16, 2010, posted as a sticky Dec. 6, 2012. Previous post in this sticky series: Got Parking? Hell Yeah.


Monday’s Quote

“Minimum parking requirements act like a fertility drug for cars.”

~Donald C. Shoup, “The High Cost of Free Parking

Minimum parking requirements, by cities, developers and financial institutions, set parking capacities to handle peak demands and one result is an over built environment. As well, it leads to one of the most cited findings in Shoup’s book, that 99% of all automobile trips end in free parking. What the findings, and the title of the book suggest, is that it is only a small portion of the story. Parking simply isn’t free. Even parking in your driveway has costs.

Basic maintenance, like seal coating, is only the beginning & one of the most obvious costs of parking (photo: GLHowe)

We all subsidize parking, even if you never drive. We do so financially and in opportunity costs that ‘serve the automobile’. This feeds into a system that dictates consequential planning & priorities that otherwise could be focused on development for people, not their 2-ton transportation tools. According to Shoup, we subsidize parking in ever-increasing sums totaling in the billions of dollars ($127 billion in 2002 NYTimes).

One result, is more cars trips.

Traverse City, like many cities, is beholden to systems, cultures and politics that demand cheap, abundant, front-door parking. It includes territorial claims by the vocal and egocentric demands of business owners & residents; people who simply don’t want to ‘over-think‘ the issue & view parking as a right, despite the externalities associated with it. The financing system also encourages the building of things like parking decks as ‘development’, but sees no value in building community capital based on life away from the car.  Just try to remove parking from a new development!

Streetfilms recently sat down with Shoup to talk about parking in New York. The big cities are where his policies should be the easiest sell, as the density and land values already dictate a high rate of transit and active transportation. Yet, resistance is everywhere and smart parking policy is often watered down or pushed back another 10 years, every 10 years. This includes Traverse City.

An introduction to Parking (with a New York focus)

UPDATE: There is also an excellent Radio interview from Change Radio with Professor Shoup with this great quote:

When it comes to parking, staunch conservatives become ardent communists.

I’m still looking for a copy of The High Cost of Fee Parking to borrow.

Any other Shoupistas out there with a copy? 

  1. August 16, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Great post. Reading the “High Cost of Free Parking” changed my life (sorry, I don’t have a copy!). The cost of parking is essentially transferred to real estate prices and to the public – even if you don’t drive. Getting more people into alternate modes not only requires convenient alternatives but fewer subsidies towards cars/parking.

  2. Henry Morgenstein
    August 17, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Terrific radio interview with Shoup. His book costs a fortune, but it should become more popular & perhaps they will publish a paperback version?
    Anyway — I love to be introduced to a new book, a new concept. Pay to Park.

  3. meikasuzanne
    December 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    We’re beginning a parking conversation at our church here in Holland – the city has minimum requirements on the books that would have us paving nearly the entire block right in the center city. Hoping we can make a change here!

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