After Decades of Research and Advocacy, Parking Reform Is Finally a Hot Topic

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, is highlighted in the New York Times and Public Square, a journal of the Congress for New Urbanism, for his impact on parking policies nationwide. Decades of auto-centric planning in the United States have made it difficult to achieve walkable cities, but more and more local and state governments are overhauling their parking regulations. They include cities such as Pasadena and San Jose, which have joined the parking reform train to encourage walkable and bikeable spaces. The humble parking spot is suddenly a hot topic, the New York Times writes, even though Shoup has been promoting these reforms since the 1970s. His 2005 book “The High Cost of Free Parking” had an impact on the entire country and is now considered a classic in planning literature. “Shoup’s influence is a credit to persistence and focus in academic research,” Public Square noted.


Shoup Explains the Hidden High Cost of Free Parking

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, appeared on the podcast The War on Cars to discuss issues that arise as a result of providing free parking. Author of the book “The High Cost of Free Parking,” Shoup explained that cars are parked 95% of the time so a major concern becomes finding places to put these cars. Prioritizing cars has detrimental effects on housing costs, congestion and climate change, he argues. One of the policy solutions Shoup proposes is having more parking meters on the street and using revenues to improve the neighborhood. “All the meter money has to go for services on the metered block so that people and businesses on that block see that if there are meters, they get clean sidewalks, they get healthy street trees,” he said. This type of change can garner political support because residents will see a direct benefit in their communities, he said. 


On the Clear, Practical and Revolutionary Work of Don Shoup

Donald Shoup’s travels down paths that other academics overlooked have profoundly changed the way we understand cities, and inspired a viable movement to improve them. That’s the message of an essay published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research that offers a personal glimpse into the life and scholarship of Shoup, the distinguished professor whose research has shed light on the consequences of misguided parking policies. The essay is written by Michael Manville, his colleague on the UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty, who describes Shoup as the unique academic who offers practical, specific solutions to policy puzzles. His work has led to a “monumental act of reform” in California, a new law abolishing parking requirements within half a mile of transit. “What truly sets Don apart is his relentless pursuit of clarity,” Manville writes. “Don has shown that when we give people knowledge, they will use it, and the world will, in small steps, get better.” 


Celebrating an End to a ‘Slow-Moving Disaster’

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Los Angeles Times about California’s new law barring local governments from mandating parking spaces as part of most development near transit stops. “This is one of the biggest land-use reforms in the country,” Manville said after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 2097 into law. “Parking requirements have been an absolutely slow-moving disaster,” Manville said. “We are turning the ship around.” News outlets including StreetsBlog, Bloomberg CityLab and Mother Jones credited research by Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, with laying the groundwork for AB 2097. Shoup’s decades of scholarship pointed out the faulty and arbitrary reasoning behind parking requirements, whose unintended consequences have included raising the cost of of housing and commercial development, creating incentives to drive instead of using transit, and increasing emissions.


Shoup, Manville on Prospects of Statewide Parking Reform

A Slate article on California legislation to prohibit minimum parking requirements in areas near public transit called on two land use experts on UCLA Luskin’s Urban Planning faculty: Donald Shoup and Michael Manville. The bill, AB 2097, which awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, would preempt local parking rules statewide and promises to bring down the cost of new construction. “The way you really get affordable housing is to get rid of parking requirements,” Shoup said. “That reduces the price of housing for everybody, not just low-income residents.” Experts cautioned against overnight changes if the bill becomes law. “There’s very particular circumstances in California that allow you to pull the trigger on a building with no parking, and some of those places are already free from parking rules, like San Francisco,” Manville said. Manville also co-authored a San Francisco Chronicle commentary about lessons Los Angeles can learn from San Francisco’s parking reforms.


Shoup on Long Road to Parking Reform

A Governing article on California’s move away from policies that promote car-oriented communities cited Donald Shoup, the distinguished research professor of urban planning who has spent his career studying the social, economic and environmental impact of parking policies. Shoup, author of the seminal 2005 book “The High Cost of Free Parking,” has long argued that rules mandating excess parking in new development projects add to the overlapping crises of housing affordability, urban sprawl and climate change. Influenced by Shoup’s work, cities from Buffalo to Minneapolis to San Diego have begun reducing or eliminating some of their minimum parking requirements. A new bill in California, which awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, would be a substantial acceleration of that trend — and a remarkable capstone to Shoup’s academic career, the article noted. “It’s only been 50 years,” Shoup said. “It makes me feel grateful for longevity.”

Shoup on the Wisdom of Eliminating Parking Requirements

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, was mentioned in a New York Times opinion piece about the hidden consequences of parking requirements. In his book “The High Cost of Free Parking,” Shoup explained that rules that require developers to include a minimum number of parking spaces increase real estate costs. Furthermore, building more parking lots creates more urban sprawl, making cities less walkable and more car-dependent. Parking lots also exacerbate the effects of global warming by creating urban heat islands that absorb and reflect heat. Shoup has also noted that parking requirements worsen inequality by forcing people who can’t afford to drive a car to still pay for parking infrastructure. “People who are too poor to own a car pay more for their groceries to ensure that richer people can park free when they drive to the store,” Shoup wrote. Now, California is considering legislation that would eliminate or reform minimum parking regulations.

Shoup on What to Do About L.A.’s Cracked Sidewalks

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, spoke with NBC4 News about Los Angeles’ backlog of 50,000 complaints about broken sidewalks. An audit last year found that the city pays about $7 million a year to settle injury claims related to sidewalks in disrepair. “In L.A., the sidewalks are a disgrace,” Shoup said. “We could use them as an obstacle course for the 2028 Olympics.” California cities including Pasadena and Oakland have passed “point of sale” ordinances that require homeowners to fix damaged sidewalks in front of their properties when they sell their homes, Shoup said. “People ought to pay for sidewalk repairs when it’s convenient for them and when they have the cash available. And that is at the time of sale.” He added, however, that the sidewalks are currently so dangerous that the city must look for a quicker fix.

Shoup Weighs In on NYC Parking Angst

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, spoke to the New York Times about the recent decision to return to twice-a-week street sweeping in New York City. During the pandemic, street sweeping was reduced to once per week as city services were scaled back. Many New Yorkers welcomed the change, which required them to move their cars just once a week, but others complained that the cleanliness of streets across the city declined. Mayor Eric Adams recently announced that twice-weekly street sweeping would resume, and drivers will once again have to move their cars two times a week to avoid a fine. According to Shoup, car owners in the city are still getting a good deal. “Drivers are complaining that they have to move their car, and they’re parking for free on some of the most valuable land on Earth,” Shoup said.

Shoup Recommends Recalibrating Parking Rates Often

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, was mentioned in a TAPinto article about the debate surrounding parking permits in Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton created a task force to invite public comment on allocation and pricing of parking permits. The task force is considering an increase in the price of parking and the establishment of a timeline to review parking demand and prices. Shoup has long argued that the price of parking should be adjusted until you have the right balance of occupied and vacant spaces. The article cited Columbus, Ohio, which adopted a parking permit plan based on Shoup’s recommendations. The Columbus system recalibrates parking rates every three months to balance supply and demand. It also uses a license plate recognition system to enforce paid parking and identify open parking spaces in real time.