UCLA Parking Guru Releases Follow-Up to Groundbreaking Book Donald Shoup’s ‘Parking and the City’ highlights progress in parking reform research and action, as former doctoral students form a new generation of planning scholars making important contributions

By Stan Paul

“A city where everyone happily pays for everyone else’s free parking is a fool’s paradise.”
— Donald Shoup, “Parking and the City”

“Parking is no longer uncool,” says Donald Shoup, whose newly published book, “Parking and the City,” highlights the remarkable interest, implementation of reforms and growth of research that followed his landmark 2005 publication, “The High Cost of Free Parking.”

The new book, by the distinguished research professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, serves as an update to work that has caught the attention of leaders and lawmakers, and proven influential locally, nationally and internationally.

“Parking is the Cinderella of transportation,” writes Shoup in his introduction, explaining that the field received little attention or status for many years. More recently, “many academics have joined in what is now almost a feeding frenzy. … Parking is far too important not to study,” asserts Shoup, who started as a lone pioneer in the field more than four decades ago.

“Parking is the single biggest land use in most cities; there’s more land devoted to parking than there is to housing or industry or commerce or offices,” said Shoup in an interview. Citing “The High Cost of Free Parking,” he reminds readers that Los Angeles has more parking spaces per square mile than any other city.

In his new book, Shoup reiterates and distills the earlier 800-page work into three recommended parking reforms designed to improve cities, the economy and the environment:

  • Remove off-street parking requirements
  • Charge the right prices for on-street parking
  • Spend the parking revenue to improve public services on the metered streets

“Each of these policies supports the other two,” writes Shoup. They counteract what he describes as “three unwisely adopted car-friendly policies” that arose from the beginning of the automobile age: separated land uses, low density, and ample free parking to create drivable cities while undermining walkable neighborhoods.

Shoup persistently advocates for removal of off-street parking requirements, allowing developers and businesses to decide how much parking to provide. Charging the “right price,” or lowest price — varying dynamically throughout the day — that can keep a few spaces open, will allow convenient access, ease congestion, conserve fuel, and reduce pollution caused by unnecessary idling and block-circling. In support of the third point, Shoup hypothesizes, “If everybody sees their meter money at work, the new public services can make demand-based prices for on-street parking politically popular.”

Shoup first wrote about parking in 1975. “I don’t think my ideas have changed at all,” he says. “But, I’ve learned an enormous amount since then.”

As part of his ongoing research, Shoup visits cities, talks to public officials and asks what works and what doesn’t.

“Parking and the City” includes 51 chapters that summarize recent academic research on parking, detailing the experiences of practitioners who charge market prices for on-street parking. In addition, the chapters explain how Shoup’s three recommendations, if followed, “…may be the cheapest, fastest, and simplest way to improve cities, the economy, and the environment, one parking space at a time.”

Among the 46 contributors are 11 former UCLA Luskin Urban Planning master’s and doctoral students who are making their own significant contributions to the field. Former planning student Michael Manville, now an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, contributed four chapters.

“The way cities approach parking has massive consequences for how we travel, how our cities look, and how and where we build housing,” Manville says. “Don saw this before almost anyone else, and pursued it unlike anyone else.”

“What this book showcases is Don’s equal talents as a researcher, mentor and activist. His talents as a researcher are evident in the groundswell of parking research that he inspired.  It is safe to say that many of the chapters in this book would not have been written had Don not published “The High Cost of Free Parking.” His talents as a mentor are on display in the number of former students who are doing that research,” Manville says.

“I think they have gone completely in their own direction,” Shoup says of his former students. “I hope I helped in that regard.”

“Parking and the City,” a Planners Press Book, is available through Routledge.

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