Cities Will Continue to Reallocate Street Parking for Other Uses Like Bike Lanes, And Dining Space.

Bloomberg Businessweek September 6, 2021 pp28-30 |The Cities Issue| “There Is No Free Parking” “The pandemic has reshaped cities’ ideas about the best uses for public space. A longtime parking-reform advocate and a growing number of city halls say it’s about time” by Dayna Evans



University Avenue in Palo Alto has been largely converted during the pandemic to dining and even entertainment space. Will tailwinds from the pandemic lead to permanent reductions in street-parking in favor of more people and environmentally friendly uses? Advocates call for increasing parking rates to reflect their true value and to use that money to fund the neighborhood efforts for green initiatives.


Read the Bloomberg Business article for all details.


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Back in 2005 Donald Shoup, a UCLA professor, wrote The High Cost of Free Parking. Now in 2021 some of his ideas are gaining traction enabled in part by the pandemic. The pandemic aided adoption of many his ideas when restaurants were allowed to use parking spaces for outdoor dining. Such a change in use would been impossible given the resistance to changing parking allocations, especially in shopping areas. With the rise in UBER/LYFT and hopefully public transit, such options may be more acceptable to critics.


The professor notes that “America’s 250 million cars have an estimated 2 billion parking spots and [of course cars] spend 95% of their time parked…[and that] U.S. cities dedicate more land to parking than any other single use.” “America has an average of 1,000 square feet of parking for each car, vs. 800 square feet of housing per person.” “Most American restaurants have at least three times the square footage devoted to parking as they do to the restaurant itself.”


Shoup suggested three reforms. “1. Stop requiring off-street parking for new developments. 2. Price street parking according to market value, based on the desirability of the space, the time of day and the number of open spots. 3. Spend that revenue on initiatives to better the surrounding neighborhoods.”


Shoup has a large following of devotees, called Shoupistas, that “own cars and only oppose under-priced parking.” One of them, Kevn Holliday, commented “We aren’t going to eliminate cars any time soon...so we need to make parking more beneficial to the communities around the spaces.”


So are there really examples of these recommendations being implemented?


In Austin, back in 2011 one Shoupistas, Leah Bojo working as a land use consultant helped set up “Austin’s Parking Benefit District.” Proceeds now benefit the development of bike lanes and trails near the University of Texas and along the lakeside running trail in Zilker park as examples.


In Berkeley, another Shoupistas, Lori Droste “has looked to subsidize housing affordability.” The argument is that older regulations requiring so much off-street parking essentially tacks those costs onto the tenant’s rent bill. Shoup noted that “construction costs for parking structures in a dozen U. S. cities averaged $24,000 per space aboveground and $34,000 per space underneath…” Droste’s proposal was entitled “Green Affordable Housing Package” and was passed recently after sitting in “planning commission purgatory from 2015…”


In Phoenix, a development called “Culdesac Tempe...won’t have any parking…(Residents and visitors will have to bike or take public transit).”


The naysayers complain that higher pricing for parking will create financial hardship. Shoupistas respond “if you own a car, you can afford to park it. Otherwise someone else is paying the price.”