Photo by Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council - MAPC on Flickr.

Parking is a cornerstone issue in smart growth and urban policy. Parking rock star Donald Shoup literally wrote the book on the subject. Shoup recently announced his retirement from the UCLA Department of Urban Planning.

In honor of his decades of groundbreaking work on parking in urban centers, here are ten takeaways we learned from Shoup’s career.

1. Parking spots are like fish: Free parking is a tragedy of the commons, also known as the fisherman’s dilemma. Give away space for cars (or let everyone fish for free) and, of course, the fierce competition for spaces wreaks havoc on cities (and leads to overfishing).

2. Free pizza: If we priced pizza like we priced parking, we would run out of pizza.

3. Drive or take the bus: Free parking undervalues car ownership and pushes more people to choose driving over other forms of transportation that really are cheaper.



4. The great State of Parking Lot: In the United States, off-street parking consumes an area roughly the size of Connecticut.

5. Goldilocks and the parking lot: Zoning codes that require a minimum amount of parking base these numbers on faulty analysis. Codes base their parking requirements in what other places do or how many spaces are needed at busy times in car dependent areas. Rarely are these numbers just right.

6. Sunk costs: Forcing builders to build parking takes away land that could be used for other things like more housing, parks, or a cat cafe.

7. The price is right: Not only should we charge for built parking but cities also need to price curbside parking so that pricing reflects demand. Finding the right price helps people appropriately choose whether they want to pay for a scarce resource or find another way to travel.

8. Show me the money: Revenues from parking should go back to the local community for transportation improvements and amenities like trees and bike lanes.

9. Modern payment: The space age allows us to use new-fangled payment strategies including phone based systems and systems that read license plates. These systems also allow cities to deploy dynamic pricing based on times of day that might show higher demand.

10. In Shoup we trust: Cities that have used these ideas are transforming how we approach parking. Congratulations to Donald Shoup for his distinguished and award winning career!

Not enough Shoup for you? Hear directly from the man himself in Streetfilms’ oldie-but-goody explainer video.


Crossposted at APA’s Policy News for Planners.

Abigail Zenner, is a former lobbyist turned communications specialist. She specializes in taking technical urban planning jargon and turning it into readable blog posts. When she’s not nerding out about urban planning, transportation, and American History, you may find her teaching a fitness class. Her blog posts represent her personal views only.