Graphing Parking is a site dedicated to visualizing the wonkery laid out in Don Shoup’s tome The High Cost of Free Parking. It maps out visually the requirements that different cities have for parking associated with various land uses all over the country. Occasionally they make sense…. but generally, it’s a random city destroying mess.
An article from the New York Times about the architecture of parking lots, and how they might be much better used as public spaces with some design tweaks. Some cities like Houston and LA, dedicate a full third of their land area to parking lots, creating hard paved urban deserts and storm runoff disasters. They say that simply suggesting that we “buy fewer cars” is glib (I disagree) but clearly point out the folly of requiring vast quantities of parking by law, and then giving it away for free, thus hiding the true costs.
Prices affect parking less than San Francisco expected, in its ongoing SFPark experiment, fully implementing dynamic parking prices with target occupancy rates. Apparently people are willing to pay quite a bit more to be right next to their destination, instead of even one block away. Either that, or they don’t realize how much parking prices vary block by block. Perhaps each of the parking kiosks should have a prominent street-facing display, readable by drivers, advertizing the price they charge per hour?
I would like to urge you to support AB 1186, an effort to enhance the transparency of parking costs for easing the enforcement of California’s parking cash-out legislation. This bill has been introduced by Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (District 40), and is due for a hearing in the Assembly Transportation Committee on May 11th. The cost of parking is enormous, generally hidden, and heavily subsidized, producing significant distortions in the transportation choices made by Californians. Making the price of parking transparent, and enabling those who choose not to drive to recoup those costs, removing the hidden subsidies, is in the best interest of business, transit authorities, the citizens, and California in general. For instance, at my own institution in Pasadena, the California Institute of Technology, we are forced by city regulations to provide what would constitute a vast oversupply of parking were employees and students required to pay the true price of providing those spaces, wasting $3 million each year (approximately $1000 per person on the campus), that could be better spent on our core scientific research and education mission. While this bill unfortunately would not directly address this waste, it is a step in the right direction, and I strongly encourage you to consider other such steps.