By Kate Beck
Book Review: The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup
- Free parking contributes to urban sprawl, automobile dependence, public health problems and environmental degradation. Because cities have been designed with the idea that everyone should be able to park for free wherever they are going, we have sprawling cities with more traffic, higher energy consumption, more pollution and fewer opportunities for us to walk, bike or take city transit.
- When parking is free, drivers don’t pay the cost of parking, we all do. Let’s look at a new development such as a neighborhood convenience store. The developer has to include a certain number of parking spaces to meet city requirements and the cost of building these spaces can be $100 000s. This cost is included in the rental price of the convenience store, and because the convenience store’s rent is going to be higher, this cost is then factored into the price of products we buy at the store, so we pay for parking through the things we buy, even if we haven’t used a parking space.
- We can start to fix these problems by charging drivers for parking. Charging drivers for parking does a couple of things. Firstly, it makes drivers and the public realize how much parking really does cost, in terms of the development, the upkeep costs, and the loss of space for commercial or residential land uses. Secondly, it acts as an incentive for people to travel differently, either by walking or biking, taking city transit, carpooling, or driving but parking for shorter periods of time.
- The cost of parking should be based on demand. Shoup argues that, like the majority of our economy, parking prices should be based on demand rather than arbitrarily decided by municipalities. This means that parking will be more expensive during peak hours and parking close to popular destinations, like 17th Ave or the Saddledome will be more expensive than parking further away.
- ALL of the money we collect from parking should be put back into the communities it was collected from. Anyone who has ever been to a community association meeting knows that parking is a big issue, and most of the time, residents and businesses don’t like to charge for parking. Shoup states that people are often more willing to charge for parking if this money is used to improve their community. The money can go to cleaning streets, fixing sidewalks, planting public gardens, that sort of thing.