Sonoma County Transportation & Land Use Coalition


Some other Shoup writings (most of the material is in his recent book):

His paper "Instead of Free Parking" — was published in two lengths. The short version appeared in the ITS publication Access. Download PDF file. (176 kb).

The longer version - entitled "In Lieu of Required Parking", contains more detail. An original PDF image file was converted to a standard PDF file, preserving the content and an approximation of the format. Download PDF file. (773 kb).

Text of a 1995 paper on curb parking by Shoup. Click here


The most notable research on parking has been done over the years by Professor Donald Shoup and his students at UCLA.

Shoup was the inventor of Parking Cashout, which is now included in the laws of both California and the U.S. It is probably fair to say that Shoup is chiefly responsible for disseminating most of the innovative ideas for parking in recent decades.

Although he has inspired practioners for years and has been widely cited, his influence is likely accelerate rapidly with the recent publication of his new book, The High Cost of Free Parking.










Chapters 1, 16, 17 and 19 from Donald Shoup's new book, The High Cost of Free Parking , are posted here. Chapter 16 talks about Parking Benefit Districts in business-commercial areas, and Chapter 17 shows how they work in residential neighborhoods. Chapter 19 treats parking's potential as an element in urban finance.

The High Cost of Free Parking was published by The Planners Press of the American Planning Association in March 2005. It can be obtained directly from APA at, Barnes & Noble, or some bookstores in larger cities.



Chapter 1 "The Twenty-first Century
Parking Problem"

There is no such thing as “free” parking. The cost of parking is hidden in higher prices for everything else.
In addition to the monetary cost, which is enormous, free parking imposes many other hidden costs on cities, the economy, and the environment.

When all new buildings were required to provide on-site parking one problem — the shortage of free curb parking—was solved, but the solution soon created many new problems.

Off-street parking requirements encourage everyone to drive wherever they go because they know they can usually park free when they get there: 87 percent of all trips in the U.S. are now made by personal motor vehicles, and only 1.5 percent by public transit.

Off-street parking requirements collectivize the cost of parking because
they allow everyone to park free at everyone else’s expense. When the
cost of parking is hidden in the prices of other goods and services, no one
can pay less for parking by using less of it. Bundling the cost of parking
into higher prices for everything else skews travel choices toward cars
and away from public transit, cycling, and walking. Off-street parking
requirements thus change the way we build our cities, the way we travel,
and how much energy we consume. All the required parking spaces use
up land, spread the city out, and increase travel distances.

Because highway transportation accounts for half of U.S. oil consumption, which is a quarter of the world’s oil production,
American motor vehicles now consume one-eighth of the
world’s oil. Free parking helps to explain this extreme automobile
dependence, rapid urban sprawl, and extravagant energy use.

Download Chapter 1 - 903 Kb PDF file


Chapter 16 "Turning Small Change into Big Changes"

Cities can change the politics of parking if they earmark curb parking revenue to pay for public goods in the
neighborhoods that generate it.

If each neighborhood kept all the curb parking revenue it generated, the neighborhoods that receive the revenue would form a powerful new constituency for market prices. If nonresidents pay for curb parking, and the city spends the revenue to benefit the residents, charging for curb parking can become a politically popular policy.

How this proposal might work is explained in two settings: business districts (in this chapter) and residential neighborhoods (in Chapter 17).

Suppose the city creates a "parking benefit district" in a business district in which all the meter revenue is spent to pay for public amenities that can attract customers, such as cleaning the sidewalks, planting street trees, improving store facades, putting the overhead utility wires underground, and ensuring public safety. The meter revenue will help make the business district a place where people want to be, rather than merely a place where they can park free.

Spending the meter revenue to improve the area where it is collected can convince merchants and property owners to buy into the idea of market-priced curb parking.

While true that shoppers dislike parking fees, they value parking convenience above all. Given the limited amount of curb parking, it is more cost effective to charge for the parking than to impose time limits in order to make sure people can always find a place to park.

If merchants realize that many customers value convenient parking more than free parking, and know that the business district will receive all the meter revenue, they will soon see the advantages of market-rate prices for
curb parking spaces.

In commercial areas, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are the logical recipients for parking revenue. BIDs are special taxing jurisdictions that finance public improvements in commercial areas. The BID is based on state and local law, which permits property owners and merchants to band together to use the city's tax collection powers to "assess" themselves. These funds are
collected by the city and returned in their entirety to the BID and are used for purchasing supplemental services (e.g. maintenance, sanitation, security, promotions and special events) and capital improvements.

The use of the Parking Benefit District mechanism played a major part in the revival of "Old Pasadena." In Westwood Village, by contrast, business suffered a long decline due to a traditional approach of making parking cheaper.

San Diego is another city which has furthered the revival of some of its older areas by using parking revenue to finance improvements within the areas where the revenue is collected.

A six page synopsis of the chapter was published in the Fall of 2003 issue 23 of Access. It may be downloaded in PDF format from the UC website at

An early author's draft of "Turning Small Change into Big Changes", which Shoup co-authored with Douglas Kolozsvari, is reproduced here in its entirety.

Part 1 of 3 html files or,
entire chapter, 932Kb PDF


Chapter 17 "Taxing Foreigners Living Abroad"

People that live in neighborhoods near business districts or other generators of heavy traffic and parking usually experience a "spillover effect" where their street parking is taken by outsiders. These areas often have enough problems with curb space for their own cars.Many cities deal with these problems by establishing Residential Parking Permit Districts that reserve all curb spaces in a neighborhood for residents and their guests. These permit districts prevent parking spillover from adjacent commercial areas, but they also create many unused curb spaces in residential permit districts, which indicate an overreaction to the spillover problem. As an alternative to curb parking that is first overused when free and then underused in a permit district, a market in curb parking can be created to create the right balance, using Parking Benefit Districts.Benefit Districts differ from conventional Permit Districts in two ways:
1. Nonresidents can park on the streets in a benefit district if they pay the fair-market price.
2. The city earmarks the resulting revenue to finance added public services in the district.The price for nonresident parking in a benefit district can be set high enough to ensure vacancies for both residents (who park free) and nonresidents (who pay to park). The new revenue can finance additional public services in the neighborhood, beyond those provided everywhere in the city.

Charging nonresidents for curb parking resembles Monty Python’s plan to solve Britain’s economic problems by taxing all foreigners living abroad.A market in curb parking can be created in very small steps. Usually an impacted neighborhood will already have formed a Residential Parking Permit District. If the residents see that this results in many vacant spaces, and they know that outsiders would be willing to pay handsomely for those spaces, the neighborhoods can make those spaces available for a price through the Parking Benefit District.The transition can be gradual. It can be done on a block by block basis, as the local residents discover the desirability of doing so.

Download complete (pre-publication) Chaper 17  109Kb PDF file



Chapter 19 "The Ideal Source of Local Public Revenue"

The "parking problem" was created by the way we've always handled curb parking. This problem can be solved in three steps: (1) charge market prices for curb parking; (2) return the revenue to finance neighborhood public improvements; and (3) remove off-street parking requirements.

No other source of public revenue can so easily bring in so much money and simultaneously improve transportation, land use, and the environment. All things considered, land rent from market priced curb parking is an ideal source of local public revenue.

Charging market prices for curb parking is not only sound transportation policy, but also
sound fiscal policy. It can be related to the ideas of the nineteenth century reformer Henry George, who argued that land rent is the most appropriate source of government revenue.

We rarely consider curb parking spaces to be “rented,” but they are, albeit on a small scale and for a short duration. A parking space is the smallest parcel of land commonly rented, but between 5 and 8 percent of urban land is devoted to curb parking, so charging the market price for it can yield substantial revenue.

Curb parking resembles a spot market in rented land, which makes it well suited to market pricing. Rental prices can vary by hour of the day, day of the week, and time of the year. Mispricing is immediately obvious: if the price is too high, too many curb spaces will be vacant, while if it is too low, too many will be occupied. The solution is simple in either case: adjust the price. Curb parking can thus become the most efficient land market in any city.

Another "great idea" that has never gotten anywhere is charging congestion tolls on highways. It could be made to work in a way similar to the way curb parking could become practical. If the revenues were returned to the cities with the congested highways, there would be a strong political will to have the tolls.

This concept is introduced in Chapter 19, and a case study is presented in Appendix J.

Download pre-publication versions of

Chapter 19 - 400 Kb PDF file

Appendix G - 220 Kb PDF file