Free Parking Isn’t Free

Donald Shoup wants car owners to pay for parking directly:

Minimum parking requirements have severed the link between the cost of providing a parking space and the price that drivers pay for it. Cities respond to increasing vehicle travel by increasing their parking requirements, and when citizens then object to traffic congestion, cities respond by restricting development density and requiring even more parking. The increased travel distances between sites surrounded by parking lots increase the need for cars for most trips, and the increased car ownership further inflames the opposition to charging anything for parking.

Neither planners nor politicians seem to realize, however, that the parking requirements (and the free parking they produce) accelerate sprawl. Cars have replaced people as zoning’s real concern, and free parking has become the arbiter of urban form, with serious consequences far beyond parking itself.