Free Parking Isn't Really Free

One of APA's most popular and influential titles is finally in paperback, with a new preface and afterword by the author.

New York Press called the original hardcover "beach reading."

The High Cost of Free ParkingFree parking isn't really free. In fact, the average parking space costs more than the average car. Initially developers pay for the required parking, but soon tenants do, and then their customers, and so on, until the cost of parking has diffused throughout the economy.

When we shop, eat in a restaurant, or see a movie, we pay for parking indirectly because its cost is included in the price of everything from hamburgers to housing. The total subsidy for parking is staggering, about the size of Medicare or national defense budgets. But free parking has other costs: It distorts transportation choices, warps urban form, and degrades the environment.

Often off-street parking requirements don't make sense. A gas station must have 1.5 parking spaces per fuel nozzle. A mausoleum must have 10 parking spaces per maximum number of interments in a one-hour period.

Shoup proposes three things:

  1. Remove zoning requirements for off-street parking
  2. Charge fair market prices for curb parking
  3. Use revenue from curb parking to pay for public improvements in the neighborhoods that generate it.

Shoup unravels current parking policies and proposes sensible, fair alternatives that will free us from the high cost of free parking.

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Donald Shoup, FAICPMeet the Author

Donald Shoup, FAICP, is a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. He holds a doctorate in economics from Yale and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. From 1996 to 2001, Shoup directed the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA and, from 1999 to 2003, he chaired the university's Department of Urban Planning.

Hear from Donald Shoup

APA Podcast

Video: 99% Invisible: Free Parking

Donald Shoup plays with Parking fees and Matchbox Cars

Gone Parkin'
New York Times, Op-Ed, March 29, 2007

San Francisco and L.A. Parking makes the difference. (APA Members Only)
Planning magazine, January 2005

The High Cost of Free Parking excerpt

The Twenty-First Century Parking Problem (chapter 1) (pdf)

More about The High Cost of Free Parking

Feeding the Hungry Parking Meter
Next American City
June 21, 2012

Missing the point about performance parking
Urban Places and Spaces
May 9, 2012

Point Austin: 'Free' is much too expensive
Austin Chronicle
April 6, 2012

America's Romance with Sprawl may be over
USA Today
April 5, 2012

The Future of Intelligent Parking
The Atlantic Cities
March 23, 2012

Page One for "Shoupistas"
Better Cities & Towns
March 16, 2012

Donald Shoup Takes San Francisco
Bastiat Institute
March 19, 2012

A Meter So Expensive, It Creates Parking Spots
New York Times
March 15, 2012

The Real Cost of Free and Abundant Parking in Los Angeles
January 3, 2012

LA Magazine profiles Donald Shoup
December 29, 2011

Between the Lines
Los Angeles Magazine
December 1, 2011

Shoupistas take Los Angeles
Market Urbanism, August 24, 2010

Free Parking Comes at a Price
New York Times, August 14, 2010

Cities begin to Rethink Parking Policies
Planetizen, March 9, 2009

Shoup Dogg, Parking Policy Cult Hero, Fills Fordham Auditorium, December 12, 2007

No Parking Anytime
Slate, April 19, 2007

Donald Shoup Super Fan No. 1
New York Times, Wheels blog, April 13, 2007

We Paved Paradise
Salon, October 1, 2007

'Free Parking' Comes at a price, Author Says
NPR, April 30, 2005

No Parking. You're Welcome.
New York Times, March 27, 2005

Reviews and Endorsements

New York Press Books
May 31, 2005

Top 10 Books List, 2006 Edition

100 Essential Books of Planning: Decade Ten 2000 – 2009
A Celebration of the U.S. Planning Movement Centennial

"Donald Shop is like Jane Jacobs. He starts by exposing the blind spot of a generation and then marshals a new generation of urbanists to make things right. Now that The High Cost of Free Parking is in paperback, I look forward to replacing all the dog-eared copies that have gone missing from our office library."
Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives

"This book should be required reading for anyone who cares about this nation's cities. Shoup helps us understand how we can use the billions we are spending to store motor vehicles in ways that can solve our parking problems and build healthy communities."
Michael S. Dukakis, Former Governor of Massachusetts

"A landmark in the annals of urban planning. This important book deserves a prominent spot on any planner's bookshelf. It's brilliant."
Robert Cervero, Professor of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley

"Urban planners and economists should be embarrassed about how little they thought we have given to off-street parking requirements. Shoup shows how parking standards have fundamentally shaped our built environment, usually for the worse."
José A. Gómez-Ibàñez, Derek C. Bok Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy, Harvard University.

"This is an extraordinary book. An appropriate descriptive subtitle would be 'Everything you really wanted to know about parking but were afraid to ask!"
Journal of Urban Design

"Parking rock star"
Wall Street Journal

"[Shoup] provides a wealth of resources, information, and ammunition for those seeking to change parking regulation, planning, and design paradigms."
Journal of Planning Literature

Parking Cash OutOther Titles

Parking Cash Out (PAS 532)

This report explains how employers who offer their employees the option to cash out their parking subsidies can discourage solo driving and its attendant social, environmental, and infrastructure costs.