The Real Cost of Free and Abundant Parking in Los Angeles

Here’s an article from Los Angeles magazine that I’m hoping has caught the eye of Decatur’s Zoning Task Force, who has been tasked (heh heh) with the intensive goal of making wide-ranging zoning recommendations to the City Commission, which includes a reconsideration of the city’s parking ordinance.  The article “Between the Lines” is an extensive look at how the various parking requirements have contributed to starkly different development patterns around the L.A. metro area.

It follows the work of 73 year-old Yale-trained economist David Shoup, author of “The High Cost of Free Parking“.  According to the L.A. magazine article, the premise of Shoup’s book can be boiled down to a single sentence…

What if the free and abundant parking drivers crave is about the worst thing for the life of cities?

After years of being near-universally ignored, some cities are beginning to take the embedded assertions in Shoup’s question to heart.  Los Angeles is just the latest U.S. city drowning in parking to institute a new free-market style parking meter plan…

This spring the [L.A. Department of Transportation] plans to introduce an $18.5 million smart wireless meter system based on Shoup’s theories. Called ExpressPark, the 6,000-meter array will be installed on [LA’s] downtown streets and lots, along with sensors buried in the pavement of every parking spot to detect the presence of cars and price accordingly, from as little as 50 cents an hour to $6. Street parking, like pork bellies, will be open to market forces. As blocks fill, prices will rise; when occupancy drops, so will rates. In an area like downtown ideal for Shoup’s progressive pricing, people will park based on how much they’re willing to pay versus how far they are willing to walk to a destination.

Would such a system help Decatur usher more of its visitors to parking decks and increase city coffers at the same time?  How do the city’s privately owned – and randomly priced – parking decks fit into the equation?  Some of this was addressed in a 2009 parking study – done by a GSU grad student – but with so many conflicting opinions on parking around Decatur among various rightly concerned parties, any potential “solutions” to our ongoing parking issues are still unknown and untested amongst the general population.