Shoup, Donald 1938–

views updated

Shoup, Donald 1938–

(Donald C. Shoup)


Born 1938, in Long Beach, CA. Education: Yale University, B.E., 1961, B.A., 1962, M.A. 1965, Ph.D., 1968.


Office—Urban Planning, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1656. E-mail—[email protected]


University of California, Los Angeles, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, research economist, 1968-70, associate professor of urban planning, 1974-80, professor, 1980—, director Institute of Transportation Studies, 1996-2001, chair, department of urban planning, 1998-2002; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, assistant professor, 1970-74; University of Hawaii, Honolulu, visiting assistant professor, 1972; Cambridge University, England, visiting scholar, 1987; American Institute of Certified Planners, fellow, 2004—.


(With Ruth P. Mack) Advance Land Acquisition by Local Governments: Analysis as an Aid to Policy, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (Washington, DC), 1968.

(With Arthur Rosett) Fiscal Exploitation of Central Cities by Overlapping Governments: A Case Study of Law Enforcement Finance in Los Angeles County, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of California (Los Angeles, CA), 1969.

(With Stephen L. Mehay) Program Budgeting for Urban Police Services, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of California (Los Angeles, CA), 1971.

The High Cost of Free Parking, Planners Press (Chicago, IL), 2005.

Parking Cash Out, American Planning Association (Chicago, IL), 2005.


In The High Cost of Free Parking, Donald Shoup, professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzes the socioeconomic consequences of motor vehicle parking. Free parking, as Shoup makes clear, is often seen as a civic right, but contributes to unexpected problems. Constant increases in the demand for parking affects land use and encourages sprawling and inefficient development. Free parking also unfairly subsidizes those who own vehicles and encourages increased vehicle use, with attendant environmental consequences. And free parking is, in general, an unfair and regressive subsidy that penalizes those who own fewer vehicles than average. Also associated with free parking are increased housing costs. As Canadian Journal of Urban Research contributor Todd Litman put it in a review of The High Cost of Free Parking, "Society has essentially decided to give motorists a valuable gift, with costs borne indirectly through higher rents, taxes and retail prices, and lower employee benefits."

Shoup explains how current parking policies evolved, details their various economic costs, and makes recommendations for more effective and equitable manage- ment of parking. He presents a case, which many reviewers found convincing, for abandoning the free parking model for a fee-based one, arguing that such a change would benefit both individual consumers and society. Since the post-World War II period, Shoup writes, parking planning was based on the goal of providing plentiful free parking at every destination, with little attention to cost. Zoning regulations and other policies thus required the building of more parking facilities than necessary—a wasteful practice since, as Shoup points out, parking facilities are rarely used to capacity. Efforts to create plentiful free parking also degrade urban design; parking lots and garages tend to be ugly and contribute to unattractive streetscapes and neighborhoods.

Ironically, free parking actually makes it more difficult to find available parking spaces, because it encourages more people to drive, clogging roads and increasing traffic congestion. With drivers determined to find free parking spaces wherever they go, they are inclined to cruise around for an available curbside space rather than park in a facility that charges a fee. As Parviz A. Koushki, writing in Transportation Reviews, summarized: "A measured estimate of the excess vehicle-miles of cruising within a fifteen-block commercial district in downtown Los Angeles, CA, resulted in a scarcely imaginable 945,000 annual vehicle-miles of travel, which is equivalent to thirty-eight trips around the world or two round-trip journeys to the Moon! Cruising for curb parking in a mere fifteen-block area thus wasted 100,000 hours (eleven years) of drivers' time, consumed 47,000 gallons of fuel and produced 730 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Shoup takes pains to emphasize that the ‘aggregate consequences of all this cruising—congested traffic, wasted time, squandered fuel, and polluted air—are staggering.’"

Citing the example of communities that have adopted a paid-parking model, Shoup argues that this policy represents a wiser use of resources and actually stimulates economic development. John Zacharias, writing in the Urban History Review, observed: "Those who would like to see a more balanced transportation system with a greater emphasis on non-motorized and public modes of transportation could use some of Professor Shoup's arguments. [The High Cost of Free Parking] is a great parting shot in the timely debate on the role of city governments in supplying infrastructure for private transportation." Praising Shoup's extensive research, witty and humorous tone, thorough and detailed analysis, and "delight of scholarship," Litman concluded, "I hope [the book] becomes a classic and a model for future technical books."

"Shoup's book is marvelous and wonderful," wrote Daniel B. Klein in the Independent Review. "It explains that parking policy is stuck in a self-feeding cycle. It brilliantly criticizes the culture of parking policymakers. It tells all facets of the history. It provides theoretical underpinnings. It displays rich empirical evidence. It makes novel connections and illuminates old issues. It bubbles with illustrations, cultural allusions, and ripe quotations. And its 734 pages are gracefully written. It is one of the best policy books I know."

Shoup began his study of parking issues by looking at employer-paid parking benefits. "Most employers provide free parking as a fringe benefit," he explained in remarks quoted by Planning contributor Ruth Eckdish Knack. "But they don't usually give anything to people who walk or ride a bike or take the bus to work. And those people tend to be less well-off than the drivers. That seemed really unfair." Shoup added: "‘It's astonishing to me that there's so little interest, even among planners,’ he continues. ‘Look at the literature. You'll find very little analysis of parking. I always advise young academics who are looking for a research topic to choose something that other people have overlooked or thought unimportant. Parking is an example.’" In recommending fee-based parking policies, Shoup explained that paid parking would benefit commercial interests and individual consumers, if the revenues raised were used to pay for public improvements. "That money could go to steam clean the sidewalks or improve facades or plant street trees, or put wires underground, or clean the snow off the streets," he said. "The point is that you spend the money right in front of the parking meter so that the residents can see an improvement. Then they'll say, yes, why shouldn't outsiders pay for parking on our street?"

Shoup has also written a report for the federal government, Parking Cash Out. As he explained to Knack, the Clinton administration was prepared to act on this plan, and Shoup was even invited to the White House when the Climate Change Action Plan was announced. But "it turned out that the federal tax code actually prohibited parking cash out. The code said that employer-paid parking was tax-exempt only if it was offered in addition to, not in lieu of, cash. That finally got straightened out."

In an interview with Paul Shigley in the California Planning and Development Report, Shoup emphasized that his views should not be considered extreme. "Those on the left think I'm anti-car," he commented. "Those on the right think I'm anti-regulation. But I'm neither. Cars are fine if we use them correctly. Regulations are fine if we use them wisely. I hope I've made a connection to both camps."



Shoup, Donald, The High Cost of Free Parking, Planners Press (Chicago, IL), 2005.


American City & County, April 1, 2005, "There's No Such Thing as Free Parking Space."

Business Wire, March 21, 2005, "Free Parking Isn't: New Book Finds Parking Policies Devastating Cities; Subsidies Waste Billions."

California Planning & Development Report, May 1, 2005, Paul Shigley, "Q&A," p. 12.

Canadian Journal of Urban Research, June 22, 2006, Todd Litman, review of The High Cost of Free Parking, p. 141.

Independent Review, September 22, 2006, Daniel B. Klein, "Free Parking versus Free Markets," p. 289.

Journal of Economic Literature, September 1, 2005, review of The High Cost of Free Parking, p. 937.

Journal of Regional Science, August 1, 2006, "Transport of Delight: The Mythical Conception of Rail Transit in Los Angeles," p. 568.

Journal of the American Planning Association, January 1, 1995, Donald Shoup, "An Opportunity to Reduce Minimum Parking Requirements," p. 14; September 22, 2005, David Levinson, review of The High Cost of Free Parking, p. 459; January 1, 2007, Richard Willson, "Parking Management Best Practices," p. 129.

Journal of Urban Planning and Development, December 1, 2005, Michael Manville, "Parking, People, and Cities," p. 233.

New York Times, March 29, 2007, "Gone Parkin'," p. 25.

Planning, January 1, 2005, Donald Shoup, review of The High Cost of Free Parking, p. 36; May 1, 2005, Ruth Eckdish Knack, "Pay as You Park: UCLA Professor Donald Shoup Inspires a Passion for Parking," p. 4.

Regional Studies, August 1, 2006, Amy Glasmeir, review of The High Cost of Free Parking, p. 692.

Sacramento Bee, April 26, 2007, Carlos Alcala, "The Sacramento Bee, Calif, Antelope Community News Column: Curbing the Desire for an On-Street Spot."

Transport Reviews, September, 2006, Parviz A. Koushki, review of The High Cost of Free Parking, p. 663.

UPI NewsTrack, March 21, 2005, "New Book Attacks Free Parking."

Urban History Review, March 22, 2006, John Zacharias, review of The High Cost of Free Parking, p. 60.

William Mitchell Law Review, January 1, 2007, Michael Lewyn, review of The High Cost of Free Parking, p. 613.


All Things Considered, (April 20, 2008), Jennifer Ludden, author interview.

UCLA Web site, (April 20, 2008), faculty profile.

About this article

Shoup, Donald 1938–

Updated About content Print Article


Shoup, Donald 1938–