But Did San Francisco Follow the 'Rules'?
August, 2005Editor, Parking Today:
I read with interest your book review of "The High Cost of Parking" by Donald Shoup. Many of the ideas presented by Mr. Shoup are not new and have, in fact, been put in place here in San Francisco.
I believe the city planners decided in the 1960s that if the skyscrapers downtown did not provide garages large enough (or no parking at all), then it would force workers to use public transportation alternatives.
Today's net result is $200 to $300 a month parking rates with one-year waiting lists. Great for my industry, but not so great for urban "planning."
Don't get me wrong. I am never in favor of government regulation, but a middle-ground mentality would make more sense.
City governments attempt to "nuance" what would otherwise be very simple philosophies. If I remember correctly, Embarcadero Center was built with very large associated garages, and there are a number of large city garages south of Market (Moscone Center and 5th and Mission come to mind). If the planners had simply let the developers put in as much parking as they thought they needed and kept out of the process, there would have been a bit more parking for each building.
My guess is that if the city would charge what on-street parking is worth, instead of subsidizing the parking, more people would find ways to get around and store their cars outside the city. The $200 to $300 rates seem cheap when you compare them to New York City.
Remember Shoup's simple rules - Charge what parking costs. Set on-street rates so that 15 percent of the spaces are empty. Make sure the money goes to the neighborhood in which the parking is located and not into the General Fund. Get urban planners out of the mix. And unbundle parking from the costs folks pay for goods, rents and services. I doubt seriously if San Francisco followed any of these rules too carefully. Shoup's book, "The High Cost of Free Parking," is worth the read. Editor