Who Are Shoupistas?

January, 2006

This question was asked by a correspondent who obviously hasn't been reading Parking Today for long. The answer: Shoupistas are followers of Don Shoup, the UCLA professor who wrote "The High Cost of Free Parking." He has some relatively simple ideas that can change the face of parking and, in doing so, change the face of our communities. When PT spoke with him before the holidays, he provided the photos nearby and the following explanation:

I love this picture (Before) -- it's an aerial shot of the campus of a major software/hardware developer [Cisco Systems] in Silicon Valley area of San Jose, CA. It was taken on a normal business day. The city required the parking spaces surrounding the buildings. Note that most are empty. Couldn't that space be used for housing?
Too much of America is devoted to parking, by law. On the bright side, our vast deserts of surface parking present a great opportunity as land banks for housing development. We commit so much land to parking at nonresidential uses -- such as Wal-Marts and Home Depots -- that land for housing is scarce.
Our parking is free and our housing is expensive.
But much land now devoted to parking can be developed housing, once cities remove off-street parking requirements. Parking requirements shift scarce land and capital from housing for people to housing for cars. Zoning requires a home for every car but ignores homeless people. By increasing the cost of housing, parking requirements make the real homelessness problem even worse.
In city planning, free parking has become more important than affordable housing.
The perimeters of these parking lots could be developed with liner buildings, which are designed to mask a parking lot or garage from a street frontage. Much land now devoted to parking can be developed housing, once cities remove off-street parking requirements. Employees in these buildings could walk across the parking lots to work.
With the help of Photoshop, I'll show you what I mean. (After)
So the upside of our current mess is that we have an accidental land reserve for housing right where we need it most. Building apartments and condominiums on parking lots at employment centers will provide real jobs-housing balance.
To begin, we have to do three things:
First, reduce or remove off-street parking requirements in the zoning code to make the housing construction possible.
Second, charge market rates for curb parking to prevent spillover.
And third, spend the revenue on neighborhood public services to make the market prices politically acceptable.
Thus Spake Don Shoup -- and that's what being a Shoupista is all about.

Don't panic: Parking isn't going away. It's just going to be smarter. The "free" parking above will have to be controlled, monitored, charged for, and the money collected. All this will require the skills we in the industry have been honing -- the new technology, management styles and parking skills to make this work. Editor