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An Interview that actually made it to Youtube

I have been contacted a number of times by groups like CNN to provide an interview about parking. Every time, for whatever reason, the interview never makes it to the light of day. In one case, it was to air but President Bill Clinton fell off a porch and wrenched his knee. That seemed to be more important than JVH and parking. Bah

This week I had the honor of being interviewed by Suzannah Rubinstein of SpotHero. We asked her to our digs here in LA to talk about parking and Parking Today’s 20 years bringing news to our industry. You can see the interview here.


Suzannah is bright and incredibly young. She does a super job with the interview, plus transcribing it for PT September. She is also beginning to provide content for PT, PN, and our website.  We are proud to have her writings in PT.

Take a look at the interview. Its only about 10 minutes long. Suzannah is a master at controlling my long winded answers.


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Altoona, Wis. Tests Back-In Angle Parking

A new development in Altoona, Wisconsin provides shoppers, restaurant-goers and residents with a new angle on parking – back-in angle parking. Weau.com reports that city leaders chose the new approach because it is safer for drivers and pedestrians. City Administrator Mike Golat says a parking study in Tempe, Arizona inspired the use of this parking method in Altoona.

“They had an average of four crashes per month for four years with pull in parking and for a total of 48 crashes per year and when they changed to back in parking they had zero crashes the next four years,” Golat explained.

The back-in angle parking scenario also protects pedestrians because they get out of their cars and arrive at the sidewalk without going nearer the roadway. Golat says this method of parking is proven to be safer, but it will take time to get used to for everyday driving.

Golat says people are accustomed to head in parking the way they’ve always done it, so the back-in angle direction has not been a completely smooth transition.

Golat says the city does have more traditional options for parking available in the new development but he is hoping the public will catch on to the new trend.

For now, Altoona residents have a grace period and will not be ticketed for parking head in, but the policy will be enforced in the future.

Read the article here.

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Imaginary Parking Spaces Crowding Norfolk, Virginia

In their efforts to facilitate commercial use of historic buildings, planning officials in Norfolk, Virginia have been relying on a creative application of parking requirements. As older buildings are converted to new businesses, the city bypasses parking minimums by offering a credit for one space per 250 square feet, according to pilotonline.com.

This policy has created imaginary parking all over the city. It has worked until now, but as more and  more old spaces are updated, officials are concerned that there might be too much parking in Norfolk. They are considering a new equation for parking requirements around historic buildings.

The change would involve either lowering the parking requirement 50 percent or 30 percent, depending on where the property is located. Old buildings either downtown or in the “traditional” district – neighborhoods in the southwest quadrant of the city – would only need to find half the required parking spaces for their new uses.

Norfolk’s imaginary parking policy sounds down right crazy. I want to go park my imaginary car there and pay for my parking with imaginary money. But the reasons for the odd approach are sound and admirable: the city wants to preserve older buildings and maintain the character of its historic areas. Leaders don’t want Norfolk to look like every other city.

I’m not sure about imaginary parking, but I am positive about valuing the heritage of architecture.

Read the article here.

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15 Stories from the Ancient Greeks

I went to see Star Trek over the weekend.  Not the best, not the worst. But the previews were interesting. They are actually bringing out a remake of the Magnificent Seven and Ben Hur. I left the theater shaking my head.  What is that all about?

Can’t Hollywood do anything that isn’t based on a previous movie. How many remakes can we handle. They are never as good as the first one. Then I remembered a story a  friend told me ab out a flight from Dallas to London that took place 30 years ago.

Seems he was sitting next to a Greek History Professor from Stanford. She was telling him how she had been tasked with teaching Greek civilization to the Stanford football team. She knew that Gene Roddenberry had based many Star Trek episodes on Greek comedies and tragedies and she started her research.

She knew that much of literature is based on the Greeks (can you say Romeo and Juliet) and she then began to review Star Trek’s first seasons on TV. She was able to prepare a course based on 15 basic stories taken from Greek literature, and translate them into something her students could understand — the sci fi stories of Star Trek. Her class was standing room only.

She also commented that it is well known that there are basically 15 stories. Virtually all episodes man creates goes back to the Greeks and their wisdom in understanding human nature.  (Did you know that the Lion King is based on Hamlet which is loosely based on Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.)

So I guess I can’t be too hard on screenwriters in Hollywood if the Bard picked up his ideas from the Greeks, and the bible.  But at least they could change the names, and perhaps the venue –Pyramus and Thisbe became Romeo and Juliet became Westside Story.  Shakespeare and Bernstein changed the name, location, and the rest. Can’t the highly paid scripters in Hollywood do the same?

Isn’t Google wonderful.




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One Number in a Book — Shoup’s 30%

Over the past two weeks we have had numerous entries on this blog concerning Don Shoup’s seeming contention that 30% of all traffic in a given area is searching for parking. This number is used to support his theories that setting prices so that a few spaces are always open on each block face would reduce cruising and this traffic congestion and pollution.

If you go back and reread the Shoup Dogg’s response and further comments here, and here you find comments like:

These studies date back to 1927.  The data were probably not very accurate when they were collected, and the results depended on the time of day, the specific place, and the season when the observations were made. The studies were selective because researchers measured cruising only when and where they expected to find it—where curb parking is underpriced and overcrowded. Nevertheless, cruising today is similar to what drivers have done since the 1920s, and the studies at least show that searching for underpriced curb parking has wasted time and fuel for many decades.

On most streets at most times, no one is cruising. But many people want a number, and I can’t stop anyone from saying that 30 percent of traffic is cruising. Nevertheless, on busy streets where all the curb spaces are occupied and traffic is congested, a substantial share of traffic may be cruising.


As I explained in the book, the data in these studies, which date back to 1927, were probably not very accurate when they were collected, and the results depended on the time of day, the specific place, and the season when the observations were made. The studies were selective because researchers measured cruising only when and where they expected to find it—where curb parking is underpriced and overcrowded. Nevertheless, cruising today is similar to what drivers have done since the 1920s, and the studies at least show that searching for underpriced curb parking has wasted time and fuel for many decades.

His point seems to be that cruising for parking wastes time, fuel, and causes congestion. The problem is that if only 2% of the traffic in a given area are cruising for parking, then spending $25 million (as at SF Park) to reduce this ‘problem’ might be overkill.

However, Don once told me “Its just a number in a book.”  The issue is that many take that number as gospel, no matter how much Don explains away its accuracy. As he quotes Lewis Carrol “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.” He was using the quote to describe what has happened when parking requirements are taken as commandments set in stone. But couldn’t the same thing be said for his 30% number?

Even if 30% of traffic in a given area at a given time are cruising for parking, should not those involved in spending millions on parking programs do their own research before hand. Shouldn’t they perform studies to have a baseline from which to operate. Given Don’s own description of the cruising percentage, shouldn’t each city ensure they have a problem before they jump into complex programs to fix it.

I can understand how attempting to bring the complex to a point where the average Joe or Josephine can understand can often blur some of the facts. I want to reduce traffic and pollution. 30% of traffic and pollution is caused by people looking for parking. If I can get them parking faster, then I can reduce traffic and parking 30%.  Clear, concise, but is it true in my case?

Certainly each municipality must do their own studies to ensure they understand their specific problems before they begin any parking program. For one thing, how can they know if they have succeeded.

Don Shoup has done more than anyone to bring parking and its issues to the forefront in our culture. His book is a landmark for everyone interested in our industry. The very title ‘The High Cost of Free Parking” tells the story. Not charging for parking instills a feeling that although parking cost a lot to provide, it should be free. People who don’t drive or even own a car are paying for the parking space that others use. One might make the case that childless people paying for schools is a positive thing for society, but I doubt one can be made in about parking.

Shoup’s book and his evangelism on the topic have opened eyes around the world as to the problems, causes, and potential solutions to our parking woes. One “number in a book” mustn’t negate all that.



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Politics and Parking

I’m not going to share my political opinions, and goodness knows we’re going to be subjected to months more of a steady stream of ridiculous and annoying back and forth blather from the candidates, so nobody wants to read about it here. I did want to take this opportunity to point out another way one of our political parties is aggravating voters. In downtown Cleveland, the Republican National Convention has caused parking prices to skyrocket, according to crainscleveland.com.

I know it’s not so simple as that. The Republicans haven’t actually ordered parking prices to be raised, they’ve just shown up and given parking operators a good reason. Undoubtedly, the operators are happy for the chance to increase their profits, and that’s all part of a healthy economy. The profits and the tax revenue they create will eventually benefit Cleveland residents, but for now, those trying to park in the city are disgruntled.

As always, the closer parking was to the action, the higher the cost. A block north of Quicken Loans Arena, the Ontario-Prospect garage across the street from JACK Casino charged $40 instead of the normal $10. The parking lot on the northwest corner of Public Square charged $30 instead of the $10 daily rate.

I don’t even think the Republicans could do anything to make people feel better about the way the convention is affecting their parking costs. An apology will be inadequate and forcing operators to put a cap on their prices is impossible. Cleveland residents are just going to have to wait it out. I doubt the party has even considered the public relations ramifications of its descent on the city. Our political parties think we are all honored to have them; that they are meeting our needs; that all their operations are justified and helpful. But the truth is, we are just stuck with them.

Read the article here.

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Are Parking Enforcement Officers at Risk?

I received the following email this morning. Hard on the heels of Dallas and Baton Rouge, the topic seems one that could use some discussion — feel free to comment here. I am posting his words without comment, I don’t think his piece and be improved.

 I am the parking manager for the City of Dubuque in Iowa. Just wondering if you have any information or if there is a blog out there where one can glean some knowledge regarding the safety of parking officers. I know this e-mail comes to you on the heels of some horrific events, but it does bring to the fore front a lingering concern about the safety of these people doing parking enforcement. Many, many times, people seem to be far more angry at one of the parking officers than at police in general. I happen to be a retired sheriff deputy of several years before coming here, now for almost 16 years. John I know I am preaching to the choir with this, but is there some data out there on how many agencies arm their parking officers.

Whether it be merely pepper spray, cuffs, stun gun, or actual firearm. I, as I am sure all managers, are worried about the safety of their parking officers. I know Dubuque is not a big hitter when it comes to trend setting in the parking industry and I am sure you get more bang for your buck dealing with the bigger cities but us smaller agencies do very much appreciate your ability and willingness to access various work groups and agencies to assist smaller communities.

I am telling you that I fear these individuals doing parking enforcement could be a target as they fall into the categories of 1. government, 2.
enforcement, and 3. parking enforcement infuriates people so much. We owe it to them to make their position safe and to provide them with the tools to help with that end result.

Having said all of this, I am surely not a proponent of arming parking enforcement officers. Just more curious what other managers feel and how they are evaluating the risk and subsequently resolving to the best they can that same risk.

Tim Horsfield
City of Dubuque
Parking Division Manager
830 Bluff Street
Dubuque, Iowa 52001


Thanks Tim, JVH

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Seattle PARKday Extended to Two Days

Seattle is taking worldwide PARKing Day a step further by celebrating it for two days in a row. It seems Seattle residents really love the event, and the city has received so many requests for permits that leaders have added a day to accommodate everyone. According to mynorthwest.com, people there turn parking spaces into lounges, cafes, game rooms, smoothie stands and much more.

Seattle PARKing Day has been an annual tradition since 2007, but 2016 will be the first year of Seattle PARKing Day Plus, which adds the extra day. Seattle is among 160 cities across the nation that participate in the event. Over the past couple years, approximately 50 of these parks have sprouted up during the event.

I’m not going to say I’m surprised that Seattle has enough people interested in this event to warrant an extra day, because I’m not. What surprises me is the city’s willingness to celebrate with its residents. I’ve watched PARKing Day gain momentum, and while I’ve never heard of people being harassed by city officials for participating, I’ve also never got the impression municipalities are enthusiastic. And not only is the city working in an extra day, it’s offering financial support.

The Seattle Department of Transportation and the Department of Neighborhoods offer $1,000 grants to residents that create their own parks, with the aim of building stronger, healthier communities while “re-thinking” how Seattle’s streets can be used.

I’m trying to decide if $1,000 is impressive or crazy, but it’s Seattle, so I’m going to stick with the positive outlook. Read the article here.

PARKing Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. For more information on PARKing Day, visit its website.


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30% Cruising rate isn’t really accurate…. Don Shoup

It seems that the discussion about the 30% cruising rate is continuing. Here is an email stream between UCLA’s Don Shoup and Steven Polzin, Director, Mobility Policy Research, Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida.  Highlighting is mine.

First Shoup starts the discussion:

Hi Steve,

I agree with what you say about the 30 percent in your Planetizen post.


I appreciate that you mentioned the “appropriately qualified data in the original paper.” Unfortunately, many people who have never read The High Cost of Free Parking often think I said that 30 percent of city traffic is cruising for parking.

I did summarize the results of 16 studies of cruising in 11 cities on four continents.  Researchers found that between 8 and 74 percent of traffic was searching for parking, and it took between 3.5 and 13.9 minutes to find a curb space.  For the 16 studies the average share of traffic that was cruising was 30 percent and the average search time was 8.1 minutes.

As I explained in the book, the data in these studies, which date back to 1927, were probably not very accurate when they were collected, and the results depended on the time of day, the specific place, and the season when the observations were made. The studies were selective because researchers measured cruising only when and where they expected to find it—where curb parking is underpriced and overcrowded. Nevertheless, cruising today is similar to what drivers have done since the 1920s, and the studies at least show that searching for underpriced curb parking has wasted time and fuel for many decades.

On most streets at most times, no one is cruising. But many people want a number, and I can’t stop anyone from saying that 30 percent of traffic is cruising. Nevertheless, on busy streets where all the curb spaces are occupied and traffic is congested, a substantial share of traffic may be cruising.

For example, when researchers interviewed drivers who were stopped at traffic signals in New York City, they found that 28 percent of the drivers on one street in Manhattan and 45 percent on a street in Brooklyn were cruising for curb parking. This doesn’t mean, however, that 28 percent of all traffic in Manhattan is cruising for parking or that 45 percent of all traffic in Brooklyn is cruising for parking.

On a congested street where all the curb spaces are occupied, one simple way to estimate how much of the traffic is cruising is to observe whether the first car that approaches a newly vacated space parks in it. If, for example, the first or second driver who approaches a newly vacated curb space always parks in it, this suggests that most of the traffic is cruising for parking.

An even simpler and quicker (though perhaps less humane) way to sample the traffic flow is to approach the driver-side door of a car parked at the curb with a key in your hand, as if to open the door. If the first driver to see you with a key apparently poised to unlock the door always stops to wait for the space, most of the traffic is probably cruising. The stopped car blocks a lane of traffic just like a double-parked car. Unfortunately, you must then use body language to suggest that you have changed your plans and have decided not to leave, regrettably disappointing the driver who expected to park in the space. If you do this several times, and the first or second driver to see you with a key in your hand always stops to wait for a space, what share of the cars in traffic would you think are cruising? When I did this on Pike Place in Seattle, the first driver who saw me with a key in my hand always stopped traffic to wait for the space.

Because most streets usually have some vacant curb spaces, the share of traffic that is cruising on most streets is probably zero. Because curb parking is underpriced and overcrowded in the busiest parts of most of the world’s big cities, however, the sun never sets on cruising.

Don Shoup

Steve Responds:

Thanks for getting in touch. As you can tell, my frustration was that people have generalized your results to “cities” leaving off reference to time, location, and geographic scale over which the numbers could appropriately be applied. It was pretty obvious to me that the 30% number was incidental to your work but the number that folks latched on to. In light of the nature of the data it would’ve been perhaps better to not calculate or show a simple average.

Regarding current trends in cruising for parking, my perception is that in many areas the fundamental nature of how we provide parking now versus decades ago could be changing the extent of cruising. Much more parking is in structures integrated with destinations and less appears to be on the street. Perhaps some of that cruising is circulating within garages. I don’t follow this body of data but my guess is variation in context is huge. In many of the newer cities, Dallas, Houston, Tampa, Atlanta, etc. that developed primarily during the auto era I suspect the extent of cruising for parking is very limited.  If I had to guess I would suspect that cruising for parking is less than a percent of total national vmt. Also curious as to what share of VMT used to be spent by people looking for a location before we had GPS?

Steven E. Polzin, PhD


And Don responds:

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your message and for your post in Planetizen questioning whether 30 percent of traffic in cities is caused by drivers looking for parking.

I agree that most cruising occurs in older areas were built before cities invented minimum parking requirements. Since the 1950s most cities have required so much off-street parking for any new development that few drivers need to cruise to find a free space. Cities have “solved” the problem of cruising for on-street parking by requiring plenty of off-street parking everywhere. As a result, cruising as a share of total VMT in the US must now be very small. Nevertheless, cruising as a share of VMT in areas built before minimum parking requirements can still be very high.

Minimum parking requirements, however, are an extraordinarily expensive and damaging way to reduce cruising. Minimum parking requirements are propagated by pseudoscientific data that come from Institute of Traffic Engineers’ publication, Parking Generation. Unlike a careless statement that 30 percent of traffic is cruising for parking, the ITE’s parking generation data have done enormous damage, as I tried to explain here and here and here.

If researchers want to delve into transportation numbers with dubious pedigrees, they have a target-rich array of data to debunk, starting with the ITE’s Parking Generation and Trip Generation.

I appreciate your calling attention to the frequent claim that 30 percent of city traffic is cruising for parking. I agree with your explanation that newer parts of cities have much less cruising because they provide so much off-street parking.

I hope more transportation academics will follow your lead and challenge other flaky transportation numbers, especially the ITE’s parking and trip generation data. Placing unwarranted trust in the accuracy of uncertain data can lead to disastrous policy choices.

Don Shoup

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Cities in UK skipping “Smart City” programs

Research published in ITS International has noted that cities in the UK simply don’t see “Smart City” programs as a priority. They lack budget, leadership and capability. Here is what the article said in part:

New research, commissioned by street lighting experts Lucy Zodion and conducted by independent research agency DJS Research, has highlighted the risk that many local governments are lacking the budget, leadership and capability to progress smart initiatives and connected technology in cities across the UK.

The research, involving 187 councils from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, reveals that smart cities are not deemed a strategic priority for the majority of councils in the UK and identifies barriers to delivery that are stifling progress in many local authorities. Without a clear roadmap to delivery from Government and a coherent, cost-effective approach, the UK risks lagging behind other countries with an inconsistent and delayed roll-out of smart cities.

Five major barriers to delivery were highlighted during the research: a lack of funding, a lack of internal prioritisation, a lack of evidence, insufficient collaboration, and a general lack of confidence amongst council leaders. A model of momentum, identifying six key stages on a council’s road to smart cities, also maps out the lag between those leading in smart cities and those yet to engage.

It seems to me that the issue is simple. “Smart City” is a complex, expensive program and city councils (Local Authorities in the UK) don’t understand it. Or maybe they do understand but don’t see that the investment will make life easier for Britons or return dividends, like say a good parking enforcement program or a review of their tax structure might do.

Politicians in large cities are only too quick to jump on the next bandwagon (Green, Apps for everything, light rail, Smart City) to garner favor with voters and burnish their high tech bonafides. Often they have no clue what they are advocating. “It contains “tech,” it’s new, it must be good.”

Seems to me like the city mums and dads in the UK are taking a longer view of this program before jumping in.  Maybe reducing crime, replacing infrastructure, providing solid education is on the top of their lists.

Perhaps Sydney, London, Los Angeles, and even Columbus Ohio have the resources to bring huge dollar amounts and intellectual capital to bear on this topic. Smaller cities may not.

I’m certain companies with vested interests like Cubic, Xerox, IBM, Google, Siemens, and the rest will be knocking on their doors. That’s a lot of heavy hitters to hold off. Time will tell.


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