The High Cost of Free Parking

By Donald Shoup, FAICP

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One of APA's most popular and influential titles is finally in paperback, with a new preface and afterword by the author.

In this landmark treatise, Donald Shoup argues that free parking contributes to auto dependence, rapid urban sprawl, extravagant energy use, and a host of other problems. Free-parking mandates intended to alleviate congestion end up distorting transportation choices, debasing urban design, damaging the economy, and degrading the environment. Ubiquitous free parking helps explain why our sprawling cities suit cars more than people, and why American motor vehicles now consume an eighth of the world's oil production.

But it doesn't have to be this way. The Yale-trained economist and UCLA planning professor proposes new avenues to regulate parking — measures he says will make parking easier and driving less necessary. You'll never look at a parking spot the same way again.


Chapter 1 (pdf)

About the Author

Donald Shoup, FAICPDonald Shoup, FAICP, is a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. He holds a doctorate in economics from Yale and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. From 1996 to 2001, Shoup directed the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA and, from 1999 to 2003, he chaired the university's Department of Urban Planning.

In the News

Point Austin: 'Free' is much too expensive
Austin Chronicle
April 6, 2012

Page One for the "Shoupistas"
Better Cities & Towns
March 16, 2012

A Meter So Expensive, It Creates Parking Spots
New York Times
March 15, 2012

San Francisco and L.A.: Parking makes the difference. (APA Members Only)
Planning magazine, January 2005

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
April 1, 2011
APA Planners Press

Table of Contents

Preface: A Progress Report on Parking Reforms

1. The Twenty-first Century Parking Problem


2. Unnatural Selection

3. The Pseudoscience of Planning for Parking

4. An Analogy: Ancient Astronomy

5. A Great Planning Disaster

6. The Cost of Required Parking Spaces

7. Putting the Cost of Free Parking in Perspective

8. An Allegory: Minimum Telephone Requirements

9. Public Parking in Lieu of Private Parking

10. Reduce Demand Rather Than Increase Supply


11. Cruising

12. The Right Price for Curb Parking

13. Choosing to Cruise

14. California Cruising


15. Buying Time at the Curb

16. Turning Small Change into Big Changes

17. Taxing Foreigners Living Abroad

18. Let Prices Do the Planning

19. The Ideal Source of Local Public Revenue

20. Unbundled Parking

21. Time for a Paradigm Shift


22. Changing the Future

Appendix A: The Practice of Parking Requirements

Appendix B: Nationwide Transportation Surveys

Appendix C: The Language of Parking

Appendix D: The Calculus of Driving, Parking, and Walking

Appendix E: The Price of Land and the Cost of Parking

Appendix F: People, Parking, and Cities

Appendix G: Converting Traffic Congestion into Cash

Appendix H: The Vehicles of Nations

Afterword: Twenty-first Century Parking Reforms



"Donald Shoup is like Jane Jacobs. He starts by exposing the blind spot of a generation and then marshals a new generation of urbanists to make things right. Now that The High Cost of Free Parking is in paperback, I look forward to replacing all the dog-eared copies that have gone missing from our office library."

— Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives

"This book should be required reading for anyone who cares about this nation's cities. Shoup helps us understand how we can use the billions we are spending to store motor vehicles in ways that can solve our parking problems and build healthy communities."

— Michael S. Dukakis, Former Governor of Massachusetts

"A landmark in the annals of urban planning. This important book deserves a prominent spot on any planner's bookshelf. It's brilliant."

— Robert Cervero, Professor of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley

"Urban planners and economists should be embarrassed about how little they thought we have given to off-street parking requirements. Shoup shows how parking standards have fundamentally shaped our built environment, usually for the worse."

José A. Gómez-Ibàñez, Derek C. Bok Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy, Harvard University.

"This is an extraordinary book. An appropriate descriptive subtitle would be 'Everything you really wanted to know about parking but were afraid to ask!"

Journal of Urban Design

"Parking rock star"

Wall Street Journal

"[Shoup] provides a wealth of resources, information, and ammunition for those seeking to change parking regulation, planning, and design paradigms."

Journal of Planning Literature