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, ...

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April 1, 2011
APA Planners Press

About the Authors

Donald Shoup
Donald Shoup is Distinguished Research Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, where he has served as Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. His book, The High Cost of Free Parking, explains how parking reforms can improve cities, the economy, and the environment. In the book Shoup recommends that cities should charge fair market prices for on-street parking, use the meter revenue to finance added public services in the metered neighborhoods, and remove off-street parking requirements. Shoup is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, an Honorary Professor at the Beijing Transportation Research Center, and the Editor of ACCESS. In 2015, the American Planning Association gave Shoup its highest honor, the National Excellence Award for a Planning Pioneer.

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