Currently viewing the tag: "Donald Shoup"

I recieved this email from TM reader Gerardo Vildostegui:

Dear Transit Miami,

I hope you’ll consider writing a reply to this column by Daniel Shoer Roth.

Shoer Roth is a friend of mass transit and has written often (mostly in El Nuevo Herald) about the problems with sprawl and with auto-oriented development in South Florida.  But this article seems to suggest that what Miami Beach needs is more parking-which can’t be right.  If you can bring him over to the anti-parking viewpoint that would be a huge win.

Thanks Gerardo. Daniel, who is a friend of Transit Miami and usually a great advocate for transit, falls into a trap familiar to neighborhood groups and civic leaders alike: blaming parking supply for problems that come along with urban development. Let’s get this out of the way: the problem with the cost of parking on Miami Beach is not that there is not enough parking, but that there is no other viable way for people to get around without a car.

Now to explain: it seems counter intuitive, but a similar logic applies to parking supply as to road traffic volume: there is a finite capacity, so we need to be proactive in setting the level of parking we want based on established data and goals, not simply as a knee-jerk reaction to the perception of expensive parking. Comparatively speaking, parking in Miami Beach should be more expensive than it is when one accounts for the hidden costs of car ownership (such as pollution, decreased quality of life, pedestrian and cyclist death/injury, blight in communities affected by highways..etc),- not to mention the fact that the initial cost of constructing parking is subsidized in some way by the consumer.

In his seminal work “The High Cost of Free Parking” parking guru Donald Shoup describes the problem best:

Parking is free to the driver for most vehicle trips. Free, but not cheap. According to evaluations by Mark Delucchi of the University of California at Davis, we spend about as much to subsidize off-street parking as we do on Medicare or national defense. The additional driving encouraged by free parking also increases traffic congestion, air pollution and accidents. To fuel this extra driving, we import more oil, and pay for it with borrowed money.

Daniel does what many normal people do, which is to take aim at the problem of parking and its cost by blaming “the lack of development regulations” rather than addressing  the fundamental problem which is the lack of transit infrastructure. We have seen what the future looks like when we oversupply cheap parking: Dadeland Mall circa 1975 - parking lot city.

Daniel the real answer to your ‘parking crisis’ lies not with regulating development, as advocate Frank DelVecchio suggested in your column, but with the future of the stagnant People’s Transportation Plan, and how the lack of a new agenda for PTP expansion has led the feds to pass us over on (potentially) the biggest federal investment in urban mass transit in twenty years.

The real question you should be asking is what happened to Bay Link, and are we ever going to have a functional transit system?

Transportation infrastructure is all connected. Parking, roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, highways, metro-rail - they are all interconnected, and cannot be adjusted piecemeal without affecting the entire system. Most of our mobility problems have to do with lack of transit options.

The real lesson to be learned from Daniel’s parking crisis is that infrastructure is expensive. Someone has to pay for infrastructure - if the end user doesn’t pay, then who foots the bill? Cash strapped cities are going to be less likely to fund transit expansions without a change in the way we pay for/ value transit service.  We should be setting the value of transit, as we do with parking - only in a way that reflects its cost. Daniel doesn’t want to pay for parking what is costs, only what he deems it to be worth - which is not much, yet we charge him for it anyway. Why not do the same for transit?  If we charged for transit what it was worth - and provided a better experience for the end user - we would have a much more successful transit system.

Not to mention people like Daniel would have a solution to their parking crisis - take the train!

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Off-street parking requirements [imposed by a city for new developments] and cars…present a symbiotic relationship: the requirements lead to free parking, the free parking leads to more cars and more cars then lead to even higher parking requirements. When 3 spaces per 1,000 square feet [of new building] no longer satisfy the peak demand for free parking, a stronger dose of 4 spaces per 1,000 square feet can alleviate the problem, but not for long because cars increase in numbers to fill the new parking spaces. Every jab of the parking needle relieves the local symptoms, but ultimately worsens the real disease — too much land and capital devoted to parking and cars. Parking requirements are good for motorists in the short run but bad for cities in the long run.

- Donald Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it twice, we’ve said it about a hundred times: parking is cancerous to urban areas. The more of it you have and the cheaper it is, the more lethal it becomes to what could be a healthy, well-designed urban area as it induces driving demand and destroys urban continuity. Unfortunately for Miamians, people in power are still about as clueless about parking as George McFly was about women.
In this recent article in the Miami Today News, it is revealed that Bayview Market (yeah, one of the proposed uber-retail developments in the Omni area with about 50 million parking spaces) is now unfathomably receiving bonus incentives from the City to build more parking. The measure is designed to reward retail developers for adding extra parking in the Urban Central Business District, allowing an additional 10 ft. of building height for every additional 75 parking spaces provided.

Though the bonus only is allowable for up to 20 ft. of building height, it is still terrible, terrible policy to be incentivizing developers to build more parking in the CBD — a place that already has such an incredible oversupply of parking it is disgusting. If this isn’t bad enough, here’s the real nail-in-the-coffin of bad parking policy: the ordinance requires that the new spaces be free to the public during business hours, and offered at market rates during off-peak periods. This is absolutely as backward as it gets.

Too bad that the people’s opinions that matter don’t think so. City Manager (and apparently urban planner wannabe) Pete Hernandez calls this ridiculous new ordinance, “good, sound policy.”

Bayview Market’s developer, Garcia Du-Quesne, also seems to have missed the boat (though he can at least claim bias):

“We strongly feel that it (the ordinance) has a tremendous foresight and reflects good planning…(it) is made for every present or future retail developer.”

Yikes. But this is what we’ve come to expect in Miami/Miami-Dade. People who have no formal urban planning education are making critical errors in policy and project approvals based on hunches, pet theories, and overly simplistic economic policy that will forever damage our quality of life and urban potential.

I’m forwarding a copy of UCLA Urban Planner and world-renowned parking policy scholar Donald Shoup’s People, Parking, and Cities (or click here for the abbreviated version) to the City Manager and all of Miami and Miami-Dade’s commissioners. If you’re reading at home and really want to become an expert of parking policy, I highly recommend Shoup’s book, The High Cost of Free Parking.

Both of these pieces will change your opinion about parking forever.

Photo: Google Earth

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Over the weekend, the Herald shed light on an encouraging trend beginning to take hold downtown - developers are finally building projects WITHOUT ANY ON-SITE PARKING. As we’ve been saying since practically the inception of TM, minimum parking requirements have been cancerous in virtually every part of Miami, particularly downtown. These minimum parking requirements mandate developers to spend tens-of-thousands-of-dollars per space, which serves only to reinforce Miami’s harmful, unlivable, unsustainable auto-centric culture. It induces driving demand, which clogs streets and pollutes our air. It fractures urban continuity with retched surface lots and massive, monolithic garage pedestals. It makes it very difficult to improve transit and walkability.

However, we all win when projects are built with little or no parking, especially in the urban core and near transit stations. It allows developers to save money, which translates to much more affordable housing, which is badly needed throughout Miami and South Florida. It allows for a more cohesive urban block structure, which with proper planning translates to much better pedestrian environments. It also encourages people to walk, bicycle, and take transit, which drives demand for enhancements in these sectors. And, fewer cars on the road means safer, more livable streets, less road rage, less pollution, less noise, and more attention paid to our public spaces.

According to the Herald piece, the parking-free buildings recently constructed downtown (Loft 1 and Loft 2) have been so successful, the Related Group is now planning two more (Loft 3 and Loft 4), even in a slowed condo market. Moreover, another developer, Keystone Holdings, is also planning to construct parking-free condos downtown.

“Urban housing should not have parking on-site, especially work-force housing…Every great city has shared parking. But people in Miami have to be educated that that’s the way it should be.”

- Miami Real Estate Analyst Michael Cannon

It’s true. If Miami is ever destined to become a world-class city, characterized by great public spaces and livable streets, it must amend its traditional parking philosophies. While it’s traffic congestion that always ranks at the top of concerns for planners and residents alike, it’s vehicle storage that shapes urban life as much if not more than movement through space.

The important thing here is education. Most Miamians and South Floridians have preconceived notions about parking that are totally backwards. If we ever want to move in a new direction, we must not be afraid to educate others in our community that may not understand some of the counterintuitive principles of urban parking supply.

To better understand this topic, I highly recommend reading People, Parking, and Cities, by UCLA urban planning professor and renowned parking scholar, Donald Shoup. If you still want to know more, then I recommend The High Cost of Free Parking, by Shoup.

photo courtesy of

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