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Your Parking Meter Is Priced Too Low

Start saving those quarters, kiddies! If Donald Shoup has his way, we'll all be paying a lot more for metered street parking. The UCLA professor has an op-ed in today's NY Times, calling for higher meter prices to eliminate congestion caused by cruising, as drivers slowly rotate around a few blocks looking for parking. What should the proper price be for parking meters? Shoup advocates the highly scientific method he dubs the Goldilocks Principle: "the price is too high if too many spaces are vacant, and too low if no spaces are vacant. But when only a few spaces are vacant, the price is just right, and everyone will see that curb parking is both well used and readily available." Well, ok. But how much is too many spaces and too few? And how does that change depending on time of day and day of week?

To convince us of the need for higher-priced parking meters, Shoup goes Al Gore on us:

When my students and I studied cruising for parking in a 15-block business district in Los Angeles, we found the average cruising time was 3.3 minutes, and the average cruising distance half a mile (about 2.5 times around the block). This may not sound like much, but with 470 parking meters in the district, and a turnover rate for curb parking of 17 cars per space per day, 8,000 cars park at the curb each weekday. Even a small amount of cruising time for each car adds up to a lot of traffic. Over the course of a year, the search for curb parking in this 15-block district created about 950,000 excess vehicle miles of travel — equivalent to 38 trips around the earth, or four trips to the moon. And here’s another inconvenient truth about underpriced curb parking: cruising those 950,000 miles wastes 47,000 gallons of gas and produces 730 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. If all this happens in one small business district, imagine the cumulative effect of all cruising in the United States.

And so, for the second time today, when we talk about traffic, we say "Think of the children!"
· Gone Parkin’ [NY Times]